Eco buzz (May/June 2007)

Trinidad’s mountains are alive with animal life • Caribbean anthuriums make a comeback thanks to groundbreaking research

Anthuriums on display at Kairi Blooms. Photograph by Laura Dowrich-PhillipsPhyllodytes auratus, better known as the Golden Tree Frog. Photograph by Professor Julian Kenny

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

Trinidad’s Northern Range stretches from Galera Point in the north-east to the Dragon’s Mouth in the north-west. Home to Trinidad’s best beaches and hiking trails, the range is teeming with life. It is bursting with blooms. It is an animal sanctuary. It is a playground and a temple.

These are some of the conclusions of the Northern Range Assessment, headed by the Cropper Foundation. Launched in March 2003, the project was one of the sub-global components of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) programme, funded by the United Nations.

The MA was the result of the work of more than 1,000 researchers from 95 countries and, in 2005, it concluded that the way society obtains its resources causes irreversible changes, degrading the natural processes that support life on earth.

In January, experts underlined their concern that climate change was an explicit threat to the future of human civilisation by moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock two minutes closer to midnight.

In the Caribbean, governments seem continually caught between development and conservation, perhaps nowhere more so than the oil and gas-rich island of Trinidad. Industry drives development while man and nature struggle to inhabit the same space.

The preservation of the Northern Range is seen as key to the island’s survival. The mountainous, forest-covered range is bounded by its capital city, Port of Spain, the Caribbean Sea and the Caroni plain. It is home to at least three endemic species: the golden tree frog, the luminous lizard and the pawi.

The Orisha Rain Festival and the Ganga Dhaara take place on its slopes and at its feet. Members of the island’s indigenous community make regular pilgrimages to harvest medicinal plants there, and it is a favourite haunt of hikers and explorers.

Tracy Assing

 


 

LOVE THOSE LILIES

In the language of love, the anthurium signifies intense attraction. It’s all in the design. Shaped like a heart on a stick, with blooms in vivid reds, pinks, oranges, and a myriad of shades in between, it’s easy to see why this tropical flower is in demand for occasions such as Valentine’s Day, and at the ultimate in love events: weddings.

The anthurium trade is lucrative and Caribbean producers are clamouring for a slice of the pie. Groundbreaking research at the University of the West Indies may give just them that chance.

Led by Dr Path Umaharan, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Science and Agriculture, St Augustine, the research has resulted in the development of disease-resistant anthuriums to withstand the virulent Xantomonas bacteria that crippled the Caribbean industry over ten years ago.

Kairi Blooms, the largest supplier of the ornamental plant in Trinidad and Tobago, partners the project, in which plants are successfully inoculated with an aggressive form of the bacterium, bio-engineered at UWI.

Chris Avey, Kairi’s managing director, said focus has now shifted to creating indigenous strains of anthuriums through cross-pollination and mass-producing them through tissue culture technology.

Saying “I love you” just got a lot easier.

Laura Dowrich-Phillips