There are three main programs of botanical research and conservation:
– The longest running program has been documenting the Flora of The Bahamas and Eleuthera in digital, living, and herbarium collections.
– The underpinning of the Preserve’s plant conservation work is the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for The Bahamas.
– In conjunction with the summer internship program, Permanent Forest Plot studies in the forests of the Preserve are conducted annually.
Flora of the Bahamas and Eleuthera
The Preserve has created a digital flora that is searchable by scientific or common name. For each species there is a scientific description as well as images of flowers, fruits, leaves and bark. Of the 1400 vascular plant species known to the archipelago 315 descriptions have been completed for the website.
As part of the Preserve’s mission to showcase the flora of the Bahamas as part of its living collection, expeditions are organized to islands collecting seeds and whole specimens. There is a prioritized collections policy and an accessioning program that tracks the collections over time. The current number of species represented within the living collection is 410. The main priority for living collections are Bahamian endemic plant species, representatives of each genus and family.
In addition to the living collections, the Preserve is currently working to establish an herbarium collections space to be housed with the insect collections. Facility space has been dedicated and the first set of specimens from collections done by Dr. Freid between 1999 and 2007, throughout various islands in the archipelago, are being added. The herbarium is expected to become functional in 2020.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC)
The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement that began in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The agreement focuses on maintaining and securing national biodiversity with three goals: the first goal is the conservation of biological diversity, the second is the sustainable use of resources and the third about equitable distributions of the benefits of biodiversity.
The Bahamas became a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on December 29, 1993 and is obligated under the CBD to implement policy that supports the objectives and targets of the CBD. The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) was held in Nassau in 1994.
The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation is the internationally recognized framework through the Convention on Biological Diversity that signatory countries look to implement to prevent the loss of plant diversity. The GSPC is a subsection within the CBD and became an official fully incorporated portion of the CBD in 2002.
The GSPC has five broad objectives and 16 specific targets to be achieved by each signatory country. Each objective is focused on a different aspect of plant conservation and each target specifically details the action to be taken to fulfill the objective. For the full list of targets, click here
Implementation through the Preserve and the Bahamas National Trust is a priority for plant conservation work. Implementation of the GSPC began in 2014 after the development and expansion of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve (LLNPP) on Eleuthera.
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has been expanding the number of parks throughout the country and, in doing so, supports several GSPC targets. Of the 16 targets, eight are addressed directly by the LLNPP and have made progress toward completion. Three are being directly addressed by the BNT at the Parks and Science level yet require additional analysis/development and an additional five that are/need to be addressed at a higher national governmental level. Targets 7, 14, and 16 are being implemented both by the LLNPP and the BNT.
Permanent Forest Plots (PFP)
The Preserve has set up three Permanent Forest Plots. Each plot is 400 m2 (20 x 20 meters). The plots were established between 2014 and 2016 and are resurveyed every year. PFP #1 is near the Weather Station, PFP #2 is near Ethan’s Tower and PFP #3 is located along the Economic Botany trail. Within the plot each tree (or limb of tree) that is 2.5 cm in Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) (130 cm above ground) is identified, measured, and labeled with a numbered aluminum tag (Kuers, K. et al. 2014). From the data a Relative Species Importance Value (RSIV) was calculated based on the Relative Density and Relative Basal Area for each species in each plot.
While the plots are located less than 250 meters apart, they differ in their dominant species other than having Coccoloba diversifolia which was above 10 % RSIV in all plots. Additionally, all plots had Bursera simaruba, and Guapira obtusata as either a dominant or subdominant species. PFP #1 and PFP #3 are more similar to each other than with PFP#2. PFP # 2 has the highest number of species and individuals PFP #3 the least.
Full PFP data sets are available upon request.