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Distribution of plant species on the Dutch Caribbean Islands now online.

BONAIRE:---  Since 2018 Wageningen University & Research and Carmabi cooperate in bringing together historical and recent data on vegetation composition and plant species distribution on the six Dutch Caribbean islands. Plant observations from this CACTUS database are now online available through the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database (DCBD) website (http://speciesdistribution.dcbd.nl). The website has been launched in Aruba in the first week of December.
The CACTUS database consists of about 2500 digitized vegetation relevés, resulting in about almost 40,000 plant species observations. These have been complemented by about 10,000 plant records from digital photos, citizen science databases, GBIF, inventory reports, and additional field records. For more than 80% of the occurring total of native and naturalized non-native vascular plant species on the six islands, some observations are now available, mainly covering the period 1950-2022. Currently, an NLBIF project is carried out aiming at digitizing additional historical herbarium records for all six islands.
Data are presented on a 1x1 km grid resolution on the website (figure 1). Geographically more detailed data are available upon request, for scientific and conservation purposes. The website allows the selection of observations within time periods, which enables trend analysis of distribution patterns of species, (figure 2), especially in cases where the data availability is similar in compared periods. Trend analysis is an essential tool for constructing Red Lists of endangered species. Furthermore, it is possible to see data gaps for specific species, which may encourage enthusiastic plant hunters to provide new observation records of these plants.
The amount of observations per island differs strongly, with by far the most records (56%) coming from Curaçao, followed by Aruba (13%) and Bonaire (11%). For Sint, Maarten data are still relatively scarce. New records are added on a regular basis, after which the presented data on the DCBD website is updated.


Nature Foundation St. Maarten, California Academy of Sciences, successfully pilots science and nature related activities with local high schools.

nfschools06122022PHILIPSBURG:--- The Nature Foundation St. Maarten and California Academy of Sciences can look back at a successful first harvest from their partnership under the Islands 2030 St. Martin/Maarten Seed Environmental Learning project. The partners in education joined forces in May 2022 to collaborate on a wide-scale plan, focused on creating accessible and equitable science and environmental learning opportunities with schools throughout St. Maarten. This initiative is in line with one of The Nature Foundation’s most pressing principles to educate the youth about the environment, as many environmental issues that arise on the island are linked to a lack of awareness and education.

The Foundation Manager, Ms. Leslie Hickerson has always been an advocate for nature education. “We have growing environmental issues on the island, and it is often a challenge to find local experts to fill vacant positions. At the same time, the number of St. Maarten students pursuing STEM-related studies is on the decrease. It is therefore necessary that our government invests in STEM education. As the Nature Foundation is a small organization with limited resources, we are continuously looking for ways and alliances to maximize our educational efforts. This collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences has enabled us to initiate relevant resources that will support nature education in our high schools.”

In the month of October, the Nature Foundation together with the California Academy of Sciences facilitated various educational activities with the schools. These educational efforts are a follow-up to the gap analysis that they conducted in May and June earlier this year to assess the strengths and needs in science and nature education in our high schools.

From the listening sessions that were then held with students, teachers, school management, and community members, several common needs were identified by the various stakeholders. For example, both educators and their students expressed the need for hands-on learning, away from the textbook and into real-life situations. Teachers explained that they have limited time to cover the school’s curriculum and that they are therefore in need of more support for practical activities, useful resources, and field trip possibilities for in-context learning.

Moreover, because St. Maarten’s secondary school system offers various curricula that are regionally or internationally recognized, topics taught in schools like food webs, ecological systems, and pollination, all use examples that students don’t often resonate with, because they are not applicable to St. Maarten’s local environment and situation. Education Project Coordinator Eudoxia Williams-James explained: “There is no local curriculum established on the island, and teachers find it challenging and time-consuming to incorporate local topics in their classes. Simultaneously, the individual teachers that do find time to integrate local content do so based on their line of expertise or personal interest, and so the offering remains sporadic and never all-encompassing. We also have to consider that St. Maarten schools have many teachers that are recruited from other countries and although competent, they do not know about our local flora and fauna.”

Nature Foundation and California Academy of Sciences used the outcome of the listening sessions and the curricula review to propose ideas for what can be done to support Science and Nature education. Based on feedback received, the team worked on activities tailored to both teachers and students, which were piloted in October.

A teacher training was designed to equip teachers from subject areas in both the natural and social sciences with strategies and resources that they could use in their everyday teaching for hands-on environmental learning experiences. Teachers from Charlotte Brookson Academy, MAC High School, Milton Peters College, St. Dominic High, Sundial school, and faculty of the University of Saint Martin all took part in this training. Based on their feedback, the group left the workshop feeling inspired to plan and do their own practical nature investigations with their students.

 For the students, field trips were organized at Emilio Wilson park. Students from Sundial, Milton Peters College, and St. Dominic High School became community scientists on their field trip day and did various investigations using real-life scientific tools. The field trips were well received by the students, and many of them indicated that this was the first time that they did a science activity outside of the classroom.

 Mrs. Williams-James elaborated: “While traditional learning through books is necessary, it is just as important that students are able to learn about their environment by actually being in it. This allows students to be more engaged during class time, whether it is indoors or outdoors. It also provides the opportunity to connect with nature, which leads to a greater appreciation for the environment. It is only by helping St. Maarten’s youth build personal connections to nature and the environment so that we can ensure long-term ownership and protection of the island’s biodiversity. By working directly with teachers, as this project does, we understand what resources are truly needed to begin to make this shift.

Nature Foundation hopes to continue supporting schools in environmental teaching and learning as it is becoming increasingly evident that lack of education and awareness lies at the basis of negative human impact on the environment. The Foundation is in the process of adjusting its Articles of Incorporation to reflect a 21st-century approach towards management and protection of the environment. Plans are also in the making to set up an education unit within the organization and seek support from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports by discussing sustainable funding possibilities. The Foundation currently only has a service level agreement with the department of VROMI.
Foundation Manager Leslie Hickerson concluded: “Protection of our natural resources starts with education, but this work must go beyond the classroom as well. To feel connected to nature, students and the community at large must also be able to spend time in natural spaces, which is why it’s important for St. Maarten to move toward protecting its remaining untouched areas. By improving access to nature while also increasing nature education, we can work to create a new generation of island stewards, and a thriving, greener future for St. Maarten itself.”

Contractors blocked landfill, demanding that they be paid.

landfillblockage06122022PHILIPSBURG:--- Several contractors that are working at both landfills on Pond Island have blocked both entrances barring vehicles and persons from entering the landfill. The contractors contended that they have not been paid by the government for several months now.
The early morning blockade is being done hoping that the government of St. Maarten would make payments to them immediately since they all have families and the Christmas holidays are approaching.
They alleged that the government of St. Maarten is playing games with them. With the actions taken on Tuesday morning, no garbage collection would take place until government settles its debts.

 

Sint Maarten Trust Fund Shows Strategic Results for Long-Term Resilience.

trustfundjacobs06122022THE HAGUE:--- The Sint Maarten Reconstruction, Recovery and Resilience Trust Fund is advancing critical reforms needed to ensure long-term national sustainability and through its projects producing many positive outcomes. This includes enabling financial resilience with almost 2,000 people receiving support and skills training to enhance their income and building climate resilience with the majority of the population now protected from the future impact of disasters. In addition, over 500 homes, roofs, and other critical facilities serving the public are repaired, 139 shipwrecks were removed, and over 10.5km of the country’s shorelines were cleaned. Residents and businesses located next to the landfill are being resettled, paving the way for better management of the country’s solid waste.
The Steering Committee of the Trust Fund, financed by the Government of the Netherlands, administered by the World Bank, and implemented by the Government of Sint Maarten, met this week in the Netherlands to review progress and discuss the next steps.
The program is supporting Sint Maarten in rebuilding better after Hurricane Irma. With effective work by the National Recovery Program Bureau, an implementing agency created by the Government of Sint Maarten, the Trust Fund continues to make a positive impact in the lives of Sint Maarteners.
Building local capacity, enabling local ownership, prioritizing investments in society, and the economy, and improving the livelihoods of people and the most vulnerable are central to the program. The Trust Fund is leveraging change by providing much-needed capital to over 150 small businesses, and resources to 26 local civil society organizations so community programs can continue and expand, and by expanding healthcare services in Sint Maarten, healthcare costs have declined as 92 percent of people seeking care no longer need overseas referrals.
“There has been progressed made in many areas, as reflected in the World Bank’s Mid-term Review, especially through the different emergency projects, the larger infrastructure projects, and the Enterprise Support Project,” said Sint Maarten Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs. “The Government and the people of St. Maarten hope to see a continuous commitment of all parties to realize progress in improving the quality of life on the island.
In reviewing the Fund’s performance – which in four years committed over US$360 million to 11 projects - the Steering Committee welcomed the additional allocation of €7 million provided by the Government of the Netherlands toward the Sint Maarten Hospital.
“This additional one-off contribution by the Netherlands to the Trust Fund will allow the new hospital in Sint Maarten to be completed. As a result, there is no need to cut back on other reconstruction projects,” said Dutch State Secretary Van Huffelen. “This will keep the all-important reconstruction of Sint Maarten on track.”
The Steering Committee recognized the Trust Fund’s challenging implementation outlook exacerbated by several global shocks impacting the program, including inflationary pressures, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions making construction materials, among other things, more expensive.
“For Caribbean countries inherently vulnerable to external shocks due their size and distance to markets, the disruptions in global supply chains and subsequent rise in inflation deeply impacted the cost of goods, food prices, and energy,” said Lilia Burunciuc, Director for Caribbean Countries, World Bank, and Steering Committee Chair. “We are prioritizing investments that will have the highest impact and are putting in place better buffers to protect against global pressures.”
The Steering Committee of the Sint Maarten Reconstruction, Recovery, and Resilience Trust Fund will reconvene in March

Zr.Ms. Holland with a great drugs bust.

drugbust06122022Marine ship Zr.Ms. Holland has detected a large amount of drugs in the Caribbean Sea
A patrol airplane from Coastguard Caribbean Region detected packages on the high seas containing suspected drugs. Zr.Ms. Holland sent her (FRISC) fast interceptor boat and the onboard helicopter of the American Coastguard to the area to search for the packages. A total amount of approximately 5.000 kilograms of drugs was lifted out of the sea.

The contraband stuff was handed over to the USA Coastguard and has in the meantime been destroyed.
Counter drugs operations
Zr.Ms. Holland since October 2022 is operational and active as a Patrol ship in the Caribbean Region and interchanges cooperation in counter drugs operations with the USA Coastguard as well as the Caribbean Coastguard. During previous drug seizures the Zr.Ms. Holland intercepted at least 1.600 kilograms of drugs.


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