|Environmental impact of landscaping in the Princess Alexandra National Park|
|Written by Kathleen Wood|
|Tuesday, 23 November 2010 11:40|
TCI Protected Areas
“When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” —John Muir
The recent Public Broadcasting Service television series “Nature” focused on the natural environment of Cuba, revealing how decades of isolation from the aggressive free markets of the capitalist world have had positive impacts on the environment there.
Marine scientists surveying the extensive Cuban coral reefs along the northern shoreline of that country have made a remarkable discovery. Although mere miles from the largely dead reefs of South Florida, Cuban reefs are in pristine condition with no visible signs of the coral bleaching that is plaguing the rest of Earth’s coral reef ecosystems.
This discovery led scientists to probe further, and they discovered that the embargo against Cuba for the past several decades and the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s cut off Cuba’s access to chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, which in turn saved Cuban coral reefs from the calamity plaguing the rest of the planet.
What’s more is that during this time, Cuba also managed to grow all of its own food and to lushly landscape its resorts that are frequented by tourists from all over the world (with the exception of poor, deprived Americans).
These findings have profound implications for landscaping applications in our small island nation, which also relies heavily on tourism revenues largely derived from promoting a pristine environment.
Looking out into the azure waters of Grace Bay, it is difficult to imagine that pollutants are killing our coral reefs, but they are. The Turks and Caicos Islands have an admirable collection of environmental regulations that regulate the disposal of sewage effluent. Nowhere in this country is sewage disposed of at sea; however, a more insidious threat is at work that goes largely unregulated.
The artificially-placed, swaying coconut palm trees adorning Grace Bay and the vibrant climbing bougainvillea that is almost a landscaping must-have are foreign invaders from another ecological realm. Like a goldfish in the desert, the resort-style landscaping that most people crave cannot survive, much less look good, without extensive applications of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Once applied, landscaping chemicals seep into the sponge-like limestone bedrock. In Grace Bay, that same bedrock is saturated with groundwater that lies very close to the surface. The groundwater is like an underground river. Once chemicals enter the ground, they are slowly swept out into Grace Bay and onto the fragile fringing reef.
Grace Bay’s once pristine reefs are showing signs of severe distress. Coral die-off, coral bleaching and algal overgrowth are rampant. Much of these distressful symptoms can be directly attributed to the artificial landscaping that adorns the now uninterrupted wall of resorts that line the TCI’s most visited Princess Alexandra National Park.
But all is not lost. Cuba’s example shows that it is possible to create sustainable landscapes without harming fragile coastal ecosystems. The TCI needs to take a page out of its neighbor’s playbook.
Hundreds of TCI native plant species survive in the natural environment without any chemical assistance and are beautifully suited to landscaping purposes.
Treated effluent can be used for both irrigation and fertilization purposes, as the nutrients in waste break down in the environment much more slowly than artificial fertilizers and are less likely to leach into nearshore waters.
Finally, landscaping chemicals should be regulated and treated like toxic hazards to curb their rampant use with reckless abandon.
The TCI is “Beautiful by Nature,” but certain hypocrisy becomes evident when the delight in our beautiful natural environment is not reflected in our landscaping practices.
We should take pride in our beautiful native plants and display them boldly rather than following the cliché imported resort landscaping that is copied at every other tourism destination throughout the Caribbean. And we should treat our coral reefs like the national treasures they are by not inundating them with toxic waste on a daily basis.
Sustainable landscaping practices can and will save the fragile coral reefs in the Princess Alexandra National Park but not without a swift and concentrated effort.
Others in the region like Florida and Jamaica, following the same landscaping practices currently dominant in TCI, have now lost almost all of their coral reefs. TCI is following in their footsteps.
Let’s wake up and smell some native TCI flora before it’s too late.
Click HERE to read other articles in the TCI Protected Areas series.
For more information on Protected Areas, visit www.environment.tc/Protected-Areas-Division.html
Terrestrial ecologist and Master Gardener Kathleen Wood, B.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, dividing her time between the Turks and Caicos and North Carolina. She is the author of many publications including the book, “Flowers of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.” She has worked for the public and private sectors on many environmental projects in the Bahamas, TCI and U.S. Anyone interested in discussion on a broad range of environmental issues can follow Kathleen on her blog at www.killingmother. blogspot.com.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 14:28|
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TCI Protected Areas Series
The fp is publishing a series of articles on the Turks and Caicos Islands Protected Area System to increase public awareness and respect for the beauty and value of this "beautiful by nature" country.
The authors, marine ecologist Marsha Pardee and terrestrial ecologist Kathleen Wood, are long-time TCI residents and respected scientists in their fields.
Below are links to their articles, plus related news articles, documents and laws.
- 29/7/10: Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology
- 22/7/10: Protected Areas designations and differences
- 15/7/10: Long-term prosperity vs. short-term gain
- 8/7/10: Protected Areas save environment, generate revenue
- 5/8/10: Frenchman’s Creek: Prime real estate of TCI wetlands
Related news articles
- 1/7/10: Expert report warned about encroachment on protected areas
- 8/7/10: More than 250 lots carved in Provo parks
Links to environmental documents and laws