Written in response to a Casuarina editorial in the Tribune. Cannot find the original Tribune editorial though.
Dear Editor (The Tribune),
While I understand that my opinions go directly against yours (as per your August 20th article) I trust you will allow me some space in your paper to open the eyes of Bahamians to the facts about Casuarinas and other invasive species. I wish to put aside all political agendas and dramatics for simple scientific fact. The documents, regarding the listing of protected native and traditional trees, are available for all Bahamians to access at http://www.bahamas.gov.bs or http://www.best.bs. I recommend all Bahamians read our National Invasive Species Strategy, National Wetlands policy both of which mention the impact of invasive species in a Bahamian context.
Your august 20th article mentions Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. I would like to point out two major flaws in drawing analogs between their situation and ours. The first, Casuarina is native to that region so there was no issue in introduction of an established native. Secondly, the fact that something has been done does not automatically make it intelligent or effective and their actions (Sri Lanka) are too recent to be adequately evaluated. If you need examples, the Casuarinas planted on beaches in Bermuda, to replace Cedars killed by blight in 1940s, are now considered a threat to all ecosystems there. Casuarinas planted in Hawaii are now threatening ecosystems from the seashore to the mountain top. In the Bahamas, the Casuarina has entered virtually all terrestrial ecosystems and will potentially impact all turtle nesting beaches and shorebird habitat within this century.
The main fault I have with your article, however, is the “beauty” of Casuarinas and how cutting them down will hurt our tourism industry. Beauty is highly subjective, but can be considered objectively in terms of novelty and benefit. Casuarinas have invaded much of the world’s tropical coastline so they can be seen virtually anywhere. They do not make Saunders’s beach or the Bahamas special. The benefits Tribune readers tout of shade and the wind in the branches are benefits of all trees; this does not make them a special tree. Benefits of wildlife use and edible fruit are much more important. Casuarina is virtually useless in this regard. The facts are, Casuarinas destroy, marine turtle and sea bird nesting beaches, and mangrove habitat that would provide for numerous other fish and seafood species (ecosystem services). Ecosystem services generate more than $80 billion dollars through fishing and tourism in the Caribbean annually.
If you are only concerned about what tourists will see after the trees are cut, ask yourself, “Are we truly marketing the Bahamas?” If we are marketing an “Australian pine” beach as a Bahamian beach we are lost. Cut them down. Replace them with native trees.
Ancilleno Davis, M.Sc.