Last week the Nature Foundation St. Maarten assessed the areas of Middle Region, Madame Estate, Arc Road and Sucker Garden to evaluate the environmental impact of the bushfire that spread throughout those regions in the late hours of Monday, April 20th.
“The bushfire significantly damaged the native vegetation and wildlife of St. Maarten, decreasing our biodiversity, whereby a loss off at least 177,372 square meters of vegetation was recorded. Several wildlife species were found to be affected or even deceased due to the fire. St. Maarten’s native vegetation and wildlife were already greatly reduced and are under significant threats due to development and construction, we urge all residents to be very careful with burning any items, especially during dry periods” stated the Nature Foundation St. Maarten.
In the days after the fire Nature Foundation’s Chief Ranger Etienne Lake and D. Bardfield of the VKS (Voluntary Corps St. Maarten) were able to visit the affected areas to determine the significant environmental impact of this incident. The team was able to assess that at least 177,372 square meters of land were burned or scorched during the fire through the use of a drone, most of this land was covered with native grasses, native cacti and wild growing Tamarind Trees.
The fire has severe negative consequences for the biodiversity of the area and the following species have been recorded as being found dead from either fire or smoke inhalation: mongoose, lizards, iguanas, various bird species, snails, spiders and other insects. In addition to the loss of life from the event animals that could normally be found in the area often flee after a bushfire and cannot return for some time due to the lack of food in the region.
While the negative impacts of such a fire on biodiversity can be obvious and devastating there was also signs of some life still surviving in the region including a mongoose, two doves, one lizard, and several ants. Bush fires are not only negative, as bushfires can trigger new germination of places in the area and encourage new growth that would not have been possible with the dense vegetation already in place.
Thanks to the great efforts by the Fire Department, Police Department and residents of the area there were no human fatalities due to the fire which, if not contained could have spread to several densely populated areas nearby. The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the area in the coming weeks and hope to see regeneration in a short time period.