Enabling the People of Montserrat to Conserve the Centre Hills - Project completed (2006-09)
Producing a plant conservation checklist and vegetation map of Montserrat's Centre Hills
The Centre Hills viewed from Katy Hill, Montserrat
Photo: Martin Hamilton
Montserrat's Centre Hills are of global biodiversity importance, supporting many of the island's key endemic species. The volcanic eruptions of 1995-97 destroyed almost all the forests of the southern hill ranges, resulting in the total loss of about 32% of Montserrat's forest ecosystem. The Centre Hills now hold 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. Montserrat is rebuilding its economy following the volcanic catastrophe and the Government of Montserrat has identified nature tourism as a major future source of income. The Centre Hills would play a key role in this tourism strategy.
This highly collaborative three year Darwin project undertook a biodiversity assessment of the Centre Hills and researched the impact of alien invasives on forest ecology. It also carried out a socio-economic survey of the uses made of biological resources. Data collected from these assessments and consultation processes has informed a participatory management plan that conserves the environmental integrity of the Centre Hills, whilst also taking into account the needs and concerns of the wider Montserratian community. This was based on the identification of zones for various management interventions: conservation, restoration and sustainable use. After assessing the training needs of islanders, the technical skills of Montserratians were strengthened enabling them to implement the management plan. Legislation is being developed to support the designation of the Centre Hills as Montserrat's first National Park. Awareness of the Centre Hills, and the benefits from conserving the area, were raised at both the local and international level.
Specific botanical activities/outputs comprised:
- Production of a vegetation map and a conservation checklist for the Centre Hills. Wider collecting across the island aims to produce a conservation checklist and Red List for the whole island.
- Herbarium specimens held in duplicate at Kew until facilities are available in Montserrat to house a local reference collection.
- DNA collections of key species, including a population-level collection of Rondeletia buxifolia
- Identification of single island endemics and other restricted range species; development of management plans to secure the future of these species, including getting them into cultivation in a re-developed botanic garden;
- Identification of potential alien invasive plant threats;
- Provision of training in key botanical skills for Montserrat partners;
- Support for the Montserrat National Trust to establish a new national botanic garden and develop its conservation and educational potential -
- Raising awareness of the importance of Montserrat's biodiversity by producing a regular newsletter, Darwin Centre Hills Project Newsletter, writing newspaper articles and giving talks and radio interviews on the island
Project partners and collaborators
The Darwin Initiative - Project No. 14/027
Maunder, M., Leiva, A., Santiago-Valetin, E., Stevenson, D., Acevedo-Rodriguez, P., Meerow, A., Mejia, M., Clubbe, C. & Francisco-Ortega, J. (2008). Plant Conservation in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. The Botanical Review 74, 197-207
Young, R. P. (ed.) (2008). A Biodiversity Assessment of the Centre Hills, Montserrat Durrell Conservation Monograph No 1, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey, Channel Islands.
Clubbe, C. & Hamilton, M.A. (2009). Plants and Habitats of the Centre Hills. In S. H. Holliday Montserrat: A Guide to the Centre Hills. West Indies Publishing Ltd, St John’s, Antigua.
Clubbe, C., Hamilton, M., and Corcoran, M. (2009). 26(1&2): 131-141.
Conference papers and reports
Hilton, GM, Gray, GAL, Fergus, E, Sanders, SM, Gibbons, DW, Bloxam, Q, Clubbe, C and Ivie, M (eds) (2005). Species Action Plan for the Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi. Department of Agriculture, Montserrat.
Torres-Santana, C.W., Santiago-Valentín, E., Leiva Sánchez, A.T., Peguero, B. & Clubbe, C. (2010). Conservation status of plants in the Caribbean Island Biodiversity Hotspot. Proceedings of the 4th Global Botanic Gardens Congress, June 2010. Available on-line at: http://www.bgci.org/files/Dublin2010/papers/Torres-Santana-Christian.pdf
Jones, M. (2008) Other materials