In signing the 1992 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), the Government of Jamaica has made the commitment to protect its unique natural resources. Cockpit Country of Jamaica is recognized locally and globally both for its premier limestone karst geomorphology and for its biological diversity. The endemic biodiversity of this area is such that it is not only of interest to Jamaica alone, but is also of high global significance. The Area is also strategically situated where it protects critical water resources for all of western Jamaica, directly impacting downstream on the coastal zone where most of Jamaica's tourism industry is located.
The Preamble to the CBD recognizes that biological diversity should be conserved for its intrinsic value and its importance for the sustainable functioning of the biosphere, not primarily for its economic exploitation. The CBD expresses the concerns of the Conventions of Parties that biological diversity is being reduced at unprecedented rates and such losses will threaten not only the functioning of ecosystems but also human well-being via changes in aesthetic, health and cultural benefits as well as economic features. Although the value of biodiversity in maintaining ecosystem stability and function is understood poorly, "a lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize threats of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity."

Experiences from other countries clearly show that the protection of biodiversity will not be successful through enforcement alone. Though most of the Cockpit Country is designated as a Forest Reserve, so that Forestry Department (FD) has the mandate to manage the area, the communities that live in and around Cockpit Country need to benefit from biodiversity conservation in order play a role in protecting these same resources.

Cockpit Country is the focus of a Parks-in-Peril (PIP) programme sponsored by USAID and administered by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). This programme started in October, 2001 and has a duration of four years. The objective is to develop sustainable, conservation capacity so that the long-term goal of conserving Cockpit country Biodiversity is achieved. TNC originally identified two organisations local to the Cockpit Country (STEA and WRC) to participate in the PiP project as Partners. STEA's role was to centralise and facilitate the programme management, while WRC was involved with biodiversity aspects and, in particular, with leading the Site Conservation Planning (SCP) process.

This SCP process is the basis of the PIP programme and provides a logical and quantitative framework for developing conservation strategies and for providing baselines from which these strategies can be monitored and adapted as required. Two sets of workshops were carried out in 2002: the first, Biological Systems, identified 8 conservation targets and the stresses and sources-of-stress which caused a threat to these targets. The second, Stakeholder Analysis, workshop developed a series of Stakeholder diagrams and quantitatively analysed each stakeholder group's contribution to the previously identified threats.
A further workshop was then held to identify Strategies to abate the critical threats, which were identified as Forest Conversion, Mining and Quarrying and Invasive species

Windsor Research Centre's competitive advantages in this context are mostly in the areas of Forest Conversion and the control of Invasive Species and we have obtained funding from BirdLife International to work on Linton Park Mountain and develop pilot projects over a three-year period (2004 - 2007) to

  • Establish sustainable forest use in identified buffer zones
  • Implement pilot projects to control invasive species and rehabilitate degraded areas in identified key conservation zones
  • Promote alternative income generation through ecotourism.
  • Provide education on Cockpit Country biodiversity and conservation to local schools and communities .
    We are also discussing collaboration with Dr Kurt McLaren of the University of the West Indies and he was here in Windsor for the month of June to establish trial plots which we expect to be able to integrate into our project.

    We are also especially interested in measuring success of Cockpit Country conservation and to this end are actively seeking funding to obtain baseline data on the Conservation Targets identified by SCP. Specifically we have the following projects in the pipeline:

  • Field surveys for Pterourus homerus (the Giant Swallowtail) together with restoration research of deforested lands and an education componont (a European zoo).
  • Ecology & Conservation of a Wild Population of Jamaican boas (Epicrates subflavus) (an American Zoo)
    While we are not yet actively monitoring the Jamaican Blackbird Nesopsar nigerrimus, which is also a Conservation Target, we continue to train Forestry Department and National Environment and Planning Agency personnel, together with other Jamaicans, in the art and science of bird banding under our Cockpit Country Bird Conservation Project (funded by the USS National Fish & Wildlife Foundation until April 2004) and our ongoing Bird Banding Demonstration Laboratory Project, funded by Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.

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