LC coastal plants and reefs focus of research

| 26/03/2015
Cayman News Service

The research team with Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell (3rd from left)

(CNS): Fourteen students and a professor from Kean University in New Jersey were focusing not just on the coral reefs when they visited the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s Little Cayman Research Centre recently but the local coastal vegetation as well. Whilst at the LCRC, the research group studied the native flora growing along the islands’ coast and their medicinal properties.

This is an area of particular expertise for their professor, Dr Daniela Shebitz, a botanist who has studied plants that have been long used by Native Americans for their medicinal properties and their cultural importance. Dr Shebitz has extended her studies to Costa Rica and now the Cayman Islands.

During the trip the students sought to identify culturally significant species that are most under threat and created a demonstration site at the centre. Officials said the goal was to raise awareness of the importance of these plants and better understand the current health of the Little Cayman’s coastal vegetation.

“I was thrilled to find that the local community on the island was willing to share their knowledge of plant medicines with us and we found a great number of plants that we hope will show signs of medicinal efficacy through further testing,” said the college professor “I have no doubt that this is just the first step and that there are countless directions that our research and educational opportunities can take. I look forward to many future visits.”

During their visit, they also studied the lagoons around Little Cayman to measure the possible relationship between lionfish culling and coral reef health, noting that areas with low culling activity would result in decreased parrotfish populations.

Shebitz was impressed by the progress the students made. “It was not until I visited that I truly understood the remarkable research and education opportunities that CCMI and the Little Cayman provides to the local and global communities. The terrific staff and its location within the marine conservation area make CCMI the ideal place to conduct research,” she said.

Dr Carrie Manfrino, the centre’s director, pointed out that it is important to consider the effects of rising global sea levels and increased coastal development on terrestrial vegetation, particularly in the Cayman Islands where certain species are prized not only for their contributions to the islands’ biodiversity, but also cultural and natural heritage.

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