Photo: Lee Ann Beddoe
With this year designated as International Year of Biodiversity, we thought it fitting to look at what this complex area entails and why it is so important to the planet.
The St. Augustine Campus of The UWI is the home of three important sites of biodiversity: the Cocoa Research Unit which is the custodian of the world renowned International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad (ICG,T), the National Herbarium, which is a regional repository of botanical life, and the Zoology Museum, with thousands of specimens. We look at these three sites, as well as the work being done by postgraduate students in relevant areas.
Our cover photograph shows one of them, Michelle Cazabon-Mannette with a Hawksbill turtle in Tobago waters. Her research has been on two species, the Hawksbill and the Green turtle, their distribution, their habits, their genetics and, as an aside, their value as a tourist attraction to scuba divers.
Two of our researchers, Prof Andrew Lawrence and Dr Howard Nelson explain how our rich biodiversity is not only a source of natural wealth, but brings measurable economic value to our islands. The UWI is now running a pilot for a new Edulink-funded biodiversity MSc programme to begin in the following academic year, and it looks fascinating in terms of its scope.
The planet’s efforts to preserve biodiversity have been falling way below the targets set at the last major world conference in 2002. Indeed, the latest reports, due to be discussed at the global Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Japan, in October 2010, will show that species are still growing extinct at an alarming rate.
With the Caribbean so naturally blessed, we have a great responsibility not to squander our resources, the consequences are too dire.