Information Officer I (Ag.)
Department of Information and Public Relations
COVID-19 has had environmental, economic, and societal impacts across the world. The Darwin COVID-19 Rapid Response Round responds to the immediate impact of COVID19 on the priorities of the Darwin Initiative, Darwin Plus and the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund (IWTCF) and supports the early stages of recovery from the pandemic. Projects must directly address the impact of COVID-19 on biodiversity between 1 January and 31 March 2021.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s UK Overseas Territories team in partnership with the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) and Fort Worth Zoo have been awarded a grant by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative to investigate the Impacts and consequences of Covid-19 on conservation in the BVI. Building on 20 years of collaboration between Kew, NPTVI and Fort Worth Zoo, this project will provide a better understanding of the nature and extent of the impacts and consequences the pandemic to inform the development of measures to recover and adapt to new ways of operating. Measures introduced to limit the transmission of Covid-19 have disrupted conservation work in the islands, from monitoring of threatened species and habitats, and management of ex-situ collections.
Through field visits on four islands (Anegada, Fallen Jerusalem, Tortola, Virgin Gorda), surveys of ex-situ collections on two islands (Anegada, Tortola), and desk-based analyses of those data collected, the project will evaluate the impacts and consequences of Covid-19 on conservation in the British Virgin Islands. Surveys will focus on observations and assessments of five tree species: Myrcia neokiaerskovii, Myrcia neothomasiana, Vachellia anegadensis, Varronia rupicola, Zanthoxylum thomasianum; and two animal species: Cyclura pinguis, Spondylurus anegadeae and include observations and assessments of other rare, endemic and threatened plant and animal species and record threats observed like invasive species. The results will improve our understanding of these impacts and provide evidence for the most appropriate and resilient responses to minimise negative and maximise positive outcomes for the territories’ unique biodiversity in the face of future disturbances.
Kew botanist, Dr Martin Hamilton, says “determining how the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting conservation and understanding how we can mitigate against the consequences in the British Virgin Islands is crucial to make meaningful recommendations for species and habitat recovery and management.” Fort Worth Zoo herpetologist, Mrs Kelly Bradley, added “the conservation program for the Critically Endangered Anegada iguana was disrupted in 2017 following Hurricane Irma. Now due to Covid-19, travel restrictions and local lockdown measures in the territory have reduced revenue sources, paused long-term monitoring programs, and restricted recruitment of additional hatchlings to the Headstart program. Our goal now is to understand and minimize the effects of this global pandemic on the Anegada iguana recovery program moving forward”. National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands Director, Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal, went on to say “while we humans were forced to stay indoors during the Covid-19 pandemic, nature had an opportunity to heal and replenish, there was less pressure on the environment where endemic species thrive which gave these habits time to recoup”.
Links Royal Botanic Gardens Royal Botanic Gardens Kew https://www.kew.org/
National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands http://www.bvinpt.org/
Fort Worth Zoo http://www.fortworthzoo.org/
Darwin Plus funding https://www.gov.uk/guidance/darwin-and-illegal-wildlife-trade-challenge-fund-covid-19-rapid-responseround