|Exploring our ‘Outback’ down under|
|Written by Marsha Pardee and Kathleen Wood|
|Thursday, 07 October 2010 11:51|
TCI Protected Areas:
An exploration of the northwestern “Outback” of Provo would not be complete without expanding our horizons by going down under and out to the abyss.
Starting at the high water line and extending out to the white lacey fringe of reefs and beyond, the North West Point Marine National Park (NWP MNP) embodies an astoundingly diverse array of undersea life. As it hugs the northern most point of Provo, it wraps around much of the North West Point Pond Nature Reserve and extends down the western shoreline, including protecting the northern edges of the Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve. Left in a pristine state, these connections are vital for the well being of all these interdependent areas.
As with all coastal shorelines, the boundaries extend to the high water mark, and all below the water’s surface is the Queen’s bottom, as they say, belonging to the Crown. The NWP MNP ranks even higher as a Protected Area, with the added benefit of management and protection provided.
One of the most important regulations is that fishing is not allowed in the park, setting aside this area as a place of restoration and rejuvenation of our vital fishery resources. Well known worldwide, Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) are the ultimate management tool for preservation of fishery resources. By protecting a few key habitats, the fishery species not only thrive and reproduce in that area, their populations will “spill over” into adjacent areas to repopulate the available fishery resources.
But let’s go back to the high water mark and work our way out to the abyss. In this park, the high tide line laps two white sand beach strands intercepted by a 3-mile stretch of ironshore sandwiched in between. Both are an important part of the picture.
The beaches provide nesting areas for turtles and weed buffets for the foraging crowds of birds, crabs and the like. The crags and crevices of the ironshore rock often make tidal pools, and areas coated in algae get a good scrubbing from the many snails and chitons that cling there.
A few feet further out, we start to encounter patches of seagrass and small coral heads that eventually work themselves into a labyrinth of maze-like reef structures. As the patch reefs evolve into fringing reefs on the outer edge, changes in size, structure and inhabitants occur, from smaller to larger as one works their way out.
The white lace edge you see from the shore is the reef crest that creates the break. Aside from being the final defense in terms of storm surge, it’s a highly active part of the reef with prolific coral and algae growth and the requisite fish to feed on them. The 8-kilometer (5-mile) stretch of fringing reef in NWP MNP has some of the best breaks in the country, both in terms of surf and what these high energy zones have to offer.
Beyond the reef crest as we approach the abyss, there is yet another world to explore. Divers flock to these shores to experience the diversity in reef morphology and the creatures they attract.
Dive sites appropriately named describe the geological features and/or animals, such as Canyons, Amphitheater, the Crack, Stairway, Hole in the Wall, Mystery Reef, Black Coral Forest and Shark Hotel.
Here we have truly reached the abyss, where the Queen’s bottom drops to more than 5,000 feet.
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.
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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