Land degradation in Maturita

‘Alarming’: Land degradation in Maturita River in East Trinidad caused by human activity.

CABINET has approved the rehabilitation of 100 hectares of spent quarry lands by 2030 through community-based agroforestry, the rehabilitation of 100 hectares of degraded forest and the increase of forest carbon stock by five per cent by 2030, all relative to the baseline of 2015.

Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis, whose ministry has responsibility for the environment. made this announcement on Saturday in a news release.

The ministry said Cabinet has also agreed to:

• Improve productivity and Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) stocks in 500 hectares of cropland by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline.

• Improve national data and develop a mechanism for the collection and management of land productivity, land cover and soil organic carbon (SOC) data for future monitoring needs.

• Achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030 with no net loss for the whole land area of the country and all its land cover, compared to the 2015 baseline.

These measures are meant to support Trinidad and Tobago’s Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) goals, which is defined by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as “A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

The ministry said these goals are set to be accomplished partly through the use of remote sensing incorporating satellite data, in-field surveys and soil testing.

“It is important to note that these targets take into account necessary physical development and foreseeable land use changes, with the aim of maintaining the status of land resources at 2015 levels by the year 2030, with the goal of ensuring that T&T should be no worse off in 2030 relative to 2015,” the ministry said.

Review of data provided by the European Space Agency through the UNCCD Secretariat indicated that 58.3 per cent of total land resources in Trinidad and Tobago are degraded when data for the years 2000 and 2015 were compared. This assessment is based on three main metrics being used to measure land quality which are vegetative cover, productivity and organic carbon content.

The Ministry of Planning said it finds the statistic on the degradation of T&T’s land to be “alarming,” as continuing down the current path of land degradation poses an imminent and significant threat for Trinidad and Tobago for three main reasons:

i. T&T is a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) which means land is a very finite resource, so its use must be sustainable and judicious; “If our land becomes degraded, it is not as though we can move on to another fresh productive piece of land because of our insular nature.” According to Environmental Biologist of the Ministry of Planning’s Environmental Policy and Planning Division, Mr. Julius Smith.

ii. Land, specifically soil resources, is the basis for our terrestrial biodiversity and therefore underpins the agricultural sector and ecosystem services and products of Trinidad and Tobago.

iii. Thirdly, soils and vegetation are the most efficient (in terms of cost per tonne of carbon) and efficacious (with respect to the actual ability to store carbon per unit area/hectare) means of carbon sequestration and this has major implications for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

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