If you have walked the Woodland Nature Trail at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in the last year or two you may have noticed the series of white stakes along one side of the trail. The stakes mark the corners of one hundred permanent survey plots that are being used to document the biodiversity of the natural woodland.
The brainchild of then Horticultural Manager at the Park, Nick Johnson, an extensive vegetation survey of the native forest was carried out during the Covid closure in 2020-21 with the assistance of Stuart Mailer, veteran nature guide and former Environmental Programmes Manager at the National Trust, and a cohort of other enthusiastic volunteers. Now, with funding from the Darwin Plus Local conservation grant scheme for the UK Overseas Territories the deteriorating wooden stakes are to be replaced with truly permanent survey markers to ensure that the survey can be easily replicated long into the future. In addition, the 2021 survey will be fully databased with the help of the UKOT Conservation Team at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
A Walk-and-Learn will be held on Sunday, 10 December, from 3-5 pm, to introduce the project and the role that Tropical Important Plant Areas could play in achieving national plant conservation goals.
“I am very pleased that the many hundreds of hours of volunteer work that were performed during the original nature survey will now be permanently recorded as a baseline for monitoring future changes” said project manager, Stuart Mailer, “Nick and I look forward to sharing some of the results at the Walk-and-Learn”.
The project also focuses on capacity building among staff and volunteers from project partners and stakeholders, including the National Trust and Department of Environment, with training in survey techniques and Tropical Important Plant Areas Assessment methods.
Nick Johnson said “Habitat conservation is so important for the Cayman islands. Permanent survey plots, identifying rare or endangered species, and monitoring them over a number of years, helps conservationists understand habitats and fill seed-banks, so that we can restore what was and conserve what is. Signing up to the already tried and tested TIPA programme will help fast-track this process.”
“Though much Darwin Initiative supported work has and continues to be carried out at the Park, from Blue Iguana to Ghost Orchid conservation this is the first Darwin Plus grant for the Botanic Park as Lead Partner”, observed John Lawrus, General Manager. “We expect that the first phase of installing the survey beacons will be completed next week.”
Darwin Plus Local is a new component of the UK government Biodiversity Challenge Funds that is aimed specifically at building capacity and spend within the UK Overseas Territories. Projects are selected for their ability to contribute measured results to the wider Darwin Plus themes of biodiversity, climate change, environmental quality and capability building. For more information: https://darwinplus.org.uk/apply/