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Invasive Species Removal - Turks and Cacios Islands

Invasive species can be one of the most devastating 
threats to isolated ecosystems 
- and one of the most overlooked. 
The Turks and Cacios Islands have seen an invasion, one that threatens every native species which in habits the island in one form or another.  The culprit - the nuisance exotic Australian Pine (Casuarina spp.).  The tree was originally imported as a hardy landscape tree that could provide a strong wind break and was known to thrive in the sandy soils and salty conditions, it's also known as a 'salt pine' and has been outlawed in many areas such as Southern California where it is recognized for the potential damage and havoc it can wreak on native landscapes. 

The damages are even greater when the invasion occurs on an isolated ecosystem such as these small West Indies islands where natives species, both flora and fauna, have no alternatives, no line of retreat, no defenses.  


The pines displace critical habitats such as the mangrove swamps where fish and birds rely on the cover from their dense branches and root systems for cover, safety and to breed.  It also knocks out entire food chains as it takes over the landscape and native plants fed upon by the local fauna are eliminated. Without means of escape to find new food sources or time to adapt the numbers for the critically endangered inhabitants of these islands are dwindling.  

A view of the invasive pines along the
shoreline of the proposed area for reclamation.

Building on the success in Sandy Cay, GICS intends to launch an assault on the invasive pines, eliminating them from the landscape allowing for the recovery of the local flora and the delicate balance of the islands.  


Our efforts will first be focused on the protected areas East Bay Cays National Parks and the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve.  Eradicating the pines involves a lot of main hours with chainsaws, brush cutters, shovels, gloves, hard work and eventually bonfires to burn the brush on site and strong herbicides applied to the freshly cut stumps to eradicate the root systems.  Anything less, even single plants left behind mean certain re-infestation in a short amount of time. 

  

On the left you can see the pines slowly but surely taking over the landscape pushing out the native plants leaving nothing but standing forests of pines in their wake.  Without intervention entire landscapes are eventually transformed into the photo on the right, standing forests of Australian Pine disrupting both the food chain and habitat for flora and fauna alike which have evolved in these unique ecosystems.  


Among many other species this is where the critically endangered Turks and Cacios iguana (Cyclura carinata) makes it's home.  Without intervention the iguana will likely be added to the list of species made extinct due to mans intervention and destruction of their habitat. 

The Turks and Cacios iguana has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 
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