By Sam McLuckie
From May 14, 2018
Today in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation we traveled to the fishing village of Canaries, St. Lucia to help local farmers plant vetiver grass and several species of trees along the Canaries River. Using a pickaxe and machete to dig small holes in the slopes of land near the river, we first planted small groups of grass to hold the land in place. The grasses have very fast-growing, long roots, making them highly efficient at securing land to prevent erosion into the river. Additionally, we planted hardwood trees such as teak and mahogany at various spots along the river for the same reason. We also planted several fruit-bearing trees such as nutmeg, but farther inland because the hardwood trees have better roots, and are therefore better utilized when closer to the river.
The roots of the grasses and trees serve to keep the land secure, working to prevent erosion, landslide, and sedimentation into the water. When more sediment enters the river, more sediment enters the sea, which could have adverse effects on corals.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. During these courses, students learn scientific diving techniques over a 10-14 day period and carry out research and monitoring of coral reefs at various sites. Many of these courses are done in partnership with local environmental organizations, like the Union Island Environmental Alliance and the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.