SANTO DOMINGO — From 28 January to 1 February 2014, the 8th Caribbean Biodiversity Congress was organised by The Autonomous University of Santo Domingo’s Science Faculty and School of Biology. With funding provided by ‘Wereld Natuur Fonds’, STENAPA’s National Park Ranger, Hannah Madden, was one of the few delegates representing the Lesser Antilles.
The three-day congress was held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was attended by well over 100 people, including local, regional and international delegates representing a variety of institutions such as Harvard University, The University of the West Indies, The Nature Conservancy, and Santo Domingo’s own natural history museum and botanical garden.
The congress covered a variety of topics, spanning from marine protected areas, environmental education, nature conservation and managing exotic invasive species to the “Barcode of Life” project, sustainable development, inventory and quantification of biodiversity, experiences in the management of ecosystem services in Central America and the Caribbean, biopiracy and the flora of Hispaniola.
On the last day, STENAPA’s biodiversity monitoring was profiled in a presentation about some of the monitoring programmes that have been in place since 2008, complete with a few preliminary results. This included terrestrial birds, butterflies, orchids, Red-billed Tropicbirds and a Lesser Antillean Iguana population assessment. While the preliminary findings suggest that overall biodiversity currently appears to be stable, due to the island’s limited area and small species population it could be vulnerable due to continuing habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation.
(Photo: Inaugural ceremony at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo)
The Congress was dedicated to the late Dr. Ana Mercedes Henriquez. Born in 1931, she became a professor of biology and botany at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo in 1969, where she remained as a teacher for over 30 years in the school of biology faculty of sciences. Since 1980 she worked as a teacher in biology and founded Bio-INTEC, facilitating students to submit their projects as a way of promoting their interest in biology research. The first Congress was held in 1991 thanks to the dedication of Dr. Albert Schwartz and a few others. From the beginning it was believed that this effort was viable, and above all, necessary. The benefits of this conference have been maintained and strengthened over the years, resulting in the eighth congress to date, 23 years later.