The National Trust is appealing for volunteers for projects and activities in the eastern districts.
Volunteers are being sought to take part in the Trust’s Logwood Project, which is focused on eliminating invasive plant species in the Mastic Reserve in North Side.
Field work is expected to start in October along the Mastic Trail. The work is part of a region-wide project, led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, addressing invasive species in the Caribbean. Similar projects are being conducted in Montserrat and the British Virgin Island, among others.
“With the focus on invasive species, we started out addressing green iguanas. Now we are extending the work to invasive vegetation,” said the Trust’s environmental programs manager, Paul Watler.
The Trust has received funding for the project from EU BEST, a voluntary scheme promoting conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories.
“We fall into that category and received this grant to tackle invasive species on Trust reserves,” said Mr. Watler, adding that the focus on logwood will benefit the reserve by maintaining the integrity of the Mastic habitat.
Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) originates from South America and was an important source of dye for centuries.
“If you soak the heartwood, it will turn the water blue and will dye cloth blue and sometimes purple,” said Mr. Watler.
The extract was once used as a pH indicator, as its brownish color becomes yellow-reddish under acidic conditions and purple when alkaline. The extract’s dye component, haematoxylin, is still used to dye microscope slides.
In the past, logwood intended for export was planted in Cayman. Over time the trees have gained a significant foothold in Cayman’s wooded areas.
Mr. Watler said that as an invasive species, it has done well as it has evolved some traits that allow it to be successfully opportunistic.
“Logwoods tend to shed a lot of their leaves; they contain a kind of chemical compound that works as a herbicide,” he said. That means that where the leaves land, they inhibit growth of other plant species, allowing the logwoods to colonize areas over time if intervention is not taken.
“As part of the work, we have had to spend time to map where the invasive species problem is, and record ‘before and after’ results,” said Mr. Watler.
“We are going to try a couple of different techniques to carry the work being done forward, as well.”
The project work will involve removing existing vegetation, but once that happens, dormant seeds will quickly sprout up in the cleared areas, so the eradication work will have to keep going in the future.
“The very first thing we had to do was map the extent of exactly where the invasives are in the protected areas, which is now done,” said Mr. Watler, noting the next step, clearing the plants, is now ready to begin.
“We definitely know there are logwood trees in the Mastic reserve as they are visible along the trail, and we have seen them off the trail as well,” said Mr. Watler.
“Invasives often colonize disturbed habitat,” he said.
“Down at the southern trailhead, the whole area was bulldozed in the past so there are a lot in that area.”
The reserve also contains other invasive species, including false tamarind and wavy leaf basket grass, which the project workers will also be clearing.
The clearing work will take place during normal working hours, so project volunteers will need to be able to take part during the week and have a willingness to work in hot weather.
The Trust is also seeking volunteers to help out at the Blue Iguana breeding facility at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in North Side.
Volunteers will assist the blue iguana wardens with basic animal husbandry, including feeding, providing water, collecting food for the next day and cage and general maintenance.
The facility welcomes one to two volunteers any day except Sundays, with work most days taking place from 8 a.m. to noon. Group volunteers must be pre-arranged at least a week in advance.
To sign up for these and other opportunities, email [email protected] or call the National Trust on 729-1121.