DOE gets $350,000 grant

The Department of Environment has secured a grant to the value of US$350,000, which will provide funding for a three year project entitled, ‘In Ivan’s Wake’.

This Darwin Initiative funding was secured to the DoE after it took part in an international bid for the grant. The DoE announced the good news to the press Friday morning at its headquarters at the Marco Giglioli Building on North Sound Road.

The award is intended to support a variety of environmental projects, of long-term ecological and practical conservation value, many of which have become all the more imperative in the aftermath of the storm.

Dr. Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter, who spearheaded the application, said securing the Darwin Initiative Funding, which comes from the UK Government, was very competitive and applicants were assessed based on their level of need, the quality of the team involved and available matching resources from local and UK associations. The contest for the grant was worldwide and was won on open competition.

Director of the Department of the Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie stressed the importance of the input of various local sources and associations, along with the availability of international expertise in securing the project. Organisations such as Kew Gardens and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will be taking part, collaborating with local organisations such as the Humane Society, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, National Trust, Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, Department of Agriculture, Mosquito Research and Control Unit, Garden Club and Cayman Wildlife Connection.

Ms Ebanks-Petrie commented, ‘This funding is important particularly post-Ivan and the DoE believes it is extremely important to map the marine and terrestrial habitats to determine the abundance and survival of biodiversity. This will help quantify the extent and degree of environmental damage due to Ivan, and will assist in monitoring the rate of natural recovery.’

The project will help to evaluate the success of managed recovery efforts, such as the DoE’s recent mangrove planting event in South Sound. Many more similar projects will be required over the coming years, if Cayman is to regain is former greenery, according to the DoE.

A focal point of the project will be the issue of invasive species, a matter of particular environmental concern in the wake of the storm.

‘Invasive species are those with an ability to spread to the detriment of local plants and animals,’ said Dr. Mat Cottam, who will be heading up the terrestrial component of the project. ‘In the wake of the storm, with so much disturbance and loss of vegetation, large areas have been opened up for colonisation. This represents an opportunity for fast growing invasives to quickly establish and spread, before the local vegetation has ever had a chance to recover.’

A large part of the project is dedicated to the development of biodiversity action plans, practical conservation strategies, which outline targets and methods for the preservation, and sustainable use of key habitats and species.

Under the supervision of DoE’s Assistant Director for Research and Assessment, Tim Austin, DoE technical and support staff will lead on the marine component of the initiative.

Another output of the project is education, and it is planned to launch the Biodiversity Action Plans into an innovative series of interactive web-pages, which will enable anyone who is interested to take a virtual safari of Cayman’s unique wildlife and diverse environments. In addition to the conservation basics, visitors to the site will have the opportunity to read the action plans in full, and learn more about the practical measures under way to ensure the preservation and restoration of Cayman’s precious natural resources.

Dr. Godley added that the Governor Bruce Dinwiddy has pledged his support in making key decision makers aware of the importance of the work being undertaken.

He added that regardless of the hurricane, Cayman needed a conservation and biodiversity action plan and it was something being worked on before the hurricane struck in September.

‘It couldn’t have been more timely,’ he said, referring to securing the plan in the wake of Ivan.

‘It shows how important these issues are with such a sizeable chunk of money coming from overseas,’ he said.

A huge amount of resources has also been amassed locally and overseas and many of the international specialists’ time will be unfunded, which also underscores the value of the work, added Ms. Ebanks-Petrie.

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