|Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology|
|Written by Kathleen Wood and Marsha Pardee|
|Thursday, 29 July 2010 10:44|
TCI protected areas
Back in the frontier days, when the great visionaries of the TCI Protected Areas were scouting out potential areas for conservation, the now burgeoning island of Providenciales had no paved roads and was dotted only by small settlements at the Bight, Blue Hills and Five Cays.
In those days, when one flew over the island of Providenciales, a single, striking landmark stood out from a background of surrounding hues of green and blue. Today, the almost reflective whiteness of Chalk Sound still mirrors a sound perfection of ecology and beauty.
The salient clarity of the water contained with Chalk Sound is no accident of time or chance, nor is it guaranteed to subsist for all eternity. The extraordinary hue of the landmark is a harbinger of the crystalline sandy substrate beneath the surface, the clear blue skies above, and most significantly, water of impeccable quality.
Any person struggling with maintaining a balanced swimming pool is aware of the difficulty in achieving the crystal-clarity of water seen in Chalk Sound.
The dreaded algal greenery that adorns so many of our backyard oases is precipitated by nutrients, specifically those of nitrogenous compounds, which in turn cause algae to thrive in water bodies.
Our pools are just one kid peeing in the pool or a dirty diaper away from a verdant bloom. Chalk Sound’s fate rests precariously on the functionality of the human septic systems that now line its shores.
For a water body of such pristine quality, Chalk Sound experiences precious little flushing from daily tidal flows. Surrounded almost entirely on all sides by land masses, the narrow channel skirting around Silly Cay represents the only avenue by which fresh water can flow into and out of the sound.
For tens of thousands of years, the land areas surrounding the Chalk Sound National Park contained only the products of nature, rock, shrubbery and tree. As the rain fell on vegetation-covered land, it was filtered to even greater purity before it trickled into Chalk Sound.
With the relatively recent advent of human residential development along its boundaries, runoff into Chalk Sound now carries a toxic brew of nutrients from poorly maintained septic systems, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides from artificial landscaping, petrochemicals from roads and silt and sediment from land clearance.
Each of these threats presents a danger to the extraordinary beauty that distinguishes the Chalk Sound National Park, but aesthetics are not the only environmental values at risk within the Park’s boundaries due to human development.
In addition to aquatic attributes, within the National Park’s boundaries are small land areas in the form of tiny islands dotted within the sound and a thin, broken buffer of land scattered around the park’s perimeter. Within these finite land areas, remarkable flora and fauna find precious habitat.
Many of the small islands are home to the Critically Endangered Turks and Caicos rock iguana. Internationally protected orchids, bromeliads and cacti adorn the landscape, and threatened hardwoods like mahogany, lignum vitae and satinwood thrive in diverse woodland habitats.
Among the natural mosaic habitats of woodland, wetland and estuary, wading, perching and shoreline bird species find shelter, food and nesting areas. When we clear land to build our homes along the shores of Chalk Sound, we deny each of these other inhabitants their homes, livelihoods and very existence.
Under that mirrored expanse of tourmaline blue waters, another world exists. Chalk Sound harbors the wealth of our future fisheries and the future integrity of our coral reefs.
It is considered prime juvenile marine habitat with its expanses of mangroves, sea grass beds and isolated coral heads. These structural features house the next generations of our lobster fishery, with studies indicating that a large majority of the baby lobsters found along the southern shores of Provo, float their way into the Silly Creek and Chalk Sound areas to spend their pre-adult lives.
Juvenile conch, bonefish and endangered sea turtles also abound there, with hoards of other marine creatures that grow up in this protective sound. The growing adolescents then start to make their way to our coral reefs, where they will spend their adult lives maintaining our reef environs while entertaining the clients of our water sports industry.
The Chalk Sound National Park is spectacular in its aesthetic values. That people have desired to make their homes along its awe-inspiring shores is no small wonder. But Chalk Sound is more than just exclusive real estate. It is a Protected Area of incomparable ecological values.
Maintaining the values which set Chalk Sound apart will require a small sacrifice on the part of those this precious natural area has been entrusted to. We will need to restrict and monitor our development and preserve the natural vegetation boundaries that still exist along its shores.
These small sacrifices will ensure that reflective waters of this National Park will continue to evoke the imagery of the pristine whiteness of chalk rather than the stagnant hue of a poorly-maintained swimming pool.
Marine ecologist Marsha Pardee, M.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, living here for nearly 20 years. She is a member of the government’s Scientific Authority Committee and a consultant for environmental management and aquaculture projects, working for both public and private sectors. She has taught many of the country’s children in local schools and in the DECR’s Junior Park Warden Program on Providenciales.
|Last Updated on Monday, 27 September 2010 13:50|
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TCI Protected Areas Series
The fp is publishing a series of articles on the Turks and Caicos Islands Protected Area System to increase public awareness and respect for the beauty and value of this "beautiful by nature" country.
The authors, marine ecologist Marsha Pardee and terrestrial ecologist Kathleen Wood, are long-time TCI residents and respected scientists in their fields.
Below are links to their articles, plus related news articles, documents and laws.
- 29/7/10: Chalk Sound National Park: Beauty and ecology
- 22/7/10: Protected Areas designations and differences
- 15/7/10: Long-term prosperity vs. short-term gain
- 8/7/10: Protected Areas save environment, generate revenue
- 5/8/10: Frenchman’s Creek: Prime real estate of TCI wetlands
Related news articles
- 1/7/10: Expert report warned about encroachment on protected areas
- 8/7/10: More than 250 lots carved in Provo parks
Links to environmental documents and laws