Conserving pollinators, conserving our wetlands



Scientific communication officer BES-Net TT

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 every year. The theme for the 2022 celebration is Wetlands Action for People and Nature.

Around the world and here in Trinidad and Tobago, efforts have been made to protect our wetlands. These natural areas provide many services to man and other forms of life. The Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services Network Trinidad and Tobago (BES-Net TT) project, launched in July 2021, shares information on an important way to help wetlands thrive: through the conservation of some of their smallest inhabitants – pollinators.

During the launch of the BES-Net TT project last year, several speakers highlighted the importance of pollinators in maintaining our local biodiversity. Pollination is essential for the production of fruits, seeds and therefore other plants. This transfer of pollen grains from one flower to the female parts of the same flower or another flower can be effected by wind, water or animals. In wetlands, the expansion of mangrove forests on land and seagrass beds in aquatic environments also depends on the work of pollinators.

TT wetlands extend over coastal areas where they buffer the impact of storm surges. In mangrove forests, roots filter runoff and trap sediment to build the shoreline, harbor juvenile stages of marine life, and provide habitats for other organisms. The simple act of pollination is performed by organisms so important that they deserve to be valued and therefore, hopefully, protected.

Pollinators in mangrove forests and their challenges

There are seven species of true mangrove plants found in our mangrove forests in Trinidad and Tobago and of these only four species are found in Tobago. While some of them are wind pollinated, many are pollinated by a range of organisms including bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and birds. The small, fragrant flowers produce nectar which attracts Apis mellifera, the bee. This insect is important to our local honey industry and honey from the mangroves is highly prized.

The study of mangrove pollinators is limited, and although information is scarce, pollinators face several threats due to activities in and around these forests. Many of these forests are bordered by agricultural land, where broad-spectrum pesticides are often used. These pesticides kill not only the targeted pests, but also some beneficial insects. Drift of pesticides to areas off the farm also occurs and is aggravated when incorrect application techniques are used.

Both problems can be solved if safer, pest-specific pesticides are used on farms, using high-pressure and fine-mist application techniques or using alternative animal-friendly pest management strategies. Consider what can happen if these farmers reduce their use of harmful pesticides and at the same time invest in beekeeping? It would be a win-win situation for the forest and the farmer!

Pollinators in seagrasses and their challenges

Seagrasses, such as the well-known turtle grass (Thalassia testudinium) are found in a few sites in our coastal waters such as Williams Bay, Chaguaramas and Bon Accord Lagoon, Tobago. Many people might be surprised to learn that these aquatic plants also produce pollen and that pollination takes place not only through the movement of water, but also through the activities of aquatic animals, including small crustaceans and slugs. of sea.

Like terrestrial plants, these seagrass communities are also impacted by a variety of activities, including the deposition of sediment from terrestrial development, agricultural runoff, and pollution. Seagrass beds deprived of adequate light and optimum water quality will gradually shrink in extent and die, further impacting the sea life that depends on them and the benefits to humans including sources of marine food and tourism potential. If the sources of impacts are addressed, the harmonious relationships existing in this coastal community can be maintained.

Icacos Wetlands – Courtesy of Wendy Rahamut

Ways to keep

In summary then, the conservation of our pollinator species is a key means by which the conservation of our wetlands can be achieved. The BES-Net TT project is doing its part in this action, addressing the lack of information about pollinators and sharing information to raise awareness of their value. This includes a survey of stingless bees on both islands, research on aquatic pollinators and the development of public education materials.

Stopping the use of harmful pesticides, managing our bee species, eliminating pollution, managing our land-based activities in coastal sites, and increasing our knowledge of pollinators are simple steps through which we can all help to protect our wetlands so that they can continue to provide the important services that support life on our islands.

For more information on the TT component of BES-Net TT: BES-Net TT Project Management Unit Environmental Policy and Planning Division, Ministry of Planning and Development, Level 7, Tower C, International Waterfront Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain , email: [email protected]

About Sherri Flowers

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