|Controlled burn tries to save country’s national tree|
|Written by R Green|
|Thursday, 17 May 2012 09:54|
Local and international officials conducted a controlled burn in the pine forest on Middle Caicos to see if the widely used method can help save the country’s national tree, the Caribbean Pine.
The Caribbean Pine, which covered the pine yards in Middle Caicos, North Caicos and Pine Cay, has almost been wiped out by the pine tortoise scale, an insect from North America that was first identified in 2005. In its home territory this insect (which sucks the sap from the pine trees) is normally controlled by predators and cold winters however, in the TCI, this pest knows no predators, and the warm weather has permitted it to breed and spread uncontrollably.
The project managed by the Department of Environment and Costal Resources (DECR) and funded by the U.K. government’s Overseas Territories Environment Programme has been working for the last three years to save and conserve the Caribbean Pine tree. Project Manager Bryan Naqqi Manco has spearheaded this effort at the government farm on North Caicos where he has been assisted by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) of Kew in London and the U.S. Forest Service.
Pine yards in the Bahamas and in North America have a natural cycle that involves periodical forest fires that enhance the health of the ecosystem. While forest fires are often thought of as catastrophic, they are required by pine yards to prevent other plant species from taking over. Management of these habitats in the Bahamas and North America often involves carefully managed controlled burns of sections of forest.
Representatives from RBG Kew, Martin Hamilton and Marcella Corcoran, conducted an experiment to determine whether controlled burning of the bush can assist in the rehabilitation of the pine tree. Two master’s students from Imperial College in London also travelled to the TCI this week to conduct surveys prior to and after the controlled burns. It is anticipated that later in the year, more young scientists will come to the TCI to measure the longer term effects of the burn.
The burn was done on two separate plots of an acre and was conducted by three senior environmental burn scientists from Georgia and Florida — Joe O’Brien, Ben Hornsby and David Grimm from the U.S. Forest Service. These professionals also conducted a workshop with the ministry and DECR staff on the techniques and the objectives of a controlled burn prior the exercise.
These specialists burn around 100,000 acres every year where they are mandated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to upgrade and improve the native pine yards in the Florida panhandle and keys, Georgia, and other regions.
On site to speak with those conducting the study were representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Home Affairs, the Departments of Agriculture and Environment and the Marine Affairs.
Permanent Secretary of Environment and Home Affairs Susan Malcolm said the burn “a great example of the coordinated efforts of local and international expertise brought to bear on a national challenge. We are so grateful for the assistance of these professionals in our search to find a cure for the disease that has almost wiped out our pine trees.”
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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.
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Links to environmental documents and laws