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Kew's projects across the Caribbean and North Atlantic Ocean

Kew's teams are working closely with local communities to protect the region's most threatened habitats.

Montserrat’s Centre Hills are an area of global importance for biodiversity (Image: Thomas Heller, RBG Kew)

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership is making a difference

From mangroves to dry shrublands and elfin woodland, the islands of the Caribbean and North Atlantic Ocean are home to a diverse range of habitats. In common with many of the world's island floras, the plants of the region are under increasing pressure from a wide range of threats.

Our teams of scientists are working in many such islands, in particular the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), to document, collect and conserve plants before species disappear forever.

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership collection contains 26 seeds from precious and vulnerable plant species found in Montserrat. We now have the option to grow these seeds into plants and reintroduce them in the wild.

We are also collecting and storing seeds from the Turks and Caicos Islands. A real threat to plant life in this area is habitat loss, often due to human activities. The seeds we collect can be germinated and planted in the wild when and where they are most needed.

More about Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership in Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands and other UKOT's 

Protecting vital habitats along the coast of Anegada

Anegada is one of the largest unspoilt islands in the Caribbean. The region is under extreme development pressure.

Protecting the diversity of plant and animal life in Anegada is vital because it hosts a globally important coral reef system. This system is home to many threatened marine turtles. Populations of marine turtles use this area to nest and forage.

Anegada also provides a home to a number of globally important endemic plants, which are not found anywhere else in the world.

Kew is working in Anegada to survey the coastal plant biodiversity of the area so it can be better monitored and protected in the future. Our work in the area is helping the British Virgin Islands to meet their commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This includes conserving native plant life and protecting plant species and habitats at risk. 

Working with local communities to conserve the Centre Hills of Montserrat

Montserrat’s Centre Hills are an area of global importance for biodiversity. They are home to many plant species that are unique to this region and not found anywhere else in the world.

The volcanic eruptions of 1995-97 destroyed almost all the forests of the southern hill ranges, resulting in the total loss of about 60% of Montserrat’s forest ecosystem.

The Centre Hills has the largest intact forest area remaining on Montserrat. It is the last viable enclave for most of the island’s wildlife, including the critically endangered Montserrat oriole (Icterus oberi), Montserrat galliwasp (Dipoglossus montisserrati) and mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax).

The Centre Hills forests also provide essential environmental goods and services to the people of Montserrat. They are the main water catchment area on the island and provide protection from soil erosion, landslides and flooding during severe weather events.

Kew's work in this area focused on assessing the variety of plant life found in the Centre Hills and researching the impact of alien invasive plant species. These alien invasives can cause the local or complete extinction of native plant species by out-competing them.

We also carried out a socio-economic survey of plant uses in this area. The information and data we collected is helping to conserve the environmental integrity of the Centre Hills, whilst also taking into account the needs and concerns of the wider Montserratian community. Through sharing information and skills with local people, this project has also helped to empower local people to help with conservation.

Montserrat is now rebuilding its economy following the volcanic catastrophe. The Government of Montserrat has identified nature tourism as a major future source of income and that the Centre Hills would need to play a key role in this. 

In Ivan’s wake - helping the recovery of plant life in the Cayman Islands

Working together with its partners, Kew's teams in the Cayman Islands are helping to get plant life and habitats back on track. Following the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Ivan, much of the island's natural habitat and plant life was significantly damaged. The effects included reef damage, loss of natural vegetation and pollution.

Kew's conservationists and scientists helped to map the range of plant life found in marine and terrestrial habitats based on remotely-sensed imagery. We also undertook research to assess the status of priority plant species. This research focused on plant species unique to the Cayman Islands and those under threat.

Working with local groups we also helped to set up a native plant species nursery at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. This nursery was the brainchild of the Botanic Park deputy manager, who came up with the idea when he was taking part in in the International Diploma in Botanic Garden Management course at Kew in 2006.

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