Martin Keeley - MAP Education Director
The recently formed Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers focused on science, data collection and policy during their second orientation and training workshop held at the Clever Fish/Sea Elements education centre in Grand Cayman on August 29th.
Two representatives from the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DOE) led the presentations and discussions on each topic area.
Mr. Fred Burton, Manager of the Terrestrial Resources Unit, gave an in-depth look at the mangroves in Cayman with a specific focus on the threatened Centra Mangroves Wetland (CMW) which, at 8,200 acres, is the largest contiguous mangrove wetland in the Caribbean.
Mr. Burton, who has been involved in mangrove research and conservation in Cayman for over 30 years, covered all aspects of mangrove’s vital contribution to the island’s ecosystem and resources. He discussed in depth the work done in establishing the CMW’s carbon sequestration values as well as a detailed analysis of everything from the study of their protection component during recent hurricanes – including Hurricane Ivan – to their biological contribution as fish, reptile and bird habitat and their contribution to rainfall in the island’s western areas and to farming.
He also outlined the CMW’s substantial impact on the slowing of climate change through carbon sequestration - something that is exacerbated by release large amounts of CO2 when mangroves are destroyed and excavated for construction or gravel mining.
The second DOE presentation was by Ms. Lauren Dombowsky, Senior Environmental Assessment Officer with the Environmental Management Unit, who reviewed the new Mangrove Species Conservation Law passed earlier this year.
Ms. Dombowsky’s review focused on the seven major features of the Mangrove Conservation Plan which falls under the aegis of the National Conservation Law. These range from the threats to mangrove ecology from their destruction to conservation strategies which include habitat protection; control of “take” – from collection to destruction; consultation for preservation during all development proposals; monitoring and research; and public outreach, education and awareness.
The implementation of penalties for mangrove destruction were also outlined by Ms. Dombowsky together with the extensive and detailed mangrove trimming requirements. There has been a great deal of mangrove destruction in the past caused by uneducated pruning practices, and so copies of the law have been distributed to landscapers and building contractors by volunteers from Cayman Mangrove Conservation.
The training workshop ended with a series of water quality testing activities in which the rangers conducted a variety of tests on water quality from dissolved oxygen to Ph balance. These represent the kind of testing the rangers will be carrying out in the field when they are monitoring and recording the status of Cayman’s mangroves.