The Mason River Protected Area
(MRPA) in Clarendon has been designated as Jamaica’s 4th Wetland of
International Importance (also known as a Ramsar Site) under the
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The designation certificates
were presented to Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, Minister of Housing,
Environment, Water and Local Government and Mr. Peter Knight, CEO of
the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) at the Fifth
Pan-American Regional Meeting of the Convention on Wetlands held
recently at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, December 6-10, 2011.
The designation is significant
given the work that NEPA and the National Ramsar Committee have been
undertaking to have Jamaica’s wetlands recognised under the Ramsar
Mason River Protected Area is
significant not only as an inland wetland but also as the only such
site so designated in the entire Caribbean. Given its designation
the site will now be known as the Mason River Protected Area, Bird
Sanctuary and Ramsar Site (MRPA-RS).
The ecological significance of
the MRPA-RS is based on the number and types of plant species found
on site (approximately 430) with 90% being indigenous and about 11%
being endemic. MRPA-RS has plants that are exotic, indigenous,
endemic and even endangered and is the only place in Jamaica where
four different types of carnivorous plants can be found. The MRPA-RS
also boasts a range of animal species including mammals, birds,
insects, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles. The endemic Vervain
Hummingbird is of special note because it is the second smallest
bird in the word with a maximum size of 2 inches (5 cm.).
Jamaica’s other Ramsar Sites
includes the Black River Lower Morass, the Palisadoes-Port Royal
Protected Area and the Portland Bight Wetlands and Cays.
There are five types of
wetlands worldwide and Jamaica is significant in that there are four
of the five types here, namely: marine (coastal lagoons, rocky
shores, coral reefs), riverine (along rivers and streams) estuarine
(deltas, tidal marshes, mangrove swamps) and plaustrine (marshes,
swamps, bogs). Mason River Protected Area, Bird Sanctuary and
Ramsar Site (MRPA-RS) is an inland plaustrine wetland.
The Convention on Wetlands is
an international agreement to protect wetlands which was signed in
Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. The Convention indicates the broad framework
for national action and international cooperation for the
conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.