This project aims to implement measures to avert the extinction of the critically endangered Caicos Pine, the TCI National Tree, and maintain the ecological integrity of the Pine ecosystem. Specifically, to control the pine scale insect, and to propagate healthy pine seedlings, enhance local capacity, collate important data , and provide basic infrastructure to support the project. Systemic insecticide program, and used of controlled fire as management tool are implemented. The present and future TCI generations benefits from this project.
Caicos Pine, Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis, is the national tree of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). Caicos Pine is an endemic variety of the more widely dispersed Pinus caribaea. On the islands of Pine Cay, North Caicos, and Middle Caicos is critically endangered due to infestation with an introduced scale insect. The Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) and Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew in cooperation with Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) and the Environmental Health Department (EHD) are working together to save the species from being extirpated from TCI.
On Middle Caicos, in January 2005, a scale insect was collected from two areas of the pine yards. It was later confirmed by Chris Malumphy (Central Science Laboratory (CSL), UK that the insect was the pine tortoise scale, Toumeyella parvicornis, a member of the family Hemiptera: Coccidae. Pine tortoise scale is a well known pest species in North America on the pine family, Pinaceae and believed to have been introduced in TCI through the importation of live Christmas trees. The infestation of this species in TCI on Caribbean Pine is a new host record and a new record for the Caribbean region. During March and April 2006, the extent of occurrence and damage were assessed. Specimen of scale insects was collected for further identification and cataloguing. The pine yards were visited at various times of the year and at different entry points and different observations were recorded using a pocket PC with GPS to score infestation levels, canopy damage, sooty mold coverage on foliage, cone development, and recruitment.
To date the Toumeyella parvicornis has affected about 95% of the standing Pine trees and has destroyed the unique pine habitat in TCI and causing the loss of genetic diversity within the pine population. Secondary effects of the scale feeding on the pine trees is that their frass (sugary secretion) drops onto understory plants and a sooty mold develops on the leaf surfaces. The sooty mold is detrimental on the understory plants' photosynthetic capacity and leads to stunted growth which may finally may cause death of the understory plants.
Failure to continue to act on this national issue will definitely result in the further loss and potentially the extirpation of pine trees from TCI. The issue has the potential to change entire ecosystem processes as the pine tree is a key component of the pine ecosystem. This habitat is home to many important plant species, is a winter home for the endangered Kirtland's Warbler, Dendroica kirtlandii, and provides important ecosystem services for the territory. A one-year Pine Recovery project (phase 1) funded by the TCI- Conservation Fund ends this year (2009), the project has started the conservation effort but due to the lack of funds associated with the worldwide economic crisis, the TCI government is unable to continue funding this project, hence, all the rescued seedlings may be at risk of loss.
A Pine Recovery Working Group composed of representatives from TCNT, DECR, RBG Kew, & TCI Department of Environmental Health (DEH) as well as liaising with TCI Tourist Board, Department of Education, and TCI Fire Department, served as the Steering Committee and were established to oversee the present and future activities of the Pine project.
- RBG Kew to continue capacity building for Project Officers/staff, including appropriate staff of TCNT, DECR and concerned/ interested local community representatives in field research (lay-outing, sampling/plant material collection, curation and GIS related works, etc), nursery activities, propagation, and nursery management.
- All partners to undertake public awareness activities particularly local community, school groups, and to develop links with new stakeholders.
- DECR in cooperation with TCNT and Department of Agriculture to maintain nursery facility, collect further plant material for ex-situ collections with assistance from other partners, and continue trials for germination, propagation and cultivation of pine trees.
- Purchase field equipment and GIS/computing hardware & software
- Identify and refine extent of pine populations, extent of pine scale infestation, identify land ownership in privately-owned pine yards and determine protection status.
- Recommend priority areas for restoration works
- Collect samples for genetic and morphological work
- Identify and recruit the project manager, local counterpart or work-study participant to work alongside Project Officer/staff and GIS Officer
- Establish pilot test plot to determine the efficacy of injectable systemic insecticide program to control the pine scale infestation
- Training exercise on use of fire as a management tool in Pineyards; and establishment of permanent plots for controlled burning action-research.
- Establish an international Pine Scale Working Group through contacts at conservation NGO's, research institutions, and government departments in the region.
The project has full support of the Turks & Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) through the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) the lead Agency and proponent of this project proposal. The Environmental Health Department, another government Agency, will support the project by participating in the Steering Committee meetings, consultative and community meetings and awareness campaign; the Department of Agriculture (DA), will assist in the Nursery activities, while Fire Department, TCIG will assist the project during training and actual use of fire as a management tool in the Pine yard. The Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) will play a key role in various aspects of the project, as they led the first phase of this project.
Risk 1: Natural or other disaster striking nursery tree stock (hurricane, disease, vandalism) External risk
Management: Weather-proof nursery structure that withstand hurricane shall be constructed; management of nursery stock by qualified officer/staff; secure nursery property with fence and community watch.
Risk 2: Additional introduction of new strain of scale insect or of other pine pests. External risk.
Management: DECR and EHD to impose phytosanitary certificates and continue vigilance on imported plant material, particularly cut Christmas trees, to avoid further introduction of pests and diseases
Risk 3: Inability to identify suitably interested or dedicated local counterpart or work-study participant. Internal risk.
Management: Extensive discussions with educators in Community College and high schools, community meetings, and establishment of attractive stipend and training opportunities.
Risk 4: Current project may lose key staff due to funding difficulties. Internal risk.
Management: Intensive fund sourcing by DECR and other partner organization; recruit new, qualified, project officers
Risk 5: Inability to secure continuing funding to make use of project outputs. Internal risk.
Management: Strengthen mechanism and enhance organizational structure and management to ensure project sustainability and long-term funding.
Risk 6: Social unacceptability on the use of insecticide. External risk
Managemeny: Timely and sincere awareness campaign about the project and concerns about the to use chemicals
Risk 7: Spread of forest fire during fire exercise. External Risk
Management: Careful planning; timely and appropriate schedule of controlled burning exercise; needed materials (water tank, water hose, fire equipment, etc.) are on standby on site
Cross Cutting Issues
Human settlement in pine yards only occurs on one island in TCI - Pine Cay - where the homeowner's association has expressed solidarity in support of the project and for the long term survival of the Caicos pine. Limited slash-and-burn agriculture takes place in some pine yards but the ecosystem is largely unused by local people at this time. There are no foreseeable human rights implications in this project.
There are no gender issues in this project.
This project will contribute to the conservation of the National Tree and its unique habitat, which in turn offers eco-tourism possibilities to local people. The project also aims to identify a local counterpart or work-study participant who will acquire career skills in plant propagation/horticulture, conservation science, and other areas that will be usable in a continuing position with the programme and marketable elsewhere. During re-introduction of the pine seedlings in the pine yard, the project will create jobs for the locals.
Wider Significance (MEAs)
This project directly supports the implementation of the Environment Charter in the following areas:
- The project brings together government departments, representatives of local industry and commerce (one of three significant pine populations is on privately owned resort land), and an environment and heritage organisation to carry out the necessary actions.
- The project ensures the protection and restoration of a key habitat (pine yard, or pine rockland) and attempts to mitigate the effects of an invasive alien species.
- The project encourages teaching within schools and to the general public to promote the value of our local environment.
- The project creates and promotes publications that spread awareness of the special features of the environment of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
This project supports the three main goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, namely:
- Conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);
- Sustainable use of its components; and
- Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources
Much of the pine yard occurs in the TCI Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and as such the project supports UK and TCI commitments under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The pine yards' support of several rare bird species also designates this ecosystem as one whose conservation supports the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species.
Funded by FCO/DFID Overseas Territories Environment Programme, 2010, project no TCI 703
Caicos Pine Recovery Project Action Plan 2010-13