Interior forests withstanding drought  conditions
Kings Hill Forest reserve. (Inset) Fitzgerald Providence
May 17, 2024

Interior forests withstanding drought conditions

by Eldonte Samuel

Interior forest conditions have been withstanding the drought conditions remarkable well, but those in coastal areas are vulnerable.

This was the information which Director of Forestry, FitzGerald Providence shared with SEARCHLIGHT in an interview on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, during which he assured that SVG still has a healthy mountain range which is important for rainfall.

Fitzgerald Providence

“Forest and trees play a very important role in many of the nature cycles and one of it is water cycle…”, he pointed out.

“It’s not about just planting trees, some people see forestry as about trees…I tend to say the forest can take care of itself. We have to manage what people do with and to the forest.”

Providence said the current drought, “has an impact on the coastal forests mainly, coastal vegetation…a lot of the forests that are impacted are those on the coast and because they are coastal dry forests, they feel the brunt of any extreme dry period”.

He added that, “the extreme weather events and extreme temperatures impact the local water system, so we may say we still have some healthy interior, but because we’re having some extreme dry periods, that has an impact on even also the interior forest.”

Providence also explained that the systems are usually connected, but because of development, “we tend to interfere with those systems and it impacts on the role they play in terms of the forest”.”

He noted that in some countries there are regulations against the removal of peak forest areas as they play an important role in cooling and trapping moisture which contributes to the water cycle.

The role of coastal forests not only involves the protection of coastal areas during storms, but also “they have a process of helping to cool down the air”.”

The Director referenced the Kings Hill Forest Reserve, located on the south east coast of the mainland, noting “that forest was preserved to help bring rainfall to the surrounding  agricultural lands. Those lands are no longer agricultural I would say, but we can still feel the impact of the Kings Hill Forest”.

Further, “you’ll find that there is rain in the area of Stubbs and so on, and as soon as you go to the other side of Kings Hill, it’s dry…it is about 50 acres of forest helps to do that, but that is also being impacted by changes in the forest around,” he explained.

Providence, who boasts over 30 years of experience in forest management, noted that another area that has characteristics of the Kings Hill forest is the Botanic Gardens. Because of its green area span, sometimes communities like Green Hill, Montrose and Largo Height may experience rain at times when there is none in other areas.

“That area of forest helps to generate its own bit of rainfall; it may not be much, but I’ve noticed it. You reach to Windsor School, the rain stops right there, and further down it’s totally dry.”

He said that the road leading from the Gardens above Gibson Corner and towards Mt St Andrew “helps to do its own impact in terms of bringing rain to us”.

Providence also spoke about climate change has had a significant impact on how people conceptualise the weather.

“Long ago when you went to school you’ll learn that there’s a dry and wet season. Dry season starts at around December to around April/May and then you go into the hurricane season…so there was a dry season and a hurricane season.”

Recorded climatic data however reveals that there is a reduction in rainfall during the dry season as well as the wet season.

“So we sometimes have extreme wet periods, but also the amount of rainfall is far less and these are the impact of climate change.”

Providence said that recent examples of the impact of climate change was the 2011 trough that destroyed Georgetown in the middle of a dry season.

“And then in 2013 we had very serious dry spell [in] November to December, and on the 23rd of December a serious trough dumped serval inches of rain within hours and we saw the damage that it caused, and that was in the dry season.”

He acknowledged photos circulating of some of the water catchment areas being low to dry, “because we’ve not been having the rainfall, and then the extreme temperatures, they impact the whole system of wate, production…so you have less water in the soil,” Providence explained.

He said it is usually the small island states that most experience the impacts of climate change, and that the issue has been brought to the forefront at international conferences by regional leaders.