Sunday, September 21, 2008

Biodiversity, climate change and Jamaica

The Jamaica Observer: …Jamaica is recognised internationally for its biodiversity and its high levels of endemism. Endemism refers to species, plants or animals, that are found nowhere else in the world. The island is a part of the Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspot, which recognises high biodiversity areas. Several areas of Jamaica are known for their rich biodiversity, including the wet limestone forests of the John Crow Mountains in the east, the dry limestone forests of Hellshire in the south and the moist forests of the Cockpit Country to the west. The island's endemic species include more than 800 flowering plants, over 500 land snails, more than 50 amphibians and reptiles, five bats, 28 birds, and 19 butterflies. Jamaica's biodiversity is important not just for eco-tourism activities, but also for livelihoods such as fishing and major economic sectors such as tourism and agriculture.

Some of the most immediate effects of climate change are becoming apparent through impact on biodiversity, globally. The life cycles of many plants and animals are closely linked to the changing seasons in temperate countries, to the amount of precipitation in tropical countries, and to sea surface temperatures which directly impact coral reef cycles. In fact, the effects of rising sea temperatures have resulted in reports of associated coral bleaching and death of corals which can ultimately destroy the habitat for hundreds of marine species.

Jamaica now needs to properly assess the potential impact of climate change on our biodiversity, and implement adaptation strategies that will minimise the negative impact over time and ensure that our biodiversity is preserved, as it is essential to many aspects of our economy.

Map of Jamaica from the CIA World Factbook, Wikimedia Commons

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