BZS Awarded $62,800 Darwin Plus Grant

June 29, 2023 | 2 Comments

The Bermuda Zoological Society has been awarded a grant of £50,000 [$62,800], funded by the UK Government through the Darwin Plus Local programme, to support its Micro Forest Project.

A spokesperson said, “Launched in November 2021, the Micro Forest Project has cleared invasive species and replaced them with a mix of endemic and native plants on 17 sites across the island with the aim of promoting biodiversity and protecting Bermuda’s natural heritage. Its target is to plant 1,500 seedlings on 10 new sites each year for three years.

“Darwin Plus Local is a new scheme within the existing UK government’s Darwin Plus fund, which funds projects to protect the unique biodiversity and improve resilience to climate change within the 14 UK Overseas Territories.

“The grant will help to fund the purchase of endemic and native plant seedlings, and a specialised drone to monitor the progress and health of micro forest sites, as well as other project expenses.

Nicholas Coelho, BZS Micro Forest Officer, who leads the project, said: “We’re delighted to receive this valuable funding from the prestigious Darwin Plus Local programme. We know they have many worthy applicants and we are honoured that they chose us to be a recipient.

“Bermuda’s natural heritage is unique and we are working to preserve it. These micro forests act as a refuge for our rare native and endemic plants, insects, and birds. The pollen and seeds the plants produce will help to support native and endemic plant populations in the surrounding areas.

“The benefits of micro forests include massively increasing the biodiversity in a concentrated area, as well as helping to lower temperatures, reduce air and noise pollution, attract local birds and insects, and sequester carbon. They also strengthen the resilience of the island in the face of climate change, as native plant species adapted to local conditions are the least likely to be damaged in hurricanes and species like mangroves help to protect our coastal areas from erosion.”

“The micro forests are being developed using the Miyawaki method, pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. Seedlings are planted at much higher densities than traditional tree-planting methods. This has the effect of reducing the number of invasive plants that can gain a foothold in the forest by crowding them out, thereby reducing the amount of effort needed to maintain over time.

“The saplings grow fast to compete for the light and in three years the trees grow 6-10ft high. Natural selection favours the fastest growing, effectively thinning out the trees. In the space of three years, the result is a diverse, multi-layered forest community that is self-sustaining.

“Micro forest sites planted so far include schoolyards, roadside strips, small islands, private gardens and areas of parks. More than 39,400 invasive plants have been culled and replaced by over 2,900 native and endemic plants with a survival rate of close to 95% so far.

“On May 6, one of this year’s new micro forests, the King’s Coronation Garden, was opened to the public. The 4,570-square-foot site, in a previously unused corner of the Botanical Gardens in Paget, is now home to over 530 seedlings of 20 different species.

“The Bermuda Government’s Department of Parks has actively supported the project from its inception. The corporate supporters whose generosity enables the project to meet its $170,000 annual running costs include lead sponsor HSBC, founding sponsor RenaissanceRe, Chubb, Aspen, Convex, Aeolus and Vantage.

“A total of 763 volunteers have given 2,420 hours of their time to the project. More than half of that support has come from corporate volunteers. With 20 micro forests expected to be completed by the end of this year and 10 more scheduled to follow in 2024, there will be a growing need for more volunteers to help out with the monitoring and maintenance work.

“The multispectral drone to be purchased with some of the Darwin Plus funds will enable high-tech monitoring of the sites. The drone will be able to conduct site surveys, automatic field scouting, forest distribution surveys, urban green area surveys, and invasive plant identification, and identify issues such as emergence deficiencies and weed pressure.

“The project also features a strong educational element that ties with the BZS’s commitment to teaching younger generations about Bermuda’s environment. So far, 230 student volunteers have worked on the Micro Forest Project.

“Trunk Island, a seven-acre ecological treasure trove in Harrington Sound, is the focus of the BZS’s educational and conservation efforts and home to its Living Classroom.

Trevor Rawson, the BZS’s Trunk Island Project Coordinator, said: “Through initiatives such as the Micro Forest Project, we want children to learn about and understand our unique environment. If they see what we do and take it to their backyard, by planting even a single endemic tree, then that is a win for us. We want to encourage Bermuda’s youth to become advocates for conservation.”

“The project welcomes participation from private landowners who want to establish a micro forest in their garden or grounds. Mr. Coelho said: “One of our objectives is to build up public interest, so that people want to do this themselves. Anyone can plant a micro forest on their own property and you do not need a large piece of land to do it.”

“Invasive species, such as casuarinas and Brazilian peppers, tend to grow and reproduce faster than native flora and now dominate many vegetated areas on the island. This reality is at the core of why the Micro Forest Project is important, said Mr. Colin Brown, President of the Bermuda Zoological Society.

“To put in the unit effort of work to reproduce the conservation success we have had on Trunk Island on the mainland would be impractical, so we have to try a different model,” Mr. Brown said. “We can’t guarantee that the methods we are using in the Micro Forest Project will fill our forests with native species. But if we don’t try something different, then in future years, we will just have invasives across the island.”

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Comments (2)

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  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    What wonderful news!

  2. loquat tree says:

    Fantastic opportunity!
    Maybe we might only have room for a tiny ‘microforest’ in our gardens. Are there different sized planting plans available? This would be a good follow up article and apart from volunteering or donating, how can we help? Is there an adopt a microforest scheme for a corporate or other volunteer group?

    I’d love to see strong participation from local plant nurseries with a focused endemics section. Such as: Here are the 20 recommended microforest trees. Here are suggested planting plans and tips.

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