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February 25, 2012
Star News


NEPA monitors marine parks

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has been carrying out several monitoring exercises at the Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios marine parks under the Climate Change Adaptation for Disaster and Risk Reduction Project.

These parks comprise ecological structures such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, sandy shores, rocky shores, and mangrove forests.

Speaking with JIS, on a tour of the Montego Bay Marine Park in St James, recently, project coordinator at NEPA, Nichelle Oxford, said the agency had been mandated to implement innovative ways of becoming more resilient to climate change in light of the frequent occurrences of natural hazards.

She pointed out that climate change is likely to occur, and although it cannot be prevented, there are several ways of becoming more resilient to it by monitoring coral reefs.

"We have installed four data loggers in the marine park protected area, and the purpose of these data loggers is to monitor temperature because temperature rise is associated with climate change, which negatively impacts our coral reefs," she explained.

Data loggers are devices that record temperature at different intervals. they are carefully monitored by NEPA. They also help to detect incidents that are likely to happen.

"With this bit of information, we are able to determine the status of the reefs throughout the year and are able to caution tour operators about which reef to avoid to lessen the negative impacts caused by man-made factors," she said.

Coral bleaching

Oxford said the information accumulated from these devices is currently being used as an indicator to determine when coral bleaching is likely to occur, based on the temperature readings.

She explained that coral bleaching occurs when the sea temperature rises, which results in the loss of protection of the reefs. Therefore, focus is being placed on these ecosystems.

She added that it is crucial to monitor coral reefs because they are very sensitive to temperature and they function as a natural buffer against increased storm activity, storm surges, and tropical systems.

Oxford told JIS News that several artificial reefs have been put in place at the Montego Bay Marine Park, as well as the replanting of seagrass to further protect the nation's shoreline.

"We are committed to playing our part, which involves increasing the resilience of climate change to boost these areas," she said.

Other components of the project are the re-establishing of sand dunes, replanting of mangroves in degraded coastal areas such as the Palisadoes protected area, Portland Bight in Clarendon, and Great Morass and Refuge Cay in St Thomas.

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