Guyana is known as “the land of many waters”, but unknown to many, it is also the home of many giants, such as the Giant River Otter, Giant River Turtle, and the Arapaima. The country is unlike any other when it comes to its flora and fauna. Many rare animals and plants are able to strive in Guyana because of its unique ecosystems, sitting between biologically rich zones of both the Amazon Region and the Guiana Shield. These ecosystems — such as rainforests, savannahs and wetlands — provide unique characteristics to allow for flourishing habitats which sustain a multitude of organisms. However, while Guyana’s biodiversity is largely intact, the increase of human activities is at the forefront of pressuring this unique resource.
Pressure on Biodiversity Resources
Guyana’s biodiversity faces both direct and indirect threats. Economic activities such as over-fishing, mining and logging have a direct impact on pollution and habitat loss. Invasive alien species — which are species that do not naturally belong here, but are brought into the country — also pressure the biodiversity as they compete with them for resources.
Presently, there are twenty-one known invasive species in Guyana, many of which have not been studied, so their impacts are not completely understood.
Indirect threats are as a result of challenges with policies and legislation; for example, conflicting legislation and the lack of compliance enforcement and monitoring. Additionally, limited knowledge on Guyana’s biodiversity and the importance of protecting ecosystems contributes to the indirect destruction.
As the world continues to battle the effects of climate change, this has both direct and indirect impacts on Guyana’s rich ecosystems. Climate change is already affecting the availability of food and water for wildlife, while the increase of global temperatures, causing major floods, droughts and extreme storms, is resulting in habitat loss.
Guyana’s commitment to preserving its Biodiversity
When it comes to putting measures in place to protect its natural resources, Guyana is committed to leading by exam
ple. The country has committed to the EU-FLEGT project, the REDD+ Initiative, and to developing the National Water Council (NWC). In addition, Guyana has, at the national level, taken significant steps towards conserving its biological resources, by signing on to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), and by submitting five National Reports on the status of the country’s biological resources to the Convention. Guyana has enacted key legislation to ensure the protection and conservation of its biodiversity. Those include the Environmental Protection Act and regulations which govern the work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Furthermore, the development of national strategies, such as the Protected Areas Strategy and the soon-to-be-implemented Green State Development Strategy (GSDS), are also tools used to guide biodiversity conservation and protection. In fact, one of the principles of the GSDS is the Sustainable Use of Biodiversity and Resource Efficiency.
A number of policies and plans were also developed; for example, the National Land Use Plan, along with the National Land Use Policy.
In addition to the development of policies, strategies, legislation and plans, institutional and governance agreements were strengthened via the development of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in 2011, under which a number of agencies had functioned, including the EPA. However, some of these sectors are now operating under the Department of Environment, which is responsible for overseeing environmental compliance and monitoring. This Department is comprised not only of the EPA, but also the Protected Areas Commission (PAC) and the Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (WCMC), which both have crucial responsibilities in biodiversity conservation and protection.
Much more has been done to ensure Guyana’s biodiversity is sustained. Several committees have been formed; there has been the establishment of new protected areas, and the strengthening of monitoring and capacity building in biodiversity. In recent years, there has been an increase in research and study on Guyana’s biodiversity.
Guyana is progressively moving towards keeping its precious and rare organisms safe. In order for Guyana to continue maintaining its low rate of ecosystem degradation, Guyanese must continue to put measures in place to conserve and protect this resource, as failing to do so will have detrimental impacts on us all.
This means that when embarking in an economic activity that would likely have environmental impacts, we must remember to keep the environment in mind, and proceed in a sustainable manner.
If you wish to know more about the state and trends of Land Resources in Guyana, you can download the State of the Environment Report 2016 from the EPA’s website, www.epaguyana.org
You can share your ideas and questions by sending letters to: “Our Earth, Our Environment”, C/O ECEA Programme, Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, GEORGETOWN, or email us at: [email protected] or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.