Forest path, Loterie Farm, St. MartinIn an article for the Ecology Global Network, Betsy Crowfoot highlights reforestation work taking place at Loterie Farm, St. Martin:

On the Caribbean island of Sint Martin/St Maarten, where high-rise resorts and development have scoured much of the landscape, a private reserve is seeking to reintroduce and protect forest habitat.

Loterie Farm is a 135 acre (54 hectare) sanctuary near the French town of Rambaud, in the middle of a volcanic island rimmed with beaches, rocky shorelines and mangrove lagoons.

Established in 1721 as a sugar cane plantation – ill-placed, on the steep rocky terrain of one of the island’s highest points: Pic Paradis – the lush forests of teak and mahogany were razed for sugar cane production. Eventually agriculture was abandoned when slavery was abolished, and the parcel enabled to revert to natural growth.

According to Operations Manager Pierre Lenoci, the entire island was forested at one time, and the currently lush hillsides of Loterie Farm represent what the island looked like centuries ago.

There is a dense canopy of greenery: Silk Cotton and Gum trees, Tropical Cedars, Sour Sop and all types of fruit trees: mango, breadfruit, banana, avocado, guava berry and papaya. Many of the species are introduced. “Hurricanes and storms spread seeds around,” Lenoci noted. “As devastating as storms are, in the grand scheme of things, they help spread species and increase biodiversity.” The property is home to endemic geckos and lizards; to bats and Green Vervet monkeys; and a wide variety of birds including Gray Flycatchers, Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, Lesser Antillean Bullfinches, Bananaquits, and Black-faced Grassquits.

In the late 1990s Loterie Farm guardian and steward William “BJ” Welch created a network of trails and began taking schoolchildren and other locals on educational hikes. Since then, the reserve has grown to incorporate restaurants and a lounge, a spring-fed pool, and a ropes course through the forest.

Recently they introduced “tree-hab” parties – giving away hundreds of trees to promote forest restoration of the island. “People don’t realize what one tree can do,” said Lenoci. “It’s a symbiotic relationship: the rain creates trees, and the trees create rain.”

Read more in the complete article.

[Photo: via loteriefarm.com]

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One Response to “Forest rehabilitation in St. Martin” Subscribe

  1. Eleanor Gibney December 15, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I was feeling great about this until I read about “lush forests of teak and mahogany” razed for sugar plantations. Neither one of these trees is native to the eastern Caribbean. Teak is Southeast Asian, mahogany originates a little closer–the greater Antilles and the Bahamas. While they may both have been planted in St Martin by early European settlers, they would never have been present in virgin forest there.
    Very few tree species are spread by storms– Ceiba (kapok or silk-cotton) is about the only one I can think of.
    I’m thrilled that forest preservation and restoration is getting attention on the island, but I hope there’s a least a little botanical knowledge incorporated into the plan.

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