The selection of locations for the project was based on their importance and current state. Over the past few years, the physical state of these areas has undergone varying levels of degradation. However, they are important to protecting shoreline, preserving biodiversity and providing other socio-economic and environmental benefits. Further details on their importance are given below.
Yallahs and Hope River Watershed Management Unit
The Yallahs and Hope River Watersheds are contiguous, and are located in the Blue and John Crow Mountains on the Eastern end of the island. They are forested areas characterized by steep slopes and relatively thin soil cover. They are important in the provision of water, particularly to the capital city of Kingston Jamaica and its environs. They supply the Mona Reservoir which is the largest water storage system in the Kingston and St. Andrew areas (which host the country’s capital). Additionally, they are important for soil stability and nutrient cycling for agriculture; maintaining the local climate; and preserving biodiversity. Irrigation water for parts of St. Thomas including Albion – Poormans Corner areas is supplied by the Yallahs River Watershed.
They have experienced severe degradation over the past few years. This has been attributed primarily to natural hazards, development, deforestation and unsustainable farming practices. The watersheds have inadequate drainage systems, as well as improper road construction and maintenance. The results have been deleterious having affected the livelihood of many and the efficient recharge of water. The degradation has resulted in increased landslides and slope instability; loss of lives and property; and siltation of rivers and marine ecosystems downstream. The productivity of the land has therefore decreased as has its ability to sustain biodiversity.
In the Yallahs Watershed, the proposed locations for special focus are Bellevue Heights, Abby Green, Mt. Tiviot, Old England, and Clydesdale. Bellevue Heights is Crown lands reaching over 4,000 feet in elevation. It has abandoned coffee farms as it was previously leased to the Coffee Board. There are on-going farming activities in areas which the project aims to address. Abby Green, Mt. Tiviot, Old England are characterized by unstable, steep slopes, and are also above 4,000 feet above sea level. Residents in these areas have turned to farming on the slopes which is unsustainable. Clydesdale is within a forested area and has suffered from wind damage and invasive alien species.
Dick’s Pond and Oatley in the Hope River Watershed will have special attention within the project. Dick’s Pond has extensive tree cover, but natural events have removed much of the trees. Oatley has very steep slopes with elevations above 4,500 feet and was once used for coffee farming. Efforts will be made to restore the areas to protect the hillside.
Portland Bight is the body of water between the Hellshire Hills (to the west of Kingston) and Portland Ridge (the part of Jamaica which sticks out to the south). The area was recently declared the Portland Bight Protected Area with additional coastline occupying 200 sq. miles (520 sq. km) of the surrounding coastal land and all the marine area out to the 200 metre depth contour (some eleven nautical miles south of Portland Point) for a total area of 724 sq. miles (1876 sq. km). It is Jamaica’s largest protected area thus far – 4.7% of Jamaica’s land area and 47.6% of our island shelf.
The Portland Bight Protected Area is rich in wildlife and natural areas; 41% of the land area is dry limestone forests of Hellshire, Portland Ridge and Braziletto Mountain, and is rated as the largest relatively intact forests of that type left in Central America and the Caribbean (81 sq. miles, 210 sq. km). Of the 271 plant species identified in the Hellshire Hills by Adams and DuQuesnay, 53 (19.6%) are found only in Jamaica (endemic), and several are found only in the Hellshire Hills. The Hellshire Hills is the last known habitat of the Jamaican Iguana, an endemic species and Jamaica’s largest land animal. In addition, the Hellshire Hills is the last remaining stronghold in Jamaica of the endemic skink. Two endemic reptiles (a thunder snake and the Blue-Tailed Galliwasp), and an endemic frog are found only on Portland Ridge. Jamaica’s only endemic terrestrial mammal, the Coney, is found in Hellshire and Portland Ridge. Many endemic and resident forest birds as well as North American migrant birds add to the biodiversity.
Another 16% of the land area (32 sq. miles, 82 sq. km) is valuable wetlands, the largest almost continuous mangrove stands remaining in Jamaica (about 48 km long). Within the wetlands are many waterfowl, and healthy populations of our national symbol, the crocodile.
These wetlands together with extensive sea-grass beds in the waters of the Bight provide probably the largest nursery area for fish, crustaceans and molluscs on the island and support 4,000 of Jamaica’s 16,000 fishers and their families. Two of Jamaica’s largest fishing beaches – Old Harbour Bay and Rocky Point (each with over 1,000 fishers) – fall within the protected area, and there is a tremendous opportunity to manage these fisheries to increase the yields.
Parts of the mainland shoreline as well as many of the coral cays within the Bight, are major nesting areas for sea birds and endangered sea turtles including Hawksbill Turtles and Green Turtles. Manatees, which used to be numerous in the area, are now rare, but there are still a few.
Palisadoes/Port Royal Protected Areas (Refuge Cay):
This is the most researched mangal is the Port Royal mangrove area due to its proximity to the Kingston Harbour, a major trans-shipment port since the 1700’s and the presence of the University of the West Indies Port Royal Marine Lab. The habitat of many bird populations in the Port Royal Mangrove Forest is primarily limited to Refuge Cay, a mangrove Cay 1.5 km North-west of the Norman Manley International Airport runway. This Cay is the primary home to the majority of resident and migrant birds in the Port Royal and Kingston area due to its relative isolation from the mainland. The health of this Cay is however threatened by the impact of solid waste which floats from the gullies, storm drains and rivers of Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine. This accumulation of garbage on Refuge Cay causes the death of native, endangered and migratory birds, retardation of mangrove forest growth, discourages fish nursery and recruitment in the Protected Area. This solid waste impact is also theorized to be a contributing factor to the slow death of the inner mangroves, the Cay now showing a barren salina/mud flat type situation several hundred meters long in the inner forest.
St. Thomas Morass:
The Great Morass is situated at the extreme eastern end of the island with its south-western boundary at Rocky Point, the eastern boundary at Morant Point, the north-eastern boundary at Holland Bay, and the south-eastern boundary towards the sea. A large section of the wetland is privately owned. The Morass is separated from the sea at Mammee Bay by sand bars and white sandy beaches. There are three streams running through the morass in the Belgium District which originate from blue holes. These empty into the main drain which flows to the sea.
The flora is dominated by mangroves. Mangrove thickets have been observed lining the main stream down to the sea. These mainly comprise red mangrove and button mangrove. On surrounding higher land, the vegetation is typical of strand woodland association, particularly in the north-eastern section of the wetland around Quaco Point and Morant Point.
The fauna is comprised mainly of birds and crabs; crocodiles are also known to be present in the area. Turtles are known to nest on the beaches around the morass but have been hunted almost to the point of extinction. A portion of the swamp is used for agriculture, including crops such as bananas, yams, and a small amount of rice. Shrimps are known to be present in the drainage canals but not in sufficient quantities to support a viable industry.
Buff Bay /Pencar Watershed Management Unit:
The Buff Bay River and the Pencar River Watersheds are located in the parishes of Portland and St. Mary respectively. They are important as they have forests reserves and also supply the respective communities and surrounding areas with domestic water supply. However, they have suffered from degradation dur primarily to farming. The community depends on agriculture as their main source of income. Of particular note is coffee, which is a key crop of the area. As such, the areas have been plagued by deforestation, pollution (from chemicals) and soil erosion. The livelihoods of the communities have therefore been impacted and stand to suffer further without preventive measures being put in place.
Rio Bueno Watershed Management Unit:
The Rio Bueno Watershed is a smaller sub-section of the Roaring River and Dunn’s River Watershed. It is currently managed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC). In previous years, the area was used for agriculture, particularly cattle and pimento farming. However, degradation of the area has resulted in a shift in the land-use, and agriculture is no longer a sustainable livelihood. The project will attempt to rehabilitate this area, particularly Malvern Park.