EPIC to restore key areas of biodiversity

ST. PETERS–Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation has hit the ground running on a new project, titled “Restoration of Key Biodiversity Areas of St. Maarten.”

With funding from the European Union’s (EU’s) BEST 2.0 programme, EPIC aims to restore areas within three characteristically different sites located at: Rainforest Adventures in St. Peters, Seaside Nature Park in Cay Bay, and Little Key in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

Along with restoration, the project will also support education and outreach activities including presentations and field trips to the restoration sites focused around the importance of biodiversity. EPIC Project Coordinator Kippy Gilders will oversee the project’s activities.

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The three restoration sites represent ecologically important areas on St. Maarten that have become degraded by past human activities. Years of agriculture have stripped the sites at Rainforest Adventures and Seaside Nature Park of their original forest composition, and this project aims to restore some of what was lost. Meanwhile, mangrove propagules will be planted at Little Key. Restored sites will offer valuable habitat for reptiles, fish, birds, insects and spiders.

The first task of the project has been to conduct baseline assessments of the plant structure at each site. The assessment was conducted by Dr. Ethan Freid, the Chief Botanist at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve on Eleuthera, and will be used to decide which plants should be introduced at each site.

Mark Yokoyama of Les Fruits des Mer conducted the reptile, amphibian and invertebrate assessment. This assessment describes those animals present on the sites before restoration. Then at the end of the project, the same assessments can be repeated to scientifically conclude that the sites have become more biodiverse as a result of the project.

As the project continues, EPIC will reach out to schools, community groups, government departments and businesses to promote habitat restoration and conservation. The value of biodiversity will be revealed through presentations, activities, field trips and volunteerism.

Citizen-scientists will help monitor plant growth and health. Planting of the tree saplings will occur in November this year to be followed by a nature trail within the restoration area. With a clearly marked path and informational signs, this will be the first nature trail of its kind on St. Maarten.

For more information or to become a volunteer contact Gilders via kippy@epicislands.org, +1 (721) 545-3009, or visit www.epicislands.org.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68580-epic-to-restore-key-areas-of-biodiversity

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