Invasive species workshop participants included Acting Harbour Master Andy Brissett (left), Health Department and Agriculture and Fisheries Department staff, Gwendoline van Putten school students, St. Eustatius National Parks and Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute.
ST. EUSTATIUS–Over the weekend, 25 participants attended an informative workshop on invasive species hosted by Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI) under the Nature Awareness project, funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and facilitated by marine and terrestrial biologists from Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands Bert Hoeksema, André van Proosdij and Niels Schrieken.
Beginning with an overview of terminology, the differences between indigenous and exotic, introduced and invasive species were explained, with examples of vectors for introduction such as boats, planes, and the trade in pets and ornamental plants.
Islands are particularly vulnerable to invasive species because many of these are relatively small and isolated, together covering just five per cent of the Earth’s land mass. Yet, islands represent the greatest concentration of biodiversity and species extinctions.
Once an invasive species arrives on an island, early detection is crucial to avoid excessive cost in eradication and negative side-effects once it becomes established.
Actions that can be implemented include species alert lists, action plans, effective border controls, public awareness, invasive species management teams, Government policy and enforcement, and quarantine import documents.
Two field sessions were organised, whereby the groups visited areas affected by non-native/invasive flora and compared differences between the sites, led by botanist Van Proosdij.
Participants used skills developed in the workshop to determine to what extent an area is impacted by invasive flora at present, and predict how it could look in the future if no effort is made to control these.
The field session on marine species focussed on a settlement plate project, whereby PVC plates are hung at a depth of one metre below the surface and checked quarterly to inspect the marine species that attach to them. In this globally applied method, introduced marine species can easily be detected, especially in the proximity of harbours.
Participants of the workshop included staff and students from St. Eustatius National Parks Stenapa, as well as relevant Government sectors such as Public Health, Agriculture and Fisheries, and the harbour.
The workshop contained interactive sessions and discussions, which resulted in extensive knowledge sharing and development at all levels.
A follow-up session will be organised by CNSI to encourage further discussion and the formalisation of specific action points between key island stakeholders