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Red mangroves growing in a protected area

Thought to have been discovered by Juan de Bermudez in 1505, the fishhook shaped Bermuda Archipelago lies approximately 500 miles south east of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, USA. The sub-tropical climate is maintained by the Gulf Stream and the Azores High. Bermuda is made up of over 100 islands, the seven largest of which are connected by bridges and causeways, but the Territory has a total land mass of just 54 Km². The islands sit on a thick (about 100 m) limestone cap which covers an undersea volcanic mountain, thus the soils are very porous.

Bermuda's native and endemic flora has originated from plant material transported by wind, sea and birds from mainland USA and the West Indies. Consequently, around 80% of Bermuda's native terrestrial flora can also be found in southern Florida and in the West Indies islands. development is probably the biggest threat for Bermuda's native flora Many plants found on Bermuda are at the extreme limits of their geographic range with the most northerly mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) in the world thriving here. Bermuda also holds a sub-population of yellow wood (Zanthoxylum flavum), a species whose natural distribution is throughout the Caribbean and in Florida. Yellow wood has been classified as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to heavy exploitation for timber. The loss of the sub-population of this species on Bermuda would decrease the species extent of occurrence worldwide. When first discovered, forests dominated by the endemic Bermuda cedar (Juniperus bermudiana) and Bermuda palmetto (Sabal bermudana) and other native species such as the yellow wood (Zanthoxylum flavum) covered Bermuda's landmass. The understory was also dominated by endemics such as the Bermuda sedge (Carex bermudiana) and Bermuda maidenhair fern (Adiantum bellum). However, after colonisation by the English in 1612 the islands were quickly exploited, with endemic and native flora being decimated by habitat destruction and later through human introduction of exotic species.

Juniperus bermudiana growing in the Save our Open Spaces plant nursery

Bermuda cedar was the most heavily exploited species because of its attractive wood for furniture and ship building. Consequently commercial export was banned in 1657. This species suffered a further blow when the cedar scale (Carulaspis minima) was accidentally introduced to Bermuda in 1940-42 via importation of an ornamental species of juniper, resulting in 99% of the population being wiped out by 1971. The species is now making a very slow comeback thanks to propagation and replanting from resistant cedars.
Today, Bermuda's flora is under continued threat from development. 75% of Bermuda's land is developed, with over 10% of the landmass covered by buildings, roads and concrete. One of the most densely populated areas in the world, Bermuda's population in 2000 was 63, 000 people.This increasingly massive population on just 21 square miles of land is the cause of significant stress on the natural environment. This pressure increases with the huge numbers of tourists who visit Bermuda annually, which can be almost 10 times the resident population. With increasing threats to Bermuda's native flora it is extremely important to conserve and protect the remaining natural vegetation.

Original text by Shayla Ellick (UKOTs Sandwich Student 2010/2011); edited by the UKOTs team
© Copyright Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Bermuda Ministry of Public Works, Department of Conservation Services

Kew's UK Overseas Territories team collaborates with the Bermuda Ministry of Public Works through its Department of Conservation Services on plant conservation activities.

Progress in implementing the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Targets

  • Target 1
  • Species checklist complete
  • Target 2
  • National Red List completed; 2 species listed as globally threatened
  • Target 3
  • Horticulture protocols propagation trials of several endemic species underway in both Bermuda and RBG Kew
  • Target 4
  • Co-ordinated internationally
  • Target 5
  • The most important communities of threatened plants have been mapped; Biodiversity Action Plan in place
  • Target 6
  • Production land well regulated; Agriculture Act published in 1930
  • Target 7
  • 13 Nature Reserves established as part of the Bermuda Government Parks System
  • Target 8
  • Several endemics and natives in long-term storage in the Millennium Seed Bank and many species in cultivation in Bermuda and at RBG Kew
  • Target 9
  • No activity
  • Target 10
  • Invasives species strategy workshop held; checklist of invasive species completed and management plans in development; control of several species on-going; bio-security measures in place
  • Target 11
  • No plant species in international trade
  • Target 12
  • No plant-based products produced presently
  • Target 13
  • List of known medicinal plants and their uses complete
  • Target 14
  • Regular conservation newsletter/website updates produced by Department of Conservation Services; regular schools awareness activities
  • Target 15
  • Three Bermudians attended the Plant Conservation Strategies, Botanic Garden Education and Vegetation Survey Courses at RBG Kew; Department of Conservation Services staff attended the Defra sponsored Caribbean Regional GSPC Workshop; Seed, DNA and herbarium specimen collecting training provided by RBG Kew;
  • Target 16
  • Strong international partnerships between the Department of Conservation Services on Bermuda and RBG Kew


    Please use the links below to see further details on conservation activities in the UK Overseas Territories

    Anguilla

    Ascension Island

    British Antarctic Territory

    British Indian Ocean Territory

    British Virgin Islands

    Cayman Islands

    Falkland Islands

    Gibraltar

    Montserrat

    Pitcairn Islands

    South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

    Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus

    St. Helena

    Tristan da Cunha

    Turks and Caicos Islands


    Homepage of the UKOTs Online Herbarium



    Site published by
    UK Overseas Territories Science Team, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
    Please cite as
    UKOTs Online Herbarium (2011). Published on the internet at http://herbaria.plants.ox.ac.uk/bol/UKOT (date accessed).
    For further information
    Please contact Kew UKOTs Team


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