Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big Picture- What is the Greater Negril Ecosystem?

The Greater Negril Ecosystem harbors a host of gravely endangered habitats and species, and world-class endemism, so this area is of global significance- part of the reason that Conservation International lists Jamaica as 5th out of the 8 "Hottest Hot Spots in the World. A hot spot is a place of extremely high conservation priority because it contains unique species and they are under threat of extinction. The GEN is approximately that area encompassing everything west of a line drawn from Lucea south through the Dolphin Head Mountains to Little Bay on the south coast. A smaller, core area may be defined by a line drawn from the east side of Orange Bay south across the Negril Hill region including the watersheds immediate to the Negril Great Morass, Seven Mile Beach, and West End of Negril proper.

There are ten principal component habitats of the GNE, listed below. Those marked by one star are threatened or endangered in Jamaica only. Those marked by two stars are threatened or endangered globally. Those marked by three stars contain a high proportion of endemic species, including at least one that, along with the habitat, is threatened or endangered globally.

wet limestone forest ***
dry limestone forest **
tropical sawgrass marshland ***
tropical swamp forest ***
mangrove forest **
littoral or beach forest ***
seagrass meadow **
shallow coral reef ***
deep (mesophotic) coral reef
open ocean ***


An Ecological Call to Arms in Negril

March 6-13 highlighted a flurry of ongoing efforts as Jackie and I (this is Les Kaufman blogging) dropped in on Catcha, Kevin Harvey, and Greater Negril and caught up with all things eco around the West End. The two high points are new initiatives: the ecological restoration of the Negril Great Morass, and Negril's part in the national plan to control the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. Ground Zero for the Morass restoration is the Royal Palm Reserve and Visitor Center, while the Negril Cluster and Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society are organizing the local lionfish project for Negril, as part of the larger effort being led by the Discovery Bay Marine Lab/UWI.

Monday after we arrived, the Morass exploded in a fearsome wildfire- not an unprecedented dry season event, but this was a bigun. The fire may be what sparked a full-to-the-rafters attendance at the stakeholder meeting about Morass restoration a few days later. Nothing like imminent demise to encourage community participation. At the meeting Mr. Robin Lewis, a restoration ecologists hired as consultant to the project, explained the rehydration process that would bring water, life, and functionality back to the Great Morass. The meeting also underscored the importance of a whole-system view to keep Negril's environment and the people and business community that depend upon it, healthy and thriving. The points of attack in this Negril Environmental Restoration Program would include the morass rehydration, repair and upgrade of the Negril sewage treatment facility, and fishing regulations that allow more parrotfish and doctorfish- especially the large parrotfishes- to survive and serve as reef janitors, clearing away seaweed so corals can thrive. The relationship binding these together is simple. A functional sewage treatment plant will produce water clean enough to be passed through the Morass for a final scrubbing of excess nutrients. This would in turn cleanse the water entering the Negril South River and moving out to the sea, making for a healthier environment for people and corals alike- two kinds of organisms that are very sensitive to pollution and disease. Leaving the parrot and doctorfishes to graze the reef, now bathed in clean, low-nutrient waters, and the coral has a fighting chance. Negril is a single, unified ecosystem.

There are other key fronts in the battle. Nature moves marine sediments around willy-nilly, oblivious of human needs, and when people mess with the restless beach unexpected things can happen. Right now, sediments are piling up at the mouth of the Negril South river, making it hard for the boats that serve both the fishery, and marine ecotourism, to make it in and out of safe harbor in the river. This also traps partially treated sewage in the river's lower sections, creating an extremely unhealthy situation.

So in the end it's all about the water- how much, where it comes from, and where it's going. The water from people's sinks and toilets must be cleansed, but once this is done, the final polishing can be performed by the Morass while also rehydrating and re-enlivening this world-class wildlife habitat. The canals that have been dug into the Morass must be blocked to allow the water to return to the sheet flow that kept the sawgrass prairie of the Morass vigorous and vital. Then, with clean water and abundant weed-eating reef fishes in place, we can turn our attention to the precious coral reefs that supply seafood and aesthetic pleasure to all.

During this week, other pieces also fell in place. We'll examine these in future blogs.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Discussing the Environment of Negril

In a 2009 visit to Jamaica

From left to right: Jackie Liederman, Harry Miller, Les Kaufman, Kevin Harvey, Judith Lang and Tami Wallis Photographer Aaron Land
Complimentary Accommodations were provided by Catcha Falling Star Resort.

Coral Reef monitoring in Negril

Coral Reef Monitoring component

Boosting Biodiversity in Negril Coral Reef through Community Recycling and Environmental Education Project

(BioBoost Negril Recycling Project)

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Small Grants Project (SGP) has provided funding for a community recycling project aimed at boosting biodiversity in Negril Coral Reef through community recycling and Environmental education. The project is the brainchild of the Negril Recycling Center and is facilitated by the Negril Chamber of Commerce. Other partners in the project includes; Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society (NCRPS), Negril Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT), Local Schools and the Theodore Foundation.

The Project has two main components; land based collection and recycling of plastic and Marine Species monitoring. Mr. Peter Reid, Manager of the Negril Recycling Center is the overall Project Manager. The Marine Species monitoring component is managed and coordinated by Mr. Kevin Harvey of Reefs Consultants (Rejuvenation of Ecological and Economic Foundations in Society).

The fishermen from the Negril area welcomed the opportunity provided by the project to Scuba train and certify five of them as open water padi scuba divers. Through the project the fishermen are now fully trained and will be participating in regular joint under water cleanup and Coral Reef Monitoring with the NCRPS Marine Parks Rangers and Reefs Consultants team.

As a part of this year’s Earth day activity the project sponsored the cleanup of the Fishing Beach at the South Negril River (Break Water), which is where these fishermen operate from. Some sixty fisher folks turned out, many students were brought in by NCRPS to participate in what could best be described as a successful one-day massive cleanup initiative.

Over the next few month running up to December NCRPS, the five fishermen and the Reefs Consultants divers will continue to conduct Coral Reef monitoring and underwater cleanup.

Five project sites have been selected from Ricks Café in the South West to the Booby Cay in the North West. These sites are used for conducting water quality monitoring, Coral Reef and other marine species monitoring and under water cleanup. In total all five-project sites cover an area of over 10461.1 Square Meters. Each site is mapped using GIS Coordinates and is videoed on each dive. The data collected has been documented and is being analyzed and will be made public at the end of the project in December.

In the Above Photo The Project Team is seen in Training under the Bio-Boost Negril Recycling project – Back on Land after their first open water scuba diving training in the Ocean. (Venue - West Ender Inn)

From Left to Right:

Dennis Evans – Treasurer Negril Fishermen’s Corporative

David Baggoo – Aspiring Marine Biologist

Kevin Harvey- Reefs Consultants (Project Manager)

Roy Casco – Fisherman

Domenico Hines – Fisherman

Norman Baggoo – Dive Instructor

Glenroy Allen - Fisherman

Written by: Kevin Harvey

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Nature of Negril: “Irie Ecology Blog”

The Nature of Negril: “Irie Ecology Eco-Blog”

A lot of Negril’s guests are seeking only the Big Chill- a time away from time in our gorgeous and hopelessly relaxing setting. But beginning in our garden properties and extending up into the hills and out to sea, is a nature unparalleled in beauty, peace, and charm…and you may just want to get a peek at it while you are here. In celebration of this bounty, we’ve decided to make Catcha Falling Star Resort the ecotourism center for the Negril region.

This blog introduces you to the nature of Negril and the larger Jamaica. There is much to see and enjoy at several energy levels, from a garden stroll, to a walk down the street, a half day junket, or even a whole-day adventure. Keep in mind that the “larger Jamaica” is not that large- the entire island is within reach of either a one or a two day trip. However, do remember that even if you were staying somewhere else in Jamaica, Negril would undoubtedly be at the top of your list of the most wonderful places to visit while on-island…and you’re already here!

Introducing the "Negril Irie Ecology Blog”

The “Negril Irie Eco-Blog” is Negril’s forum for topics concerning the wonders of Jamaica’s waters and countryside that are yours to relish when you visit. It is written by Kevin Harvey in consult with Drs.Les Kaufman and Judith Lang (reef biologists, combined Jamaican experience over 78 years). They are both old friends of Jamaica and members of the family both at Catcha Falling star and at Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory. The DBML is the University of the West Indies’ world-famous marine research facility on the north coast of Jamaica about 2 hours East of Catcha. Many scientists think of DBML as the birthplace of modern coral reef science.

This Eco-Blog got its name because the entries are expected to be a bit irregular. However, you can write us about anything related to Jamaican natural history or marine biology at “” and both your question and his answer may be posted here…when we get around to it.

While you are waiting for this to happen, we will post periodic bits on life about Negril and places close by that you may want to visit. We’ll also list web-based sources of additional information about Jamaica’s wonderful ecology and its natural and human history.