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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 25, 2024
HomeCommunityEnvironmentForestry Inventory of the U.S. Virgin Islands Begins on St. John

Forestry Inventory of the U.S. Virgin Islands Begins on St. John

On the island of St. John, a Hollander Duurioo by name, who acquired the adjacent tract of land, found a large grove of Cinnamon trees. (Pimenta racemose) growing on the property. (Photo by Olasee Davis)
On the island of St. John, a Hollander Duurioo by name, who acquired the adjacent tract of land, found a large grove of Cinnamon trees. (Pimenta racemose) growing on the property. (Photo by Olasee Davis)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), in partnership with the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDA), has resumed the fourth forest inventory of all three U.S. Virgin Islands. The inventory is part of a federal effort to collect, analyze and report information on the status and trends of America’s forests.

This year’s inventory began on St. John on Monday, June 17. The inventory will then continue to St. Thomas and St. Croix in July and August, respectively.

The FIA program was established in 1928 and is the only comprehensive field-based inventory of all forest ownerships for each of the 50 states and U.S. territories. The data collected is utilized by natural resource managers to promote the health and long-term sustainability of the nation’s forest lands.

The fieldwork will be done by an expert team of biological scientists in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) and the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDA) Forestry Department. Information from the inventory will be useful for assessing the sustainability of forest ecosystem management practices, evaluating wildlife habitat, and supporting forest planning and decision-making.

The team will collect information on how much forest exists, where it exists, who owns it and how it is being used. The team will also collect data and track changes on how the trees and other forest vegetation are growing and how much has died or been removed in recent years.

Belinda Ferro, an ecologist with the Southern Research Station’s FIA program, is coordinating these efforts. “The inventory is an efficient and effective way to capture forest dynamics and changes,” said Ferro. “Our goal is to help residents, legislators and agencies understand the uniqueness of island ecosystems and the significant ecological changes they have been experiencing in recent years. Reports on forest conditions will distill information about the current situation and latest trends along with what the future might look like if trends continue unchanged.”

Preston Brooks, VIDA Urban and Community Forestry coordinator, also shared his enthusiasm for this joint effort, stating, “With the threat of climate change looming, it is more important now than ever to inventory our forests. We must learn what trees we have and what resources can be gleaned from them to address this issue and so much more, especially in a tropical climate. We hope to use this information to better the lives of all U.S. Virgin Islanders.”

After the forest surveys are completed, the information will be analyzed and published in a 5-year report by the Southern Research Station. The information will also be available for downloading from the Forest Inventory and Analysis website:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/programs/fia.

A team will return every year to remeasure and track changes in forest cover, land use patterns, and biological diversity. This data will aid resource managers in making more informed decisions based on the most current state of the forests, including damage from hurricanes, loss to development and the effects of climate.

For more information, contact Belinda Ferro at 865-862-2091 or Belinda.Ferro@usda.gov or Preston Brooks at 340-778-0997 ext. 3314 or Preston.Brooks@doa.vi.gov.

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