2012-06-07 / Editorial

How diverse is the ecology of Jamestown?

We’ve always known that Conanicut Island is a unique environment. Situated at the mouth of Narragansett Bay, this wind-swept spot of land is home to a broad cross-section of natural habitat.

We’re about to learn exactly what is living in the island habitat. On Friday, the 2012 BioBlitz gets underway. The blitz is an intensive 24-hour effort to count every living thing – plant, animal, insect and fungus – within a 600-acre area. More than 300 people will be involved in the survey.

Conanicut Island was selected for the 2012 BioBlitz environmental audit because of its diverse ecosystems and habitats. Think about what we have here in Jamestown: a tidal creek, a salt marsh, a coastal shoreline with a small barrier beach, extensive fresh water wetlands with wooded swamps, wet meadows and vernal pools, a reservoir, coastal scrub shrub, herbaceous uplands, forested areas, open fields, pastures and actively farmed areas.

That’s pretty impressive. The only thing we are missing are mountains and desert.

It will be fascinating to learn what creatures and plants call Jamestown home. There may be some unexpected finds. Perhaps there will be an undiscovered species.

Once we learn what is living in the Conanicut Island ecosystem, it will be up to us to take the next step: preservation.

Some of our rural habitat has already been protected through the farm set-aside program that came about several years ago when the town purchased the development rights. One farm is protected as a historic site. Other land has been preserved as wildlife sanctuary.

Additional protection can come from our own personal actions, such as limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides. Remember DDT and Silent Spring? The chemicals we dump on our land can have a dramatic impact on our wildlife and, ultimately, ourselves. We are learning that poisoning our environment can kill off important species such as honey bees that help with much of our food production.

We say welcome to the BioBlitz. Happy hunting.

— Jeff McDonough

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