The investigation will be done by the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s UK Overseas Territories team, and Fort Worth Zoo (Texas, United States).
The investigation will assess the impact of COVID-19 on biodiversity between January 1 and March 31, 2021.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Natural Resources, this project will provide a better understanding of the nature and extent of the impacts of the pandemic to inform the development of measures to recover and adapt to new ways of operating.
The statement further indicated that measures introduced to limit the transmission of COVID-19 have disrupted conservation work such as the monitoring of threatened species and habitats and the management of ex-situ collections.
The investigation will consist of field visits on four islands (Anegada, Fallen Jerusalem, Tortola, Virgin Gorda). It will also involve surveying collections removed from two islands (Anegada, Tortola), and desk-based analyses of those data collected.
The surveys will focus on observations and assessments of five tree species and two animal species and include observations and assessments of other rare, endemic and threatened plant and animal species.
Scientists will also record new threats (invasive species) observed in the environment.
Director of the National Parks Trust, Dr Cassander Titley-O’Neal said “while we humans were forced to stay indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, nature had an opportunity to heal and replenish. There was less pressure on the environment where endemic species thrive which gave these habits time to recoup”.
The government said the results of the study will help to minimise negative and maximise positive outcomes for the territory’s unique biodiversity in the face of future disturbances.