#TurksandCaicos, August 24, 2017 – Pine Cay – Caicos pine, the National Tree of the Turks and Caicos Islands, received a well-needed population boost on Pine Cay last week through collaborative efforts of the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), Department of Agriculture, Meridian Club at Pine Cay, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew).
The fourth planting of Caicos pine (also called Caribbean pine) saplings, grown in the Caicos Pine Recovery Project (CPRP)nursery on North Caicos, saw 157 young trees between 2 and 5 feet tall transported to Pine Cay and planted in the Diamond Jubilee Pineyard. Established in May 2012 during the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II and coinciding with the International Day of Biological Diversity, the restoration habitat now boasts over 400 healthy young saplings – which should soon begin bearing their own seeds. Caicos pine trees have been carefully tended in DECR’s CPRP nursery since 2009, following wild collection of seeds and a carefully-executed custom-made seed sowing protocol by Junel Blaise, Nursery and Maintenance Officer.
Blaise, along with supervisor Bryan Naqqi Manco, DECR’s Terrestrial Ecologist/ Environmental Officer, together manage the nursery with over 500 pine trees and upwards of 50 species of native plants, and tend to the ten miles of firebreaks and trails on over 1000 acres of pineyard, a critical habitat in North and Middle Caicos and Pine Cay.
Caicos pine’s population was reduced by 95% across TCI by the introduction of the invasive pine tortoise scale insect, but Pine Cay’s population has survived better than those on North and Middle Caicos. The Diamond Jubilee Pineyard gives DECR and RBG Kew scientists a better understanding of successful methods towards the restoration of this globally imperiled ecosystem and a historically unique part of TCI’s natural and cultural heritage.
Karen Preikschat, Assistant Resort Manager of the Meridian Club, stated, “I spent a very informative 1 ½ hours touring the control site and planting site on Pine Cay with Bryan Naqqi Manco. Bryan took his time explaining the procedure that would be completed this week here on Pine Cay. One of the most interesting facts I learned that the 157 trees that were planted were germinated from seeds from the Pine Cay trees. I also learned how important controlled burning is for the survival of the Caribbean Pine. I believe we need to take a closer look at the trees, shrubs and flowers that we import from other countries which are carrying pests that are endangering our local flora.”
CPRP staff members met with the Wildlife Management International team working on the Saving the Iguana Islands project, and agreed that it will be very interesting to see how recovering Turks and Caicos rock iguanas interacts with the recovering Caicos pine ecosystem. In no other place does the endemic rock iguana naturally inhabit pineyard habitat, but with successful recovery techniques, Pine Cay’s historically natural ecosystem should become more intact.
Originally supported by the TC I Government’s Conservation Fund, later grants from the Overseas Territories Environment Programme and Darwin Plus funds kept the Caicos Pine Recovery Project well-funded until 2016. The project is now supported with staff and transportation from DECR, but currently has no regular recurrent funding.
Following this outplanting event, the CPRP nursery has plenty of room to plant more seeds, which will grow into saplings that can be planted out in about three years. The 200+ trees remaining in the nursery are from North and Middle Caicos populations, which are genetically different from Pine Cay’s trees. They will be planted in the seed orchard at the Kew Agricultural Station (Government Farm) and hopefully on some protected sites on Middle Caicos soon.
Photo: DECR Nursery and Field Officer Junel “Flash” Blaise plants a Caicos pine sapling in the Diamond Jubilee Pineyard on Pine Cay to facilitate habitat restoration.
Press Release: TCIG