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PCA: Balanced strategy needed to protect Seychelles' land and marine ecosystems

Victoria, Seychelles | November 28, 2023, Tuesday @ 09:10 in Environment » GENERAL | By: Sharon Ernesta | Views: 5308
PCA: Balanced strategy needed to protect Seychelles' land and marine ecosystems

Other endemic species under threat include the jellyfish trees, locally known as bwa mediz. (Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - A strong collaboration between government and civil society is essential for comprehensive and effective conservation of the natural environment of Seychelles, especially its endemic species, according to the head of a local conservation group.

Lindsay Chong-Seng, the chairman of the Seychelles Plant Conservation Action Group (PCA), has said that as a nation, all parties concerned must realise that the conservation of both terrestrial and marine species, rather than an "either-or" approach, is crucial as a balanced strategy that addresses the unique needs of both ecosystems leading to the best outcomes for the green and blue environment of the island nation.

Seychelles, 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, renowned for its pristine natural environment, is often referred to as a champion of the environment.

Chong-Seng explained that the government, organisations, and policymakers should consider the ecological, economic, social, and cultural factors at play when making decisions about resource allocation.

"The integrated approaches that recognise the interconnectivity of ecosystems, promote sustainable practices in both marine and terrestrial environments, and involve local communities in conservation efforts can lead to more comprehensive and effective conservation outcomes," said Chong-Seng.

The conservationist added: "It's crucial to strike a balance that reflects the complex relationships between different species, ecosystems, and human communities."

He noted that there is a long list of endangered plant species that should be protected from extinction; such has been the case with the Vernonia sechellensis – a species of plant in the daisy family Asteraceae and the Gerivit andemik.

Other endemic species under threat include Medusagyne oppositifolia, locally known as bwa mediz, drypetes riseleyi or bwa mare pti fey, and Glionnetia sericea, known as mangliye gran bwa.

The mangliye grand bwa is also one of the species under threat of extinction. 

Two years ago, Chong Seng spoke strongly against the construction of a new dam in the west of the main island of Mahe, where the jellyfish trees or bwa mediz, one of the world's rarest trees unique to the islands, grows in its natural state.

Chong Seng said the impact of the dam's construction in the western district of Grand Anse might lead to the extinction of the critically endangered jellyfish trees. The plant is found only in three other locations on Mahe.

Bruno Senterre, another member of PCA, added that while the government provides the legal and regulatory framework, "civil society brings grassroots engagement, specialised expertise, and community-driven efforts to the table. Together, we can achieve a more holistic and sustainable approach to protecting native plant species and preserving biodiversity."

Meanwhile, the principal secretary for the environment, Denis Matatiken, told SNA that plants are considered a critical part of the ecosystem, and the ministry is dedicated to protecting the country's flora.

"We are actively collaborating with local and international partners to bolster our conservation efforts. By working together, we aim to enhance research, implement sustainable practices, and raise awareness, ensuring these precious plant species receive the protection they need to flourish for generations to come."

While invasive alien species and the poaching of plants by herbalists are associated with threats to plant species, PCA member Tara Padayachy said that the clearing of natural habitats for agriculture and other urban development is also a big threat.

"Human activities can destroy or fragment the habitats of native plants, reducing their ability to thrive and reproduce. Limited public awareness and insufficient conservation efforts can result in inadequate protection and management of native plant species," said Padayachy.

The Seychelles Plant Conservation Action Group, which brings together plant scientists and plant enthusiasts, has as its main aim to further plant conservation in Seychelles by mobilising action for the scientific research and conservation of plant species and by promoting community awareness of the fundamental importance of plants in Seychelles. 

Charles Morel, another member of the PCA who also works at the National Herbarium of Seychelles, explains that the herbarium plays a crucial role in flora conservation and education. These include plant documentation as it collects, catalogs, and preserves plant specimens, creating a comprehensive record of Seychelles' plant biodiversity. 

Research is another key activity as researchers use the herbarium's resources to study and better understand the region's flora, including endangered species, and by aiding in identifying and prioritising plant species at risk, helping conservation efforts by providing data on rare and endangered plants.

Morel added that information from the herbarium informs policymakers and land managers, influencing decisions related to land use and protection of critical habitats.

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Tags: Seychelles Plant Conservation Action Group, National Herbarium of Seychelles

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