Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Conservation Outcomes

Caribbean Islands

Conservation Outcomes

This ecosystem profile includes a commitment and emphasis on using conservation outcomes as the scientific underpinning for determining conservation priorities. Conservation outcomes are the full set of quantitative and justifiable conservation targets in a hotspot that need to be achieved to prevent biodiversity loss. The selection of conservation outcomes relies on the understanding that biodiversity is not measured in any single unit. Rather, it is distributed across a hierarchical continuum of ecological scales that can be categorized into three levels: species, sites and corridors. These levels interlock geographically through the occurrence of species at sites and of species and sites in corridors. Given threats to biodiversity at each of the three levels, targets for conservation can be set in terms of “extinctions avoided” (species outcomes), “areas protected” (site outcomes), and “corridors consolidated” (corridor outcomes).

Conservation outcomes are defined sequentially, with species outcomes defined first, then site outcomes and, finally, corridor outcomes. Since species outcomes are extinctions avoided at the global level, they relate to globally threatened species, in the IUCN Red List categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable. This definition excludes data-deficient species, which are considered to be priorities for further research but not necessarily for conservation action. It also excludes those species that are threatened locally and may be high national or regional priorities, but not high global priorities. Species outcomes are met when a species' global threat status improves or, ideally, when it is removed from the Red List. This derivation of conservation targets is based on a global standard: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (www.redlist.org). The 2008 IUCN Red List represented the best available data source on the global conservation status of species at the time the profile was developed.

Because most globally threatened species are best conserved through the protection of a network of sites where they occur, the process of defining conservation outcomes also focuses on identifying a comprehensive set of key biodiversity areas. The most important criterion for defining key biodiversity areas is the regular occurrence of significant numbers of one or more globally threatened species. In addition to the occurrence of globally threatened species, key biodiversity areas can also be defined on the basis of the occurrence of restricted-range species and congregatory species. Sites regularly supporting significant populations of restricted-range species are global conservation priorities because there are few or no other sites in the world where conservation action for these species can be taken. This criterion is currently only used to define key biodiversity areas for birds, as this is the only group for which the concept of restricted-range species has been quantitatively defined: species with a global breeding range of less than 50,000 km2 (Stattersfield et al. 1998). However, to prevent a bias toward site priorities for birds, key biodiversity areas in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot are not identified based on the presence of restricted-range species or congregatory species, but only by the presence of globally threatened species occurring within them.

The starting point for defining key biodiversity areas in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot was the Important Bird Area (IBA) network in each country, identified by BirdLife International partners and collaborating organizations in 2008. With the identification of key sites for bird conservation, completing the identification of site outcomes required supplementing the IBAs by defining key biodiversity areas for other taxonomic groups through analyses of regionally accessible data and literature, followed by consultation with local experts in each country.

While the protection of a network of sites is often sufficient to conserve many elements of biodiversity in the medium term, the long-term conservation of all elements of biodiversity requires the consolidation of inter-connected landscapes of sites through conservation corridors to ensure broad-scale ecological and evolutionary processes and ecosystem resilience.

To support longer-term conservation, corridors are defined wherever connectivity between two or more key biodiversity areas is necessary to meet the long-term conservation needs of the biodiversity. They also are defined wherever it is necessary to increase the area of actual or potential natural habitat in order to maintain evolutionary and ecological processes. In the latter case, emphasis is placed on maintaining connectivity of natural habitat across environmental gradients, particularly altitudinal gradients, to maintain such ecological processes as migration of bird species and to safeguard against climate change impacts. In the Caribbean Islands Hotspot, the corridors were defined in consultation with local experts, complemented by analysis of additional data layers. Due to the fragmented nature of an island-based hotspot (and in the case of the Caribbean, often with isolated key biodiversity areas/habitats set within developed or heavily degraded landscapes), defining landscape-scale outcomes is not always appropriate.

In theory, within any given region, or, ultimately, for the whole world, conservation outcomes can be defined for all taxonomic groups. However, outcome definition is dependent on the availability of data on the global threat status of all taxa and on the distribution of globally threatened species among sites and across corridors. In the Caribbean Islands Hotspot, because these data for terrestrial taxa are only available for mammals, birds, amphibians and, to a lesser degree, reptiles, fish and plants, outcomes were only defined for these groups at this time.

Species Outcomes

The Caribbean’s biodiversity is at serious risk of species extinctions. More than 700 species are globally threatened, making the Caribbean one of the top hotspots assessed by CEPF for globally threatened species. A full list of the globally threatened terrestrial species developed for this ecosystem profile is available in the supplemental appendices for this ecosystem profile on www.cepf.net. The hotspot is considered to be of very high importance for global amphibian conservation due to the high rates of speciation and endemism, and exceptionally high levels of threat (see Table 2).

Table 2. Summary of Species Outcomes for the Caribbean Island Hotspot
Taxonomic Group Critically
Endangered Vulnerable Total
Mammals 6 6 15 27
Birds 12 16 23 51
Reptiles 18 9 10 37
Amphibians 64 61 20 145
Freshwater Fish 0 0 5 5
Plants 95 126 216 428
Total 195 218 289 703


All of the 189 native species of amphibian in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot are endemic, many to single islands. The Caribbean stands out globally, with by far the highest percentage (75 percent; 145 species) of threatened or extinct amphibian species of any region. In a list of countries with the highest percentage of threatened and extinct amphibians, the top five countries are all in the Caribbean. One place in particular, the Massif de la Hotte in southwest Haiti is regarded as one of the most important sites in the world for amphibian conservation as it hosts around 28 globally threatened species, many of which are restricted to this single mountain range.

Amphibians of the hotspot all belong to five frog families (Aromobatidae, Bufonidae, Dendrobatidae, Hylidae and Leptodactylidae) but the taxon is dominated by the 161 species of the Eleutherodactylus genus. These forest frogs are distinctive due to their direct development (i.e. they bypass the tadpole stage), egg-laying on the ground and parental egg guarding. One species, Eleutherodactylus iberia, from Cuba is the second smallest tetrapod in the world at just less than 1 cm in length. At the other end of the scale, the mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax) from Montserrat and Dominica is, at 16 centimeters, one of the largest of all frogs. This species is one of the latest to fall victim to the infectious disease caused by the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) and, compounded by the historical impacts of habitat loss, invasive species and exploitation, is rapidly declining toward extinction in the wild. The disease has also been implicated in the rapid declines and possible extinctions of a number of Eleutherodactylus species in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. In contrast to the reptiles, the amphibians have been systematically assessed against Red List criteria.


Historically, the Caribbean Islands supported 92 terrestrial mammal species, of which 23 are now considered extinct. Of the 69 extant species, 51 are endemic to the hotspot and 27 species are globally threatened, which amounts to 39 percent of known mammal species. These were assessed as part of the Global Mammal Assessment completed by IUCN and Conservation International in 2008 with the support of CEPF and other donors.

Solenodontidae and Capromyidae are two Greater Antilles endemic rodent families that are threatened and are high priorities for conservation. The family Solenodontidae includes two surviving species, the Endangered Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus) and Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus). The Cuban solenodon occurs in two national parks: Alejandro de Humboldt and Sierra del Cristal. The Hispaniola solenodon is known in Haiti from only Massif de la Hotte and in the Dominican Republic it has a more widespread distribution. The main threats are habitat loss due to increasing human activity and deforestation, and the introduction of exotic predators, such as dogs, cats and mongooses. The family Capromyidae (the “hutias”) includes 20 species of rodents of which 19 occur within the hotspot. Six of these hutias are extinct due to hunting, habitat loss and predation from invasive species. The 13 species that remain are country-specific species with 10 species occurring in Cuba, and single endemic species occurring in each of Bahamas, Jamaica and Hispaniola. However, two of the Cuba endemics are considered “possibly extinct,” namely the Critically Endangered dwarf hutia (Mesocapromys nanus) and little Earth hutia (Mesocapromys sanfelipensis). Endangered Cabrera's hutia (Mesocapromys angelcabrerai) and large-eared hutia (Mesocapromys auritus) are restricted to single sites on the Cuban islands of Cayos de Ana María and Cayo Fragoso respectively, and are also in a precarious state.

Bats are very important components of ecosystems within the Caribbean, and are represented by 51 species, of which 35 are endemic and 13 are globally threatened. However, the bats are in urgent need of research focused on their distribution, ecology and current status. These species are sparsely distributed and difficult to find due to the limited number of suitable caves or suitable old-growth (native) trees appropriate for roosting. For example, Critically Endangered Cuban greater funnel-eared bat (Natalus primus) is only known from Cueva La Barca in Guanahacabibes and Jamaican greater funnel-eared bat (Natalus jamaicensis) from St. Clair Cave in Point Hill and one sighting from Portland Cave within the Portland Ridge and Bight area.


More than 560 species of bird have been recorded in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot (Raffaele et al. 1998). Of these, 148 species are endemic to the hotspot with 105 of them confined to single islands. Nine percent are classified as globally threatened. Although endemism is most notable at the species level, a remarkable 36 genera of birds are endemic to the hotspot, as well as two endemic families. More than 120 bird species (one of which is globally threatened) migrate from their breeding grounds in North America to winter in the Caribbean, and thus constitute a high proportion of the birds present in many habitats, especially in the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles.

BirdLife International recognizes six primary and two secondary Endemic Bird Areas within the Caribbean Hotspot, a testament to the diversity and island-specific endemism in this region. BirdLife International is the Red List Authority for birds and as such it provides all the data for birds that appear on the Red List. All bird species are reassessed every four years (most recently in 2008); with ad hoc updates carried out on an annual basis where new information indicates a revision may be necessary. There are 51 Caribbean Islands Hotspot bird species currently listed as globally threatened (9 percent of the hotspot’s birds), 48 of which are confined to the hotspot and 11 of which are considered Critically Endangered such as ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), Ridgway’s hawk (Buteo ridgwayi), Grenada dove (Leptotila wellsi) and Montserrat oriole (Icterus oberi). At least 10 species of Caribbean birds have gone extinct during the last 500 years, including six species of Ara macaws. The Cuban macaw (Ara tricolor), the last of the six to disappear, was hunted to extinction for food and the pet trade during the second half of the 18th century. Birds represent some of the most important symbols for conservation in the Caribbean. The parrots, including Vulnerable St. Vincent parrot (Amazona guildingii) and St. Lucia parrot (Amazona versicolor) and Endangered imperial parrot (Amazona imperialis) of Dominica have all represented successful flagship species for species and habitat conservation, as well as raising environmental awareness in their respective islands.


With more than 520 native species the Caribbean islands are very rich in reptiles, the vast majority of which (c. 95 percent) are endemic to the region. Two major evolutionary radiations dominate the lizards; the anoles (Anolis, 157 species) and dwarf geckos (Sphaerodactylus, 86 species). Notable reptile taxa also include the striking rock iguanas (Cyclura, 9 species), all of which are globally threatened, and the poorly known and elusive galliwasps (26 species in two genera, Celestus and Diploglossus), some of which are feared extinct. Two of the smallest lizards in the world can be found in the Caribbean: Sphaerodactylus ariasae from the Dominican Republic and S. parthenopion from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Snakes are made up of 145 native species in nine families, and include major radiations such as the Tropidophis genus (26 species), a group of dwarf boas, and the Typhlops genus (41 species), the fossorial blindsnakes. The world’s smallest snake - Leptotyphlops carlae – was recently discovered in Barbados (Hedges 2008). Extinction risk of the Caribbean reptiles has not been systematically assessed, with only 47 species (excluding extinct species) having been evaluated against Red List criteria. Of these, 37 are globally threatened. However, a very large number of highly restricted-range reptiles occur in the Caribbean, many of which will probably qualify as globally threatened once assessed. In terms of sea turtles, two Critically Endangered species (leatherback and hawksbill) and two Endangered species (green and loggerhead) nest in the Caribbean.


The Caribbean Islands Hotspot is home to 1,447 native genera and about 11,000 native species of seed plants (Cycadopsida, Coniferopsida, Magnoliopsida, and Liliopsida). Generic endemism is especially noteworthy, with about 13.2 percent comprising 191 genera that are endemic or nearly so, to the region. There are 7,868 native species of seed plants endemic to the Caribbean Hotspot, amounting to about 72 percent species’ endemism for region overall. These figures make the Caribbean very important for plant conservation, particularly in view of the hotspot’s relatively small size in comparison to other hotspots.

A total of 439 plant species are globally threatened. These species are overwhelmingly woody plants, principally Magnolipsida, Coniferopsida, and Cycadopsida; the only Liliopsida assessed are 15 species of palmae. The only other plant species recognized as globally threatened are two species of Marchantiopsida. Notable by their absence from the assessment are any species of Orchidaceae and Cactaceae, two of the most important plant families for species that are threatened by illegal trade. In addition to the taxonomic unevenness of the plant species that have been assessed using current criteria, there is a wide variance in proportion of seed plant species that have been assessed for the various islands, relative to their known species’ composition. Cuba, for example, with 5,991 species known, has 163 species listed as globally threatened by the 2008 IUCN Red List, whereas Jamaica, with far fewer known species (2,540), has 209 species listed. Fortunately, active efforts are underway in several Caribbean countries to update and complete an assessment of their threatened species using modern criteria. Results of such efforts, which are being undertaken by the scientists who know the flora intimately, need to be evaluated by IUCN and incorporated into its global Red-Listing process. These taxonomic and geographic gaps in the information on globally threatened plants are impediments to a full assessment of the endangerment of plants in the Caribbean Islands and other biodiversity hotspots.

The source for data reported in this section and for information on geographic distribution, synonyms and taxonomic literature on Caribbean seed plants is http://persoon.si.edu/antilles/westindies/index.htm. An additional source for information on West Indies’ plants and fungi is the Caribbean Biodiversity Portal of The New York Botanical Garden, http://sweetgum.nybg.org/caribbean/index.php.

Freshwater Fish

The hotspot supports 167 species of freshwater fish, about 65 of which are endemic to one or a few islands, and many of these to just a single lake or springhead. As in other island hotspots, there are two distinct groups of freshwater fishes in the Caribbean: On smaller and younger islands, most fish are species that are widespread in marine waters but also enter freshwater to some degree, while on the larger and older islands of the Greater Antilles, there are several groups that occupy inland waters, including gars, killifishes, silversides and cichlids. Only five of the estimated 160 species of freshwater fishes are recognized as globally threatened, although data on these freshwater fish are not lacking in the literature and a re-assessment of the 65 endemics is long overdue.

Marine Species

A detailed analysis of marine species was not undertaken during the profile process as previously explained, however the species outcomes for the Caribbean Islands Hotspot marine environment will extend to all globally threatened species known within the inshore environment. In the region, globally accepted threat assessments have been completed for all species of sharks and rays, groupers, wrasses, corals, seagrasses, macroalgae and mangroves.

Globally, the Caribbean basin has the largest proportion of corals categorized under high risk for extinction. Corals have experienced an 80 percent reduction in cover since the mid-1970s. The precipitous declines of two key species, staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals, both now Critically Endangered, is of major concern since the loss of these once prominent species has had major ecological impacts on entire reef systems. Another major Caribbean reef builder, the boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis) is Endangered because of rapid declines during the last decade. It is the largest coral species in the region and is highly susceptible to disease that can kill a 500-year old colony within months, with recovery unlikely for decades. Although the steep decline of coral reefs started 30 years ago, reef fish populations have demonstrated significant declines only in the last decade. Overall reef fish density has declined 2.7 percent to 6.0 percent per year throughout the region. The next hardest hit taxonomic group is mangroves, whose cover has declined by 42 percent during the past 25 years. Large fauna also have been severely impacted by human activity. Small populations of manatees and saltwater crocodiles still occur on all of the Antilles but are restricted to a very small portion of their original distribution. Globally threatened sea turtles found in the region include Critically Endangered leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Endangered green (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead (Dermochelys coriacea) turtles.

Site Outcomes

A total of 290 key biodiversity areas have been defined for all the countries and territories in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot. For Cuba, the site outcomes include only IBAs as it was not possible to incorporate the results of analysis of other taxonomic groups and consultations with experts for the definition of other site outcomes at this time. However, all IBAs qualify as key biodiversity areas, are of global biodiversity importance and provide important benefits for other species. It is also hoped that the results of the additional site outcome analysis for Cuba may be made available at a later date.

Among the other countries included in this analysis, those with the greatest numbers of key biodiversity areas are the large islands of the Greater Antilles and the multi-island countries such as the Bahamas (see Table 3 and Appendix 1). This is to be expected as the principles of island biogeography dictate that the larger and older the island, the greater the species diversity. Higher species diversity on each of the Greater Antilles, combined with greater ecosystem, habitat and altitudinal diversity has led to large numbers of endemic species and consequently higher numbers of globally threatened taxa. Archipelagos such as the Bahamas result in taxonomic isolation, and globally threatened species occupying very small ranges that in turn has led to relatively large numbers of key biodiversity areas being defined.

Table 3. Summary of Key Biodiversity Areas by Country in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot
Country / territory Key Biodiversity Areas
Anguilla (to U.K.) 6
Antigua and Barbuda 10
Aruba (to Netherlands) 1
Bahamas 26
Barbados 4
Cayman Islands (to U.K.) 8
Cuba 28
Dominica 4
Dominican Republic 35
Grenada 9
Guadeloupe (to France) 8
Haiti 17
Jamaica 38
Martinique (to France) 8
Montserrat (to U.K.) 3
Netherlands Antilles 7
Puerto Rico (to USA) 28
St. Barthélemy (to France) 4
St. Kitts and Nevis 1
St. Lucia 6
St. Martin (to France) 1
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 7
Turks and Caicos Islands (to U.K.) 11
Virgin Islands (to U.K.) 7
Virgin Islands (to USA) 13
TOTAL Key Biodiversity Areas 290
*Note: Cuban key biodiversity areas comprise only sites (IBAs) identified as important for globally threatened birds

Table 4 indicates that of the 290 key biodiversity areas, 140 were defined for globally threatened birds, followed by 124 for reptiles, 99 for amphibians, 96 for plants, 62 for mammals and 18 for sea turtles. No key biodiversity areas were defined for freshwater fish, most likely because only five freshwater fish have been assessed as globally threatened.

Table 4. Summary of Key Biodiversity Areas by Taxonomic Group in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot
Taxonomic group Total Key Biodiversity Areas
Mammals 62 (21%)
Birds 140 (48%)
Reptiles 124 (43%)
Amphibians 99 (34%)
Plants 96 (33%)
Total Key Biodiversity Areas 290
*Note: The key biodiversity areas identified in Cuba were defined based on globally threatened birds, but with further analysis many of them would be shown to be significant for other taxonomic groups.

Of the 290 key biodiversity areas identified for this profile, 209 contain coastal and marine ecosystems. Many of these sites provide habitat for important marine species. For instance, 18 key biodiversity areas harbor the highest densities of sea turtle nesting sites in the hotspot, with more than 100 crawls annually by globally threatened sea turtle species. Mangroves are a critical feature in a number of key biodiversity areas, including Portland Ridge and Bight and Black River Great Morass in Jamaica, Jaragua National Park and Haitises in the Dominican Republic and Southern Great Lake in Bahamas. The Black River Lower Morass is a diverse set of habitats, where five rivers meet, including wetlands, mangroves and marshland containing the largest crocodile population in Jamaica. The Portland Bight Protected Area is rich in wildlife with the largest almost continuous mangrove stands remaining in Jamaica. The wetlands support many waterfowl and crocodile, which, together with the extensive sea-grass beds in the waters of the Bight provide probably the largest nursery area for fish, crustaceans and mollusks on the island. It also supports 4,000 of Jamaica’s 16,000 fishers and their families. The Jaragua National Park has an extensive marine sector with high densities of sea grass beds and coral reefs. Some of the Caribbean’s marine protected areas are also included directly within the key biodiversity areas identified.

Other key biodiversity areas also support exceptionally high numbers of globally threatened species, including Cockpit Country and Blue Mountains in Jamaica and Massif de la Hotte in Haiti, all of which are known to support more than 40 globally threatened species. Forty-six key biodiversity areas are regarded as wholly irreplaceable on a global scale because they contain the only known populations of a globally threatened species (see Table 5). Since the sites are irreplaceable for Critically Endangered and Endangered species, they qualify as Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites, the most urgent site-level conservation priorities on a global scale. The Caribbean Island Hotspot possesses some of the highest-ranking AZE sites in the world.

Table 5. Wholly Irreplaceable Sites in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot
Key Biodiversity Area Country    Key Biodiversity Area Country
Alejandro de Humboldt Cuba    Los Quemados Dominican Republic
Anegada: Western salt ponds and coastal areas Virgin Islands (to U.K.)    Maricao and Susúa Puerto Rico (to USA)
Arikok National Park Aruba (to Netherlands)    Massif de la Hotte Haiti
Blue Mountains Jamaica    Massif de la Selle Haiti
Bluefields Jamaica    Massif forestier de l'île de Basse-Terre Guadeloupe (to France)
Booby Pond Nature Reserve Cayman Islands (to U.K.)    Mona y Monito Puerto Rico (to USA)
Carite Puerto Rico (to USA)    Morne Trois Pitons National Park Dominica
Catadupa Jamaica    Mount Diablo Jamaica
Centre Hills Montserrat (to U.K.)    Negril Jamaica
Ciénaga de Zapata Cuba    Offshore Islands Antigua and Barbuda
Cockpit Country Jamaica    Parque Nacional Jaragua Dominican Republic
Cordillera Central Puerto Rico (to USA)    Plaisance Haiti
Culebra Puerto Rico (to USA)    Point Sables St. Lucia
Dame-Marie Haiti    Portland Ridge and Bight Jamaica
Dolphin Head Jamaica    Presqu'ile du Nord-Ouest I Haiti
El Yunque Puerto Rico (to USA)    Presqu'ile du Nord-Ouest II Haiti
Government Forest Reserve St. Lucia    Rocher du Diamant Martinique (to France)
Hellshire Hills Jamaica    Sabana Seca Puerto Rico (to USA)
Ile de la Tortue Forest Haiti    Salinas de Punta Cucharas Puerto Rico (to USA)
John Crow Mountains Jamaica    Santa Cruz Mountains Jamaica
Karso del Norte Puerto Rico (to USA)    Scotland District Barbados
Karso del Sur Puerto Rico (to USA)    Vieques Puerto Rico (to USA)
Litchfield Mountain - Matheson's Run Jamaica    Virgin Gorda Virgin Islands (to U.K.)
Loma La Humeadora Dominican Republic         
Los Haitises Dominican Republic         
* Note: Cuban sites relate solely to those identified as important for globally threatened birds.

Massif de la Hotte, at 128,700 hectares, has been officially recognized as harboring the highest number of AZE species in the world with 13 Critically Endangered species found nowhere else (42 globally threatened species occur within the key biodiversity area). It embraces a mosaic of remnant broadleaf forest and degraded land, surrounded by lands supporting no forest or trees. A diversity of microclimates created by the rugged topography—along with an abundance of bromeliads that are ideal habitat for amphibians—have created an environment that is particularly supportive for speciation. With 99 percent of Haiti's original forest cover gone, amphibians (of which there are 18 Critically Endangered species within the Massif de la Hotte Key Biodiversity Area) are now confined to only a few key biodiversity areas, many of which are small islands of cloud forest habitat. Many amphibians can persist in very small patches of habitat—and the result is isolated areas with exceptional levels of endemism—and threat. Unfortunately, management capacity to protect Massif de la Hotte—like all key biodiversity areas in Haiti—is woefully inadequate.

Other key biodiversity areas of exceptional ranking are Cockpit Country and Dolphin Head in Jamaica. Cockpit Country supports the largest number of globally threatened species of any key biodiversity area in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot, with 59 (including 11 amphibians and 40 plant species). The area is a unique expanse of wet forest on a limestone karst landscape. Agriculture (and invasive plant species) dominates the low, flat lands, with forest covering the mountains. Cockpit Country is the source for freshwater used by 40 percent of Jamaicans, and the area is essential in moderating the flow and preventing flooding of a number of western Jamaica’s rivers. Dolphin Head Key Biodiversity Area is an isolated limestone mountain area in western Jamaica. This isolation has led to the development of a unique flora, but being surrounded by agricultural lands, the area and its endemic, globally threatened species are under huge pressure.

The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico all have multiple AZE sites, while Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and the British Virgin Islands have at least one AZE site. These high ranking AZE sites are particularly important for conservation due to their having very high numbers of Critically Endangered and Endangered species. As the comprehensiveness of available data on the distribution of globally threatened species among key biodiversity areas varies significantly among taxonomic groups, key biodiversity areas identified as being important for the conservation of one taxonomic group may also be important for other groups for which data are not yet available. In addition, there are likely to be other important sites for the conservation of globally threatened species in the region that have not been identified during this process, especially for plants, reptiles and fish.

The key biodiversity areas not only stand out for their biological attributes, they also emerge as exceptionally important for the ecosystem services they provide to the Caribbean community. As a hotspot comprised of islands, the interrelationship between the key biodiversity areas, their provision of ecosystem services and the welfare of Caribbean human populations is inextricable. Local populations are highly dependent on their finite and vulnerable resources. For example, the Massif de la Selle Key Biodiversity Area in Haiti is a major source of water to the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince. The Massif de la Hotte (also Haiti) covers three priority watersheds that serve the cities of Les Cayes, Port Salut, Tiburon and Jeremie. These cities typically suffer the greatest loss of life due to flooding and landslides resulting from hurricanes and tropical storms, in part due to the degradation of the upper watershed. The Blue and John Crow Mountains key biodiversity areas in Jamaica are the source of water for the entire eastern end of Jamaica (including the capital Kingston), while Cockpit Country Key Biodiversity Area (and the adjacent key biodiversity areas of Catadupa and Litchfield Mountain – Matheson’s Run) is the source of fresh water for the remainder of Jamaica’s human population. Coastal key biodiversity areas with fringing reefs and mangrove, such as Portland Sound and Bight Key Biodiversity Area in southern Jamaica, provide essential disaster mitigation services such as protection from storm surges and are also economically important for their fisheries.

Other key biodiversity areas are the focus of income generating activities such as tourism, with montane key biodiversity areas such as the Blue Mountains in Jamaica and Armando Bermudez National Park in Dominican Republic representing major tourist destinations for hikers and birdwatchers. With huge pressure on land to provide food for growing populations throughout the Caribbean there are few examples of key biodiversity areas being used sustainably for agriculture or for non-timber forest products. Utilization of the forests occurs throughout the hotspot and many people rely on these resources, but this is also a major threat to the region’s biodiversity.

A significant percentage of Caribbean key biodiversity areas are inadequately protected. Of the 290 key biodiversity areas, 184 (63 percent) are designated as IBAs. Based on an extrapolation of the IBA data, the profile estimates about 165 key biodiversity areas (57 percent) are partially or wholly within formal protected area systems, under national parks, wildlife reserves, forest reserves, etc. The remaining 125 sites (43 percent) consist of a range of landscape and administrative units of varying scales on private and government lands, but lack any form of biodiversity conservation designation. Furthermore, many of the officially designated protected areas are inadequately managed. They confront a host of threats.

Corridor Outcomes

Seven conservation corridors were defined in the hotspot with the exception of Cuba because of the limitation to its site outcomes, as previously explained. These corridors encompass groupings of key biodiversity areas of high priority due to their importance for maintaining ecosystem resilience, ecosystem services values, and the health and richness of the hotspot’s biological diversity. The immediate management goals are to maintain and increase connectivity, ensure sustainable management of the landscape and increase the area of actual or potential natural habitat under protection where appropriate. The maintenance of ecosystem functionality and resilience takes on particular significance as options are sought to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The identification of corridor outcomes is not always relevant in the hotspot due to the small land area of many islands and to the high fragmentation of the landscape on other islands.

The seven corridors are located in four countries: Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Vincent. Between them, the seven corridors embrace important populations of more than 220 globally threatened species and 38 key biodiversity areas. The three corridors in Haiti and the Dominican Republic specifically fall firmly within the broader geographic 1,600-kilometer Caribbean Biological Corridor, established by these two nations and Cuba to reduce biodiversity loss and “facilitate the human-nature relationship.” The Caribbean Biological Corridor contains several protected areas and offers important linkages among landscapes, ecosystems, habitats and cultures.

Cockpit Country–North Coast Forest–Black River Great Morass Corridor, Jamaica (North Coast Forest; Cockpit Country; Catadupa; Litchfield Mountain-Matheson's Run; Black River Great Morass key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 2,458 km2). Within this corridor, the Cockpit Country Conservation Area comprises the largest contiguous block of wet limestone forest on Jamaica, and includes the upper reaches of five major watersheds. The key biodiversity areas, including the unique dry forests of the North Coast Forest key biodiversity areas, are separated by agricultural areas and roads, with more extensive developments between Cockpit Country and the North Coast Forests. The corridor has been defined to ensure connectivity between the Cockpit Country aquifer and all its rivers down to the coast, and to maintain migration corridors for globally threatened Columbidae between breeding and non-breeding seasons. The key biodiversity areas collectively support populations of 91 globally threatened species, with the North Coast Forest Key Biodiversity Area also supporting a unique, diverse and highly threatened xeric flora that has not been evaluated against the IUCN Red List criteria. The corridor is the source of drinking water for 40 percent of Jamaicans (and controls the flow of water, thus preventing flooding) and there is extensive use of non-timber forest products by local communities within and around the area. The North Coast Forest portion of the corridor is adjacent to and significantly influenced by the country’s major tourist center at Montego Bay.

Portland Bight Protected Area Corridor, Jamaica (Hellshire Hills; Portland Ridge and Bight; Brazilleto Mountains; Milk River key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 2,622 km2). Portland Bight Protected Area covers more than 87,000 hectares on the south coast of Jamaica, and embraces populations of 15 globally threatened species. Almost 80 percent of protected area is deforested or developed, yet the key biodiversity areas within this corridor are critically important for their unique biodiversity, and Portland Bight supports the largest intact area of mangrove forest in Jamaica. Hellshire Hills Key Biodiversity Area comprises relatively intact forest (the largest area of dry limestone forest in the Caribbean and Central America), while Portland Ridge is 50 percent forested. Connectivity between these unique dry forest areas will be essential for the long-term survival of this ecosystem and its biodiversity, especially in the face of climate change. Management at a landscape level will also be essential in sustaining the livelihoods of people reliant on the rich coastal portions of this corridor (with fisheries, sustained by the extensive mangroves, being particularly economically important for the corridor’s communities). The mangroves and dry forested hills provide significant coastal zone protection for Portmore and a number of smaller communities. However, proposals for development projects to expand the city of Portmore (adjacent to Hellshire Hills Key Biodiversity Area) and to build a hotel complex in Manatee Bay (within Hellshire Hills Key Biodiversity Area) threaten the corridor’s resilience, and also its ability to regulate flooding, erosion and sedimentation of the near-shore marine environment. With a substantial and important coastal portion to this corridor, there are significant opportunities for adaptation to sea-level rise through coastal protection measures.

Surrey County Corridor, Jamaica (Blue Mountains; John Crow Mountains; Rio Grande; Wag Water River; Swift River; Yallahs; Citron Valley; Bull Bay; Rio Pedro key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 1,985 km2). Surrey County Corridor covers a large portion of easternmost Jamaica, and supports populations of 60 globally threatened species, eight of which are Critically Endangered (10 Endangered). The corridor ranges from sea-level (e.g. at the coastal wetland Key Biodiversity Area of Yallahs), to 2,256 meters at the top of Blue Mountain peak, embracing habitats ranging from mangroves to tall wet and montane forest. The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (two separate key biodiversity areas) is at the center of the corridor, with the other key biodiversity areas comprising foothills and lowland river systems or wetlands. In combination, the corridor represents the watershed for the entire eastern end of the island, servicing Kingston and Portmore (and the north coast town of Port Antonio) with fresh water, and also providing flood prevention services. The corridor is important for agriculture (especially “Blue Mountain” coffee production), forestry and tourism. Much of the area is protected within the national park (managed effectively by the NGO Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust), and also within forest reserves (with, for example, the Forestry Department managing a dynamic conservation program in the Buff Bay-Pencar part of the corridor). While there are threats to this corridor, including agricultural expansion, development pressures and invasive plant species, it is comparatively well managed and serviced by NGO and government agencies.

Massif – Plaine du Nord Corridor, Haiti (Plaisance; Morne Bailly; La Citadelle, Sans Souci, Ramiers key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 1,078 km2). The Massif du Nord is a geological extension of Hispaniola’s Cordillera Central. It runs inland of the north-east coast of Haiti, along which there are a number of biologically rich areas including sea-turtle nesting beaches. The Plaine du Nord is one of the most important agricultural areas in Haiti, well known for its citrus, coffee, cocoa and bananas due to high and regular rainfall, and the remaining canopy trees. Rising from this coastal plain are karst limestone hills and outcroppings, some of which still support xerophytic broadleaf forest and wet broadleaf forest at higher elevations. These patches of forest (represented by the three key biodiversity areas) are poorly known, but support remnants of a unique assemblage of species including 11 globally threatened species. The integrity and long-term viability of these key biodiversity areas need to be ensured by increasing the biological connectivity between these areas and through the agricultural landscapes. This corridor lies within the broad geographic concept of the Caribbean Biological Corridor, but has yet to receive any major conservation investments. The forests provide significant ecosystem services for the downstream agricultural communities, both in terms of forest products and freshwater provision and landslide/ flood prevention. However, these services could be improved through forest restoration and reforestation initiatives.

Massif de la Selle – Jaragua–Bahoruco–Enriquillo Binational Corridor, Haiti/ Dominican Republic (Massif de la Selle, Haiti; Lago Enriquillo, Dominican Republic; Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic; Parque Nacional Jaragua, Dominican Republic key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 9,324 km2). The Massif de la Selle in Haiti connects to the Sierra Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic. The mountainous Sierra Bahoruco is connected ecologically with the lowland Jaragua National Park on the Barahona Peninsula (the southernmost part of Hispaniola). Bahoruco and Jaragua are core zones, along with Lago Enriquillo, within the recently designated Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve. In combination, these areas support the full range of Caribbean ecosystems and populations of 50 globally threatened species. There are critical opportunities for enhancing ecological integrity and ecosystem resilience, improving livelihoods and watershed protection that need to be nurtured to maintain this unique part of Hispaniola. This corridor lies within the broad geographic Caribbean Biological Corridor. It maintains the full altitudinal corridor from sea level to 2,300 meters; represents an important source of drinking water for the surrounding communities (including Port-au-Prince); provides flood and landslide regulatory services; and is an important source of non-timber forest products.

Cordillera Central Corridor, Dominican Republic (Parque Nacional Armando Bermúdez; Loma Nalga de Maco y Río Limpio; Parque Nacional José del Carmen Ramírez; Loma La Humeadora; Valle Nuevo; Ébano Verde key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 6,517 km2). The Cordillera Central is the largest mountain range in Hispaniola and includes the highest peak in the Caribbean (at 3,098 meters). Six important key biodiversity areas are embraced by this Conservation Corridor which supports populations of 37 globally threatened species. Outside of these “core” areas of pine, broad leaf, elfin and cloud forest is a mosaic of agricultural lands, cattle grazing and rural developments. The most important rivers (and water supplies) in the country originate within the forests of this corridor which needs to be managed at a landscape level to preserve the various watersheds, to increase connectivity between forested areas and to improve the ecosystem’s resilience to climate change. This corridor lies within the broad geographic concept of the Caribbean Biological Corridor. It maintains an altitudinal corridor from 500 to 3,000 meters; represents an important source of drinking water for a significant percentage of the national population (including for Santo Domingo); provides flood and landslide regulatory services; and is an important source of non-timber forest products.

Central Mountain Range Corridor, St. Vincent (Colonarie Forest Reserve; Cumberland Forest Reserve; Dalaway Forest Reserve; Kingstown Forest Reserve; La Soufrière National Park; Mount Pleasant Forest Reserve; Richmond Forest Reserve key biodiversity areas. Corridor area: 132 km2). The island of St. Vincent is divided north to south by a volcanic central mountain range. The mountain range starts in the north with La Soufriere (1,234 meters)—an active volcano and the island’s highest point. Seven key biodiversity areas are contiguous with each other along the forested Central Mountain Range, and collectively they form the proposed Central Forest Reserve under the System of Protected Areas and Heritage Sites (SPAHS). This corridor supports populations of four globally threatened species and embraces the watersheds that provide all of St. Vincent’s freshwater. Until the SPAHS program is implemented, the key biodiversity areas in this corridor comprise a disjointed set of variously protected and unprotected forest areas that are being degraded and threatened by agricultural expansion and infrastructure developments. The forests of the Central Mountain Range Corridor represent one of the largest remaining tracts of wet forest in the Lesser Antilles, and one of the few that maintains the full altitudinal corridor from sea level to 1,200 meters.

Figure 2. Map of Site Outcomes for the Caribbean Islands Hotspot
Map of Site Outcomes for the Caribbean Islands Hotspot

Figures 3-13. Maps of Site and Corridor Outcomes for the Caribbean Islands Hotspot
Southern Bahamas: Key Biodiversity Areas
Southern Bahamas: Key Biodiversity Areas

Northern Bahamas: Key Biodiversity Areas
Northern Bahamas: Key Biodiversity Areas

Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands: Key Biodiversity Areas
Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands: Key Biodiversity Areas

Cuba: Key Biodiversity Areas
Cuba: Key Biodiversity Areas
Note: Site outcomes for Cuba include only IBAs as it was not possible to incorporate the results of analysis of other taxonomic groups and consultations with experts for other site outcomes at this time.

Haiti and Dominican Republic: Key Biodiversity Areas and Corridors
Haiti and Dominican Republic: Key Biodiversity Areas and Corridors

Jamaica: Key Biodiversity Areas and Corridors
Jamaica: Key Biodiversity Areas and Corridors

Puerto Rico: Key Biodiversity Areas
Puerto Rico: Key Biodiversity Areas

Southern Lesser Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas
Southern Lesser Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas

Central Lesser Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas
Central Lesser Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas

Northern Lesser Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas
Northern Lesser Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas

U.S. Virgin Islands, Netherlands Antilles and British Virgin Islands: Key Biodiversity Areas 
U.S. Virgin Islands, Netherlands Antilles and British Virgin Islands: Key Biodiversity Areas

Southern Netherlands Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas
Southern Netherlands Antilles: Key Biodiversity Areas

Document: The Caribbean Islands Ecosystem Profile, January 2010
English (PDF - 1.63 MB) / Français (PDF - 2.6 MB)