|Frenchman’s Creek: Prime real estate of TCI wetlands|
|Written by Marsha Pardee and Kathleen Wood|
|Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:24|
TCI Protected Areas
The Pigeon Pond and Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve encompasses some of the most valuable and vital habitats found within the entire Turks and Caicos Islands archipelago.
Eclipsed only by the sheer size of the Ramsar wetlands site that stretches across North, Middle and East Caicos, this Nature Reserve contains representatives of nearly every ecological attribute this country has to offer. Even better, it is conveniently placed in our tourism mecca offering boundless adventures for the nature loving kind and economic incentives for those who lead them there.
Because there is so much to see and do in this place, this column will provide only a peek beneath the sea in the tidal wetlands of Frenchman’s Creek, seagrasses and patch reefs that border the shorelines. This first glimpse will attempt to broaden your understanding of just why this place is so very important to what we often take for granted.
Our fisheries, our coral reefs and the dozens of economic opportunities they afford us are all dependent upon the creeks and tributaries that meander through the maze of wetlands. And this area in particular harbors the seeds to our prosperity.
Looking at the big picture (or rather a park map,) we can see that this expanse of mangrove encrusted coastline is certainly the largest on Provo and rivals all others with the exception of the Ramsar southern fringe. Look at an even bigger map and you’ll notice that not only is it a major nursery area for the western side of the archipelago, but likely for this region of the Caribbean.
But let’s zoom in for a closer look at what we find in this labyrinth of waterways. We know that it contains at least 10 internationally protected species of marine organisms that use the internationally protected Critical Habitats of seagrass beds, mangroves and coral reefs.
These habitats are protected as breeding, feeding, nesting, spawning and/or nursery areas of a multitude of marine life. Of particular interest in this area are breeding nurse sharks, bonefish foraging grounds, green turtle foraging and nursery habitat for our commercially important lobster and conch.
Baby lobsters make their way into these nursery areas where they first live solitarily on seagrass blades, mangrove prop roots and amongst the clumps of algae. At about 3 months old, they will start to congregate with others, living under ledges, around sponges and any accommodating coral head that gives them the right size of protective shelter.
As they age, the lobsters seek shelters that better house their growing bodies and eventually make their way to the fringing coral reefs. Here they will breed and spawn, releasing their hatching eggs into the open ocean. The babies will drift along the currents for up to 12 months before heading into the more protected inshore areas to repeat the cycle again.
In the case of Frenchman’s Creek wetlands, those lobsters are well protected in a nursery system far from the threats of development that can easily degrade and destroy this prime habitat. Buffered by development-free coastlines from Proggin Bay to Malcolm Roads, the wetlands remain pristine.
Better yet, they are just a stone’s throw (or lobster crawl) from nearby fringing reefs with lots of protective shelters in between. Compared to those lobsters that grow up in the Ramsar wetlands, these guys have but a short distance to go when running the predator gauntlet.
And best of all, they’ll be making their way to the reefs in the Protected Areas of North West Point and West Caicos Marine National Parks. Here, they will have an even greater chance of survival to a ripe and long reproductive age, where they will release multiple millions of babies annually that seed not only our banks but those in the region.
So “prime real estate” is the operative phrase when assessing and comparing the value of our vital wetlands and the homes these areas provide for our marine resources. Frenchman’s Creek ranks at the top of the listings with an inestimable value and price that just cannot be paid, but only if it and the surrounding Nature Reserve are left as a pristine estate.
For more information on Protected Areas, visit www.environment.tc/Protected-Areas-Division.html.
Terrestrial ecologist and Master Gardener Kathleen Wood, B.Sc., is a Permanent Resident of the TCI, dividing her time between the Turks and Caicos and North Carolina. She is the author of many publications including the book, “Flowers of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.” She has worked for the public and private sectors on many environmental projects in the Bahamas, TCI and U.S. Anyone interested in discussion on a broad range of environmental issues can follow Kathleen on her blog at www.killingmother.blogspot.com.
|Last Updated on Monday, 27 September 2010 13:49|
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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