Today marks the celebration of the global annual event: Earth Day. The Earth Day concept was initiated in 1970 by an activist in San Francisco, John McConnell and the Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. They had concretised the concept of an Earth Day separately though. Ever since, this has been celebrated by many across the globe. Various ways have been devised to commemorate this day, all having one thing in common: protecting the environment. On this day, people plant trees, do cleaning-ups on roads and streets, promote recycling and so on. Mauritians have chosen to help restore our endemic forests for this year’s celebration.
Our forests have been reduced to a meager area of land, as compared to what they were before deforestation began in order to accommodate for infrastructural development. Our endemic plants have thus been threatened. Adding to this already-critical situation, alien species of plants and animals have been greatly detrimental to our native plants. The invasion of the endemic forests by foreign species has resulted in the death of our own native plants. In order to counter this trend, those invasive species of plants like the French Guava and the Privet have been uprooted from the forests, to allow the native plants to flourish.
Foreign species thrive in our forests because they are not kept in check by their usual predators; the latter being absent in our forests. Therefore, the exotic plants are able to flourish more and more. They deprive our native plants of their nutrients, and as they grow taller thanks to the great availability of nutrients, they deprive the endemic plants from sunlight, further impacting negatively on the survival itself of our Mauritian flora.
The National Parks Conservation Service (NPCS) has been working in collaboration with the United Nations Program for Development. They have thus launched this massive cutting off of alien species. From 2012, around 100 hectares in the Gorges had been included in the protection program. Parts of the Macchabée forest have been closed and these zones have now become 100% endemic, with the elimination of exotic species. These protected areas are often checked to ensure that they are not under any threat. The project Protected Area Network has as aim to conserve more than 400 hectares of forests by 2015. A massive investment of Rs 122 millions has been made to have this project see daylight.