The Action Plan for the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) was formulated for the primary reason of establishing protected areas (PAs) in Trinidad and Tobago for the conservation of genetic diversity, species, ecosystems and natural habitats. It will also be a tool for the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of rare or threatened species in their natural environment. Furthermore, the elaboration of this Plan supports the national implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) under the CBD.
The PoWPA Action Plan thus seeks to create an integrated system of PAs that ensures conservation of the full diversity of natural ecosystems in Trinidad and Tobago whilst allowing for the sustainable use of these resources and providing equitable access to opportunities for their recreational, educational, research, cultural, spiritual/religious and sustainable livelihoods.
In Trinidad, the lead agency for the PoWPA is the Forestry Division under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. In Tobago, the lead agency is the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
Importance of Ecosystem Goods and Services to Humans
PAs support the ability of ecosystems to provide a wide range of goods and services. Goods include food (such as game animals, fish and plant products), timber, craft materials, medicinal plants and other forms of biodiversity directly used by people.
Ecosystem services include wildlife habitats, the formation, conservation and stabilisation of soil, removal of carbon dioxide from the air, watershed and coastline protection, provision of water, maintenance of natural processes such as pollination that are important to agricultural systems, climate regulation, and maintenance of physical buffers to natural disasters. PAs also support a variety of valuable non-consumptive uses including tourism, recreation, education, non-destructive scientific research and spiritual activities. In addition, PAs also protect biodiversity for its intrinsic value. The following table gives a summary of the functions provided by ecosystems services. Ecosystem goods are included under 'Provisioning.'
Benefits of PAs for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in SIDS
Small island developing states (SIDS) such as Trinidad and Tobago particularly benefit from PAs through increased resilience to climate change. SIDS are especially vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change, and in this regard, PAs can function as buffers against the impacts of catastrophic weather events and in protecting water resources in the face of changing weather patterns, including rainfall reduction.
Mitigation measures enable the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere since PAs function as natural greenhouse gas sinks, particularly protected forests and wetlands. PAs therefore can be used to secure well functioning and robust ecosystems that are resilient to climate change impacts such as temperature changes and changes in rainfall patterns, and thereby continue to provide necessary ecosystem services in spite of climatic change.