Rain forest supports fragile flora
When the U:S. Navy governed smroundings.
the Virgin Islands, the Creque Dam see ichen t emialcopoand
was built deep in the ran forces organismconsisting of a lnga
with the capacity of holding thee Davia green blue-green alga joined
million gallons of water. Ou in symbiotic mion.
The dam was constructed with In the moit forest of SCroix.
the inttion of suplying edr- chen colonize on various surfaces.
sled people with water. Today, dt s often o rocks and tb bark of trees
historical dam is nt being sed. e algae, tough ro eis
One of the reasons I believe They usually attach themselves supplies the fungus with carbohy-
CrequeDm was co tedin the to the bark of tree by means 6f datesand vitamins and the ftmgus
valley of the rain fore is because rots or rhizomn gaining support obtains water and minerals essential
ofthe trees, streams and rainfalL fian the sne, but no paasitizing it for both symbion from the air and
The northwest section of St. The water needs of epiphytes are from thesubstrate.
Croix receives more rainfall than met by rain or by water vapor in As beautiful as the Preque Dam
any other par of the island saturated air. rain forest is, it used to be even
The topography on tis side of Essetial nutrient reach the pi- more lush and green.
the island plays an impoan role in phyte from water that has leached l is apparent that road construc-
the rainfall. However, the forest through leaves and branches above tion made changes to the forest
plays the greatest role, because the from air c ontaminmant, and through ecosystem over time. Trees were
trees create their own mist, thus microbial activity in organic matei- pushed aside to widen the road. In
.forming raind ouds. als that accumulate at the site of som areas. sides of slopes we cut
Oneof theattractions tha makes anachm down, thus opening up the forest
the Creque Dam ain forest so spe- Epiphytes occur in various eco- canopy. Today, the dirt road that
cial to locals and visitors is the logical niches that range in light leads through this forest is being
gray-green Spanish mss that often explore from fll sunlight to deep paved. Also, there is talk about
drapes over the dam water from shade. opening up the old quany near the
branches of large trees. Epiphytic species have evolved historical dam.
This is one of the few places in in several plant families, notably My point is that when the air
the Virgin Islands whee-the forest the Bromeliaceae (pineapple fmi- plants and lichens disappear, it will
gives the appearance of a ghost for- ly)and Orchidacee. mean the ain forest of St. Croix is
est. In the Virgin Islands, we have gone forever. Let's not wait until
Jumbee beard. "old .man's severalspeciesofopiphytesiclud- that time to try to protect such a
beard," Spanish moss. and ball ing Cactaceae, Cassythaceae, beauifulnatualeesoure. .
moss all referto types of air plaOs. Aaea. Pipeacea and Moacea. lasee Davis, who holds a mar-
Such air-plnts are known as justtoname a few. rer ofscience degree in range man-
epiphytes. Epiphytes are photosyn Lichen is another organism agement andforesry ecology, is a
tetic plants that grow upon other found growing in the Creque Dam St. Crox ecologist, activist and
plans. rain forest that relies on the moist wrer.
Pdchmy. l eW IL0, 1996