The COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred Professor Mona Webber from continuing her groundbreaking coastal rehabilitation research, which remains focused on restoring mangrove areas bordering the Kingston Harbour.

Webber’s work, to reduce the devastating impact of pollution on Jamaica’s mangroves, has been supported by the GraceKennedy Foundation (GKF) through their funding of the James Moss-Solomon Chair in Environmental Management at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona since 1992.

Caroline Mahfood, CEO of GKF, expressed her pride in being associated with the work being done by Prof Webber and her team, “An important feature of Prof Webber’s project has included engaging youth from communities surrounding the Harbour to educate them about the importance of mangroves, and improve attitudes towards their protection. We really have to commend this inclusive approach which supports GKF’s commitment to sustainability and fulfills our belief that ‘what’s good for Jamaica, is good for GraceKennedy’.”

Another significant aspect of the work being implemented by Webber involves measurement of blue carbon within the island’s mangroves. Professor Webber explained, “Blue carbon refers to the carbon dioxide that is captured and stored in the plants and sediment by mangroves, seagrass and salt marsh ecosystems. Blue carbon is a valuable global commodity in the fight against climate change.”

Prof Mona Webber collecting sargassum samples for analysis

Between August 2020 and July 2021, Prof Webber and her team also carried out ecological assessments of the above and belowground biomass of the mangroves of the Refuge Cay, Kingston and Lilliput, Trelawny. A study on the levels of the contamination of Kingston Harbour by heavy metals and microplastics and its impact on oysters in the Port Royal mangroves is also underway.

Dr Fred Kennedy, Chair of GKF, commented, “In addition to the extensive research agenda, of which the above represents only a small part, Prof. Webber has trained several graduate students in environmental stewardship. Several of these students have co-authored publications with her. Professor Webber has also promoted the visibility of her GKF-funded research in Jamaica through presentations, including her recent TedX Talk on ‘Greening (Re-Greening) the Earth for Climate Resilience, Coastal Ecosystem Solution’, and presentation at the COP26 Universities Network Virtual Conference highlighting her sargassum compost soil amelioration research.”

Prof. Webber gets a closer look at a piece of sargassum.

Through partnerships with the Universities of Southampton, York, and Ghana, Mona GeoInformatics, and the UWI Cave Hill, Prof Webber has also been investigating income-earning opportunities presented by the overgrowth of sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean in recent years. Her experiments are currently looking at using sargassum to enhance soil quality for crops, with studies being conducted on corn, tomatoes, and scotch bonnet pepper, looking at both seed germination and plant growth.

“Creating environmentally sustainable programmes is a key element of the Foundation’s mission and we are extremely proud of Professor Webber’s leadership and contribution to this objective,” Dr Kennedy concluded.

To see short videos featuring Professor Mona Webber being interviewed about her work by Elizabeth Goodleigh, GK Foundation’s Environmental Education Officer, please click on the following:-