Time was when wetlands were wastelands to be drained and filled in and “developed”. In fact even today developers cast greedy eyes on mangrove and marsh. Westmoorings was once mangrove, the playground of fiddler crabs. Movietowne was once mangrove.
Developers reaching out into the Gulf of Paria are destroying the sea grass beds along the coastline.
Mangroves are precious, they build up the land, shelter growing fish and shrimp, provide wood for fuel, timber for building. Mangroves protect the land from storm surges and tsunamis, provide a living for crab catchers and oyster gatherers. In short they are a valuable natural resource.
Dr Juman begins her book by answering, in detail, the question posed in the first sentence of this review.
Not only does she list the definition of a wetland (some may surprise you), but she explains briefly why wetlands are important, not least in the cultural services they provide, attracting tourists — both serious birdwatchers and curious public, sport fishermen (as opposed to commercial fishermen) and nature lovers in general.
Having convinced her readers of the value of wetlands, subsequent chapters deal with emergent wetlands — of the key emergent wetlands I was surprised to see my old stamping ground, the Aripo Savannahs that are under water in the rainy season and bone dry in the dry season.
Next the author tackles the submerged wetlands of sea grass and coral reefs. She then lists threats to our wetlands (including climate change) and ends with a chapter on policy, management and the law.
Coming from the Institute of Marine Affairs this is, of necessity a scientific study, but it is written for the layperson to spread the knowledge of and appreciation for the role of the wetlands of TT.
You can’t say you know your country if you don’t have at least a nodding acquaintance with the wetlands of TT, this book will help you appreciate the treasures we have in our mangroves and rice fields, on the lonely Aripo Savannahs and the coral reefs of Tobago.
You should be able to buy your copy of Wetlands of Trinidad and Tobago by Dr Rahanna Juman from most good bookstores, or from the institute itself if you happen to be out Chaguaramas way during office hours.