October 28, 2005
Hairoun a rich, blessed isle

“Hairoun! Our fair and blessed isle”. “St Vincent Land so beautiful. Your mountains high so clear and green”. Words found in our national anthem. Words we can sometimes pass over without reflection. Was Mrs. Punnett, as she penned these words in the national anthem, reflecting deeper than the surface beauty of our blessed isle; did she recognise the abundance of the resources sheltered within the high green mountains covered with rich tropical forest, resources some often ignore or disregard, when many say we don’t have any natural resources. {{more}}

A bounty of resources we call our biological diversity, a bounty that spans from the small endemic spider hidden under a fallen leaf on the forest floor or a tiny gecko lizard easily missed, to the giant Gommier tree towering over the forest canopy. This tree is a home and a source of food for our National Bird and also a source of culture and heritage with its aromatic sap easily harvested from the bark for one of many medicinal uses; also its sturdy trunk was hollowed out for the canoes of our original inhabitants.

Our islands with a forest cover of 25-30% has vegetation types that range from coastal mangrove swamp forest and dry littoral forest in the Grenadines, to coastal dry woodlands, moving into the lush green montane forest types that carpet the slopes of our central mountain range, to the windswept dwarfed elfin woodlands that cap our high green mountains.

Our terrestrial floral (plant) diversity consists of over 1500 different plant species, twelve (12) of them are endemic to the islands. Three of these endemic plants may be encountered as one hikes the Soufriere volcano. This diversity includes those plants we have imported and which have now become resident. Plants that make up every part of our landscape not only provide clean air but protect our watersheds and provide many important functions that benefit us Vincentians, both directly and indirectly.

In the animal kingdom our faunal diversity shows the direct effects of our human development with all but two of our six wild mammals being introduced. The two (2) mammals that were not introduced by humans are the bat, of which we have 11 species, and the now extinct rice rat which was also our only endemic mammal. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has 15 species of reptiles of which 5 are endemics, one a recent discovery on one of our ‘gems’, Union Island. Our connection with the global village has brought a new lizard to our shores and it is slowly expanding its range from the seaports. Our micro-faunal resources still offer opportunities for research; however we know that there are approximately 165 recorded spider species of which about 30 are endemic. For insects, which go beyond the pestering mosquitoes and flies, there are approximately 43 butterfly species.

There are also many beetles such as our fireflies and ‘larbells’ whose nightly displays are often lost to our brightly lit homes and towns. The different birds that inhabit our forests, countryside, towns and shores make up the 154 species identified, including migrants; they all bring their individual beauty in sound and flight. The endemic birds include the loud and colourful St. Vincent Parrots and the elusive yet clearly heard Whistling Warbler.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is truly a blessed land, rich in plant and wildlife resources that make up our ecosystem. These resources are both of ecological and socioeconomic importance to us. Therefore it is pivotal that we as individuals and as a community play our part in the sustainable management of these resources that have been entrusted to us and generations to come.

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