|Nature reserves: The value of wilderness|
|Written by Kathleen Wood and Marsha Pardee|
|Thursday, 19 August 2010 11:09|
TCI Protected Areas
The citizens of this country today enjoy a rich and biodiverse natural history inherited intact from their forefathers. However, in the space of a mere few decades, this generation has managed to run riot across the landscape. If nothing else, the shrinking availability of undeveloped beachfront along the shores of Providenciales is a testament to the fact that the land areas of this small island nation are indeed finite and vulnerable.
“…short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and wild things…”
Do we want the breathtaking, unspoiled vistas of uninterrupted nature to be a bittersweet reminiscence we tell our grandchildren about, or do we want these icons of national identity to be something they can enjoy for themselves?
The Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve is like a time capsule of our national natural history dedicated to our children and grandchildren and those children yet to come who will walk upon this land hundreds of years hence. It encapsulates everything that a Nature Reserve should.
Hundreds of acres of pristine tropical woodlands teem with hardwoods, orchids, perching birds and reptiles some of which are found nowhere else on earth. The land areas of the Nature Reserve are a reservoir of biodiversity, the complexity of which is known to few places across the globe.
Upon entering the Nature Reserve, the first thing one notices from a ridge top view is the wild expanse of unadulterated landscape. Stretching out as far as the eye can see to the southwest are undulating hills blanketed in vegetation and interrupted only by intermittent fingers of tidal creeks, wetlands and estuaries. Away from the noise, bustle and pavement of developed Providenciales, the temperature seems to drop a few degrees, and the salt-tinged air moves freely and uninterrupted across the landscape, rustling the leaves of foliage and inspiring the rhythmic chirping of cicadas.
“The greatest wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”
What is the value of wilderness? The tangible variables of silence, open space and natural beauty are difficult to quantify, but are precisely the tonic weary travelers from abroad are searching for when they embark on a holiday to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Within the terrestrial land areas of the Nature Reserve, the basis of nature’s bounty is a diverse spectrum of plants. Ninety plant species within the Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve have been recognized as rare, threatened, endangered, endemic or as critical populations. Slow growing hardwoods like mahogany, lignum vitae and satinwood have been relentlessly harvested elsewhere in their range but thrive within the confines of this protected land, creating a genetic reservoir for threatened species in a world where the remainder of these rare populations are rapidly diminishing.
The trees also provide fodder and shelter. Seventy-three bird species have been recorded at Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek. The Cuban crow and Bahama woodstar humming bird are endemic to the region. As tourism and other development erodes the woodland habitats they depend on for survival, the Nature Reserve becomes critical habitat that may very well prevent these rare species from disappearing off the face of the Earth.
Other birds, like the Antillean nighthawk nest on sandy shorelines and along the margins of wetlands. Twenty years ago, nighthawks blackened the summer evening sky on Providenciales. Now their numbers are dramatically reduced. The sea oat covered sand dunes of Grace Bay once teemed with nighthawk nests.
The concrete wall along Grace Bay cannot substitute for an uninhabited shoreline if one is a ground nesting bird. And the nighthawk is not alone. The woodlands filled with edible food plants and the shallow estuarine wetlands offer a plethora of fodder to birds of all persuasions, and thousands of birds literally flock here to seek refuge. Without the protected woodlands, wetlands and beaches within the Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve and other Protected Areas, numerous birds would disappear from the TCI’s species list.
There are also people in the Nature Reserve from time to time, but they do not stay. They come from near and far, from Turks and Caicos, North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. They come to marvel at what has been created here, vast expanses of pristine shorelines, estuaries and forests unencumbered by any of man’s constructions.
It is a rare treasure in today’s world, and most feel blessed just to be able to witness it. This precious few acres of land represent the only coastal areas and the largest landmass on the island of Providenciales that has legal protection from development.
Great flocks of migratory birds stop over each winter, as they have for thousands of years. Ancient trees that have survived hundreds of years of tempests, drought and fire will continue to endure.
Wilderness has value that extends beyond the bottom line of a balance sheet.
Click HERE to read other articles in the TCI Protected Areas series.
For more information on Protected Areas, visit www.environment.tc/Protected-Areas-Division.html
Terrestrial ecologist and Master Gardener Kathleen Wood, B.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, dividing her time between the Turks and Caicos and North Carolina. She is the author of many publications including the book, “Flowers of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.” She has worked for the public and private sectors on many environmental projects in the Bahamas, TCI and U.S. Anyone interested in discussion on a broad range of environmental issues can follow Kathleen on her blog at www.killingmother.blogspot.com.
Marine ecologist Marsha Pardee, M.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, living here for nearly 20 years. She is a member of the government’s Scientific Authority Committee and a consultant for environmental management and aquaculture projects, working for both public and private sectors. She has taught many of the country’s children in local schools and in the DECR’s Junior Park Warden Program on Providenciales.
|Last Updated on Monday, 27 September 2010 13:48|
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TCI Protected Areas Series
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.
- 29/7/10: Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology
- 22/7/10: Protected Areas designations and differences
- 15/7/10: Long-term prosperity vs. short-term gain
- 8/7/10: Protected Areas save environment, generate revenue
- 5/8/10: Frenchman’s Creek: Prime real estate of TCI wetlands
Related news articles
- 1/7/10: Expert report warned about encroachment on protected areas
- 8/7/10: More than 250 lots carved in Provo parks
Links to environmental documents and laws