Assessing Full Environmental Impact of Hurricane Dorian
October 3nd, 2019
For Immediate Release:
BNT: ASSESSING FULL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF HURRICANE DORIAN.
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) recently began assessing the full environmental impact of Hurricane Dorian.
The Trust, along with its partners, began mobilizing teams of local and international scientists, to conduct assessments of the marine and terrestrial environments on Grand Bahama and Abaco in the wake of mega-storm Dorian.
The BNT plans to create marine, terrestrial, and oil spill contingency task forces to address the many environmental concerns arising from the storm.
“Up until now, like much of the country, the BNT’s focus has been on supporting efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in the wake of Dorian,” says BNT Executive Director, Eric Carey. “Now that things on the humanitarian front appear to be stabilizing, we will turn our full attention to the environment.” Mr. Carey continued, “Since Dorian hit, we have conducted several high-level assessments. We will now shift to evaluating scientifically, what Dorian has really done to the environment. We know that it has taken a tremendous hit. ”
Early assessments show that national parks on both Abaco and Grand Bahama have been affected, with more severe damage evident in the parks on Grand Bahama. Photos of Lucayan National Park indicate severe coastal erosion to the iconic Gold Rock Beach, catastrophic impact to the mangrove and pine forests in the park, as well as crippling damage to park infrastructure.
Although the waters have now receded, the damage produced by Dorian’s twenty-foot storm surge remains. Saltwater was pushed very far inland into pine and coppice forests, disrupting the delicate balance of freshwater that these trees need to survive. The BNT fears that the salt intrusion will result in the loss of large areas of forests, leading to a higher than normal incidence of forest fires, and a further loss of associated wildlife.
“What we have seen so far has been heartbreaking,” says Lakeshia Anderson, BNT’s Director of Parks, “we are anxious to get our teams on the ground to see what’s happening.” She further stated, ” Our focus is on assessing the true impact, recovery, and planning for the future. In Hurricane Dorian’s wake, the BNT will have the chance to study the impact of mega-storms and the potential for mitigation and environmental recovery after such extreme events.”
The BNT will also conduct comprehensive assessments to determine the impact of Dorian on wildlife. Populations of endangered birds, such as the Bahama Parrot, Bahama Nuthatch, Bahama Warbler and Bahama Swallow are of paramount concern. Grand Bahama and Abaco are the only places on earth where some of these birds exist. Birds can be severely impacted by these storms. Since most eat fruit and nectar, they are especially susceptible to starvation due to food loss.
The BNT is also continuing to monitor the clean-up and recovery efforts related to the oil spill at the Equinor facility on Grand Bahama. The BNT is still trying to obtain a clear understanding of, the full damage caused, and the progress of recovery efforts to date. “The Equinor incident is one we are keeping a close watch on expressed BNT Director of Science and Policy, Shelley Cant-Woodside. Ms. Cant – Woodside added, “As the clean-up process continues, there are opportunities to learn from what happened. We need to ensure that we do all we can to prevent such an incident from occurring again while keeping a keen eye on the clean-up process to ensure it is carried out to the highest standards to prevent any long-term damage.”
BNT is a member of The National Oil Spill Contingency Advisory Committee (NOSCAC), which is responsible for handling the response to the oil spill. Oversight of the NOSCAC lies with The Ministry of Public Transport and Local Government. Other NOSCAC members include representatives from The Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, local government, Civil Aviation, The Public Analysts, Bahamas Customs, The Bahamas Maritime Authority, The Port Department, and The Ministry of Public Works.
Once these assessments have been completed, the results will be used to guide further restoration and recovery efforts.