Dry Forest Conservation Programme
Jamaica’s dry forests are found on limestone hills all around the island but the most extensive areas are in the PBPA, specifically in Hellshire Hills, Portland Ridge, the Brazilletto Mountains and Kemps Hill. Remnants of dry forest are also found on some of the Portland Bight Cays (including Big Pelican and Big Half Moon). Originally the alluvial plains were densely forested but the fertile lands were cleared for agriculture and this forest type appears to have totally disappeared from Jamaica.
The Hellshire Hills provide one of the best examples of dry forest on limestone in the Caribbean. They support at least 271 plant species including 53 endemic species. They also support the last remaining population of the Jamaican Iguana (a separate conservation target) as well as many other endemic amphibians and reptiles, including the Portland Ridge Land Frog and possibly the last remaining population of Jamaican Skink. New species of amphibian are still being discovered in the area.
It is no wonder that the Forestry Department has recommended that all remaining dry forests islandwide should be set aside for uses compatible with conservation and forest restoration.
- Forest Clearance and Disturbance
- charcoal burning
- extraction of lumber and sticks
- felling of palm trees to collect thatch to make brooms
- clearing of forests for agriculture and housing
- changes in rainfall patterns
- changes in humidity
- changes in evaporation and transpiration rates ( transpiration is the movement of water through plants and its rise into the atmosphere from leaves and stems as water vapour)
- changes in temperature
- increasing damage to trees from hurricanes and storms
- an increase in the frequency and intensity of fires
- changes to microclimates (this could affect the survival and distribution of forest species)
- logwood, which rapidly spreads and is dominant in in many limestone foothills and alluvial areas (areas where soil is loose)
- pigs and goats, which feed on plants on the ground, interfering with natural forest regeneration processes and altering species composition (Goat Island in particular has been very badly affected by goats which have almost entirely removed the plant life growing beneath the forest canopy)
- roads constructed to support quarries in the Northwest of Hellshire
- driving roads (a new road was constructed by the Jackson’s Bay Gun Club into the forest on the south side of Portland Ridge)
- extensive networks of trails used by pig hunters and coal burners
- large areas in the Hellshire Hills and Brazilletto Mountains legally designated as quarry zones
- continued prospecting for additional quarries in all areas
- a proposal from CEMEX, a prominent global cement company, to establish a limestone export port at Rocky Point with a beltline carrying limestone from the core of the Brazilletto Mountains to the coast (this, along with other proposals from unknown entities, could lead to a rapid increase in limestone mining activities in the Brazilletto Mountains)
- garbage dumped along remote trails and roads
The Urban Development Corporation employs 30 rangers to enforce laws in Hellshire Hills. PWD Gun and Jackson's Bay Gun Clubs control access to the area although they do not have any rangers. NEPA enforces the Wild Life Protection Act’s provisions regarding bird shooting and general game reserves. There is currently no enforcement in the Brazilletto Mountains.
Research (in the Hellshire Hills)
The University of the West Indies Life Sciences Department and the Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group are studying and conserving the Jamaican Iguana in the Hellshire Hills. Dr. Kurt Mclaren is implementing various studies of dry forest ecology. The Forestry Department has an on-going programme of research and monitoring.