The concept of Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) was introduced at a two-day workshop held last week.
The workshop was organised and led by the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) and Kew (Royal Botanic Gardens). The aim was to introduce TIPAs, to identify data sources and data gaps for plant species and habitats which are locally or regionally threatened.
Ronald Smith-Berkerley, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour said the project builds on the close to 20 year partnership between Kew and the Trust in the systematic study of the Territory’s flora.
Mr. Smith-Berkley added, “The relationship has yielded a more complete inventory of the Territory’s plants which are unique. Vegetation maps have been produced in total partnership with the same and will increase our awareness of the various plant communities found on our shores. All of this information has aided in making the case for the protection and inclusion of several areas into the existing system of protected areas.”
The Permanent Secretary said the identification of TIPAs will only further strengthen the knowledge of the status and locations of threatened plant species and habitats and enable sound conservation management decision making.
Meanwhile Head of Conservation Science, Kew, Dr. Colin Clubbe said that plants are very important parts of human life that persons take for granted. He said he was looking forward in anticipation to the embarking of the TIPAs programme in the British Virgin Islands.
Dr. Clubbe added, “This is a two-year collaboration, we’re looking to the end of this for the outcomes of this programme to include robust, accurate and up-to-date botanical information that the Government and the NPTVI can use for any kind of integrated land use and decisions. So we need to pull all those things together and make them available.”
Dr. Clubbe said guides will be produced for some areas, sites and species, to provide a greater awareness and some tools about native plant diversity and their importance for the wider population. This he added will be “an inspiration for the people of BVI about their botanical little secrets.”
The selection criteria for TIPAs focus on (a) representing populations of the most threatened plant species on a global or regional level including those native plants which only occur in one country or region (restricted range endemics); (b) representing sites with exceptional diversity of native plants, which indicate quality habitat and/or a species-rich location; (c) representing the largest, intact areas of threatened and/or extremely restricted natural or semi-natural habitats.
The workshop was attended by partners of the NPTVI and representatives from several agencies including, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) and University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus Herbarium (MAPR)], the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Kew) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) from the UK.