Thriving in the tropics and subtropics, cycads reach from the earth with sturdy, woody stems, topped with a large, stiff crown of cypress and pinnate leaves. Primitive palms like plants have existed on our planet for more than 280 million years.
This ancient plant was discovered at the Blaz Marine Corps Base Camp during an ecological study carried out prior to the construction of the multipurpose machine gun range. Micronesia cycas, a once abundant tree, is now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Committed to protecting plants such as cycads, animals, and historical and cultural sites in Guam, MCB Camp Blaz has put in place various initiatives and is working with outside organizations to assist with the study and preservation of the local ecology. In particular, the site for the range was found to be in disturbed limestone forest, a unique ecosystem where plants and animals exist.
“We’re not only increasing the forest, but also increasing the population of certain species that previously didn’t have a chance because of the ungulates.” Sheeka Tareyama, a natural resource specialist
Before the military construction project begins, a full environmental survey is carried out by the base to identify all plant and animal species to ensure a responsible military building process. Led by the Guam Department of Agriculture, various plant species and their habitats have also been registered as part of the conservation action for Guam.
“The survey was conducted to see what was out there and if any species were threatened with extinction, while also seeing if they could be avoided,” said Sheeka Tareyama, natural resources specialist for the Marianas Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command at MCB Camp Blaz. “If they are unavoidable, we determine what mitigations we need to take to ensure their survival.”
Mitigation techniques for cycads include seed propagation, removal and transplantation, and stem rescue, which involves removing parts of the cycads that can then be transplanted. The translocated plants can be found at one of the two 500-hectare forest enhancement sites at MCB Camp Blaz.
If translocation is not possible, healthy plant material and seeds are then salvaged and placed in a separate 18,000 square foot native plant nursery at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station at MCB Camp Blaz. The plant will then be cared for with assistance from members of HDR Incorporated and the Military Soil Environmental Management Center until the plant can be transplanted to a forest enhancement site.
“We could actually use any rescue method for cycads, so we collected a large number of monitored seeds, and each time they germinated, they were then planted in pots until they were ready to be transplanted into the forest. , said Tareyama.
Native plant nurseries accommodate not only endangered plants and trees, but other protected plants and trees native to Guam. For example, there are about a thousand tabernaemontana rotensis, an endangered tree, currently being propagated and awaiting transplantation to forest enhancement sites.
Helping the Environment
Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Rubin Tan
“We understand that Marine Corps outreach and relocation will occur, so our job is to fully understand what we can do to ensure we protect as many resources as possible,” Tareyama said.
Scientists from Rice University and the University of Guam conducted a seed dispersal study in 2013 and have found that since the extinction of Guam’s native bird species in the late 1940s, the island’s forests have been depleted and the structure of Guam’s forests has changed because up to tiny seeds are not present. again spread by native birds.
In May 2022, MCB Camp Blaz plans to undertake a project to plant native and threatened and endangered plant species on a scale that has never been done on Guam before.
“We’re not only increasing the forest, but also increasing the population of certain species that don’t stand a chance because of the ungulates,” explains Tareyama. The ungulate is a hoofed animal native to Guam that was introduced to the island during the 17th century when the island was colonized by the Spanish.
MCB Camp Blaz is currently under construction and is named after the late Brig. General Vicente “Ben” Thomas Garrido Blaz, the first CHAmoru Marine to reach the rank of general officer. The base will play a critical role in strengthening the Department of Defense’s ability to deter and defend while securing a Marine Corps posture in the geographically distributed and operationally resilient Indo-Pacific region.
April 22, 2022, marking Earth Day this year with the theme, invest in our planet. Since 1970 Earth Day has been celebrated in the United States with a mission to raise environmental awareness and mobilize individuals to take action to protect the planet.