EPIC is contributing to the global knowledge of Caribbean biodiversity, specifically Caribbean plants, through a comprehensive plant catalog for Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, in partnership with Dr. Frank Axelrod, faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico.
The work comes at a time when the world is experiencing mass extinctions. It is hard to keep track of what is lost and even harder to understand what may happen as a result. Knowing what we have is about risk management and there is a lot at stake.
A plant catalog provides critical information about what species are present and a baseline history, so we know what has been lost over time.
The catalog helps to measure changes and allows us to take corrective action when possible. Since the catalog will specify what is rare or important to protect, it can inform the designation of protected areas and help us to take action to reduce negative development impacts. For example, incorporating hurricane-resistant plants in our landscaping makes our communities more sustainable. This work can be exciting, such as when it leads to the discovery of new species or an understanding of how species rely on each other.
Although the work has been delayed due to coronavirus travel restrictions during 2020 and early 2021, the work will be completed soon. A plant catalog of this magnitude has previously never been completed for the island and the results will guide conservation and research for many decades.