By Desmond Brown
In the framework of the 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which takes place from the 6th to the 17th of this month in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Biodiversity Coordinator of Santa Lucia, Terrence Gilliard, told IPS that climate change has a considerable impact on the Caribbean island.
"There were reports of coral bleaching caused by the rise in sea temperatures, and the productive harvest of some agricultural crops lengthened," explained Gilliard, who also works as a sustainable and environmental development official in his country.
“Extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Tomas” in 2010 and the Christmas Eve storm of 2013 “caused large landslides in forested areas and… the loss of wildlife. Extensive periods of drought limit water supplies and affect agricultural production, ”he added.
Although Saint Lucia covers an area of less than 616 square kilometers, its fauna and flora is exceptionally rich, with more than 200 unique species, including seven percent of the resident birds and a staggering 53 percent of the world's reptiles.
The best known species in the country is the Amazon of Santa Lucia or versicolor. Other species of interest are the pencil cedar, the staghorn coral and the Santa Lucía running snake. The latter, confined to the 12-hectare island of María Mayor, is possibly the most endangered snake in the world.
The Antigua Runner, a small and harmless snake that feeds on lizards on that island, suffered relentless predation by mongooses and rats and in 2013 there were only about 1,020 specimens left.
Helena Brown, coordinator of the Environmental Division of Antigua's Ministry of Health and Environment, said the country has two conservation programs dedicated to the corridor and another endangered species, the hawksbill turtle.
“Much work is being done but there are only two species among many. Biodiversity is important to our health, our position, our attractiveness as a country and it is important that we conserve and use it in a sustainable way… for generations to come, ”Brown told IPS. The Jamaica Environment and Planning Agency notes that the ecosystems on that island most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change are coral reefs, highland forests and coastal wetlands or mangroves.
Jamaica has more than 8,000 registered species and ranks fifth in the world for endemic species. The Caribbean island has 98.2 percent of the 514 indigenous species of land snails and 100 percent of the 22 indigenous species of amphibians.
Its rich diversity of marine species includes species of fish, anemones, black corals, mollusks, turtles, whales, dolphins and manatees. Forests cover almost 30.1 percent of the country and there are 10 hydrological basins with more than 100 rivers and streams, in addition to underground waterways, lagoons and springs.
In Saint Kitts and Nevis the effects of climate change are not yet very visible.
“It will take more time to confirm some of the subtle changes that are observed. For example, in some cases there seem to be longer periods of drought that affect the natural cycles of some plants and also of agricultural crops, ”said Randolph Edmead, director of Spatial and Environmental Planning at the Ministry of Sustainable Development. "The rainy season seems shorter and when it rains, the episodes are more intense, with flash floods," he added.
Many of the activities and places related to tourism in Saint Kitts and Nevis are based on biodiversity, such as coral reefs.
Edmead said that coral reefs also support fisheries, which are an important source of food. Executive Director of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias. Credit: Desmond Brown / IPS
"The income generated from these activities not only promotes development, but is also important for the livelihoods" of the population, he stressed.
Likewise, the biodiversity of forests is an important part of the country's tourism product.
"Biodiversity also helps protect soil erosion, which is not only important for agriculture, but also for the protection of vital infrastructure," he stressed.
The executive director of the CBD, the Brazilian Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, told IPS that climate change is a major threat to biodiversity and urged progress on the COP20 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be held will be held in December in Lima.
“The threats to biodiversity continue. But where do these threats come from?… From public policies, business policies and other factors that arise from the socio-economic sector. They are population growth, increased consumption, more pollution, climate change. They are some of the great drivers of the loss of biodiversity, ”said Souza Dias.
"Unless we see progress in the negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of biodiversity is likely to continue," he warned.
But Souza Dias also presents biodiversity as part of the solution to the problem of climate change. Better management of forests, wetlands, mangroves and other systems can help reduce greenhouse gases, he suggested.
“We can also improve adaptation because it does not have to do only with the construction of walls to prevent the rise in sea level in coastal areas. It is about having ecosystems that are more resistant… to different scenarios of climate change, ”he told IPS.
“We need to better conserve the ecosystems of our landscape… have a more diverse landscape with some forest, wetlands, protected catchment areas. At present we are going towards the most simplified landscapes, only the large areas of monocultures, the big cities, so we are going in the wrong direction ”, he said.
Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela
Edited by Kitty Stapp / Translated by Álvaro Queiruga