Key Biodiversity Area Special Series                                  

 

Sites for priority biodiversity conservation in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot

 

Verónica Anadón-Irizarry 1, David C. Wege 2, Amy Upgren3, Richard Young 4, Brian Boom 5, Yolanda M. León6,Yvonne Arias 7, Kellee Koenig8, Alcides L. Morales 9, Wayne Burke 10, Amiro Pérez-Leroux 11, Catherine Levy 12, Susan Koenig 13, Lynn Gape 14 & PredensaMoore 15

 

1BirdLife International, Rio Canas 2111, calle Colorado, Ponce, Puerto Rico 00731-1824, USA

2BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge, CB3 0NA, UK

3,8Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202, USA

4Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Les Augres Manor, Trinity, Jersey, JE3 5BP Channel Islands, UK.

4Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, ClavertonDown, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK

5The New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10458 USA

6, 7 Grupo Jaragua, El Vergel No.33. El Vergel Santo Domingo, D. N. República Dominicana

6 Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, Ave. Los Próceres Galá, Santo Domingo, República Dominicana.

9Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña, Inc., 1605 Carr. 477 Quebradillas Puerto Rico 00678

10Woodbourne Shorebird Refuge, Packers, St. Patricks, Christ Church, BB17016, Barbados

11BirdLife International, Juan de Dios MartínezN35-76 y Av. Portugal, Quito  Ecuador, CP 17-17-717

122 Starlight Avenue Kingston 6 Jamaica, West Indies

13Windsor Research Centre, Sherwood Content P.O., Trelawny, Jamaica, West Indies

14,15Bahamas National Trust, P.O. Box N 4105, Nassau, The Bahamas

Email:1 veronica.anadon@birdlife.org (corresponding author), 2 david.wege@birdlife.org,3 a.upgren@conservation.org, 4 richard.young@durrell.org, 5 bboom@nybg.org, 6 ymleon@yahoo.com, ymleon@intec.edu.do, 7 yvonne.arias2@gmail.com, 8 k.koenig@conservation.org, 9 alcidesl.morales@yahoo.com, 10 docinbarbados@yahoo.com, 11 amiro.perez-leroux@birdlife.org,12 bluequit@gmail.com, 13 windsor@cwjamaica.com, 14 lgape@bnt.bs, 15 pmoore@bnt.bs

 

 

 

Date of publication (online): 06 August 2012

Date of publication (print): 06 August 2012

ISSN 0974-7907 (online) | 0974-7893 (print)

 

Manuscript details:

Ms # o2996

Received 08 November 2011

Final revised received 08 March 2012

Finally accepted 02 June 2012

 

Citation: Anadón-Irizarry, V., D.C. Wege, A. Upgren, R. Young, B. Boom, Y.M. León, Y. Arias, K. Koenig, A.L. Morales, W. Burke, A. Perez-Leroux, C. Levy, S. Koenig, L. Gape & P. Moore (2012) Sites for priority biodiversity conservation in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(8): 2806–2844.

 

Copyright: © Verónica Anadón-Irizarry, David C. Wege, Amy Upgren, Richard Young, Brian Boom, Yolanda M. León, Yvonne Arias, KelleeKoenig, Alcides L. Morales, Wayne Burke, Amiro Pérez-Leroux, Catherine Levy, Susan Koenig, Lynn Gape & Predensa Moore 2012 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 UnportedLicense. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium for non-profit purposes, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.

 

Acknowledgements: The definition of Key Biodiversity Areas in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot was the result of generous feedback and assistance from a wide range of people and institutions. We would especially like to thank the coordinators for facilitating workshops and national processes in The Bahamas (Bahamas National Trust), Dominican Republic (Grupo Jaragua), Haiti (Jean Vilmond Hilaire) and Puerto Rico (Mayra Vincenty and Verónica Mendez Gallardo). A regional consultation group was also instrumental in facilitating a wide review of the priorities, and comprised the following individuals: Philippe Bayard, Judi Clarke, Andrew Dobson, Julia Horrocks, Sixto Inchaustegui, Brad Keitt, Penny Langhammer, Nicole Leotaud, Sarah McIntosh, Kalli de Meyer, Sarah Sanders, Lisa Sorenson, Helene Souan, Jack Tordoff, Alessandra Vazella-Khouri, Doug Ryan, Hannah Stevens, Ian May, James Millet, Mark O’Connell, Matthew Foster, Michele Zador, Nigel Varty, Gill Bunting and Joe Wunderle. The process was also assisted by the following individual experts: Abdel Abellard, Sandra Buckner, Sean Carrington, Colin Clubbe, Rhon Connor, Mat Cottam, William Crosse, Jenny Daltry, Liliana Davalos, Alison Duncan, Paul Edgar, Philippe Feldmann, Tony Gent, Martin Hamilton, Hugh Genoways, Gerard Gray, Blair Hedges, Geoff Hilton, Arlington James, Kimberly John, Charles Knapp, Gary Kwiecinski, Vincent Lemoine, Anthony Levesque, Don McFarlane, Matthew Morton, Farah Mukhida, Andreas Oberli, Scott Pedersen, Laura Perdomo,Tineke Prins, Bonnie Rusk, Ronald Stefan Stewart, Ann Sutton, Armando Rodríguez and Joel Timyan. Lastly, individuals from the following institutions provided invaluable information and feedback before, during and after the various workshops: Adventours; AEVA; AMAZONA; American Bird Conservancy; Amigos de Sian Ka’an A.C.; Anguilla National Trust; Arizona State University; AsaWright Nature Centre; Avian Eyes Birding Group; Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation; Bahamas National Trust;  Bahamas Outdoors Limited; Bat Conservation International; Bermuda Audubon Society; Bonaire Parrot project, University of Sheffield; Boston University; BVI National Parks Trust; CARE ; Caribbean Coastal Area Management; Caribbean Natural Resources Institute; Centre d’Information Geospatiale; Centro de Aprendizaje parala Conservación de Sarapiquí; Centro para la Conservacióny Ecodesarrollo de la Bahía de Samaná; The Claremont Colleges; Columbia University; CONHAME; Consorcio Ambiental Dominicano; Consultora Hernández; Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Department of Conservation Sciences, Bermuda; Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Puerto Rico; Department of the Environment, Anguilla; Department Environment, Montserrat Gov ; Durham University; Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance; Econcerns Ltd; ENAF; Environment for the Americas; Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua and Barbuda; Environmental Management Division, Office of the Prime Minister (Jamaica); Environmental Protection in the Caribbean; Faculté d’Agronomie et de Medicine Veterinaire; Fauna and Flora International; Fenad; Fermata Inc; Fondation EcosOphique; Fondation Macaya; Fondation Seguin; Forestry Department; Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division- Dominica; Fundación para el Desarrollo Humano–PROGRESSIO; Grand Bahama Nature Tours; Grupo Jaragua, Inc.; Herpetological Conservation Trust; Institute of Jamaica, Natural History Museum of Jamaica; Institute of Marine Affairs; Instituto Tecnológicode Santo Domingo; Island Conservation; IUCN Iguana Specialist Group; Jadora International LLC; Jamaican Caves Organisation; Jamaica Forestry Department; Jardín Botánico Nacional; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Klamath Bird Observatory; LaboratorioUASD-Steven; MDE; Ministry of Energy and Mining; Ministry of Agriculture, Montserrat; Museo Nacionalde Historia Natural; National Audubon Society; National Environment and Planning Agency; National Trust for the Cayman Islands; Natouraves; Negril Area Environmental Protection Trust; New York Botanical Garden; Northern Jamaica Conservation Association; OJJUOES; ONCFS National Hunting and Wildlife Agency; Optics for the Tropics; Pacific Union College; Panos Caribbean; Parque Zoológico Nacional; Planning Institute of Jamaica; Plant Conservation Centre; Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust; Population Media Center; Programa Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo; Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources; PWD Gun Club; Rare; REPIE; Ross University School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Secretaría de Estado de Educación Superior Ciencia y Tecnología/UASD; Secretaría de Estado de Medio Ambiente; Sociedad Ornitológica Hispaniola;Sociedad Ornitológica Puertoriqueña; Société Audubon Haïti; Société Financiere de Developpement ; Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds; South Dakota State University; State University of New York at Stony Brook; Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire; Subsecretaría de Planificación y Desarrollo; Sustainable Grenadines Project; The Nature Conservancy; The Nature Conservancy-DR; The Nature Conservancy, USVI; TrelawnyGun Club; Tourism Product Development Co Ltd; UCH/DES; UK Overseas Territories, Conservation Forum; UNDP; UNEP-Caribbean Environment Program; Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo; Universidad de Cornell; Université d’Etat d’Haiti; Université Quisqueya; University of California; University of Nebraska State Museum; University of New Brunswick; University of Pittsburgh, National Aviary; University of Puerto Rico; University of Scranton; University of Simon Bolivar; University of the West Indies; University of the West Indies – Cave Hill and Mona Campuses; University of the West Indies, Life Sciences; U.S. Agency for International Development / DAI; USDA Forest Service, Int’l Institute of Tropical Forestry; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Div. Scientific Authority; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Latin America and Caribbean Region; U.S. Forest Service, Wings Across the Americas; USFS International Institute for Tropical Forestry; U.S. Geological Survey; USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife; Vermont Centerfor Ecostudies; WIDECAST; Windsor Research Centre; Zoological Museum of Amsterdam; Zoológico Nacional/Universidad Autónoma de Santo  Domingo; Zoological Society of San Diego; Zoological Society of Trinidad and Tobago.

We would like to thank the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund for the financial and technical support. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environmental Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal of the fund is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.

 

Author Details and Contribution:

Verónica Anadón-Irizarry is the Caribbean Program Manager for BirdLifeInternational. She has been supporting the development, management and implementation of BirdLife’s Caribbean Program since 2005. She reviewed boundaries, processed, analyzed and confirmed data for all the threatened species contained in the 284 Caribbean KBAs included in the Caribbean Hotspot Ecosystem Profile. She is lead author of this manuscript.

David C. Wege is BirdLifeInternational’s Senior Caribbean Program Manager. He has led the development of a comprehensive program of Caribbean conservation - delivered by BirdLife’s network of national partners. He led the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund project to develop the Caribbean Hotspot Ecosystem Profile, defining KBAs that provide the scientific basis for CEPF’s hotspot investment strategy. He provided the lead author with editorial guidance, technical support and advice based on our joint work to define the hotspot’s KBAs.

Amy Upgren is the Advisor, Conservation Priorities, with the Conservation Priorities and Outreach team at Conservation International (CI). In conjunction with CI regional offices and partners, she identifies priorities to safeguard biodiversity and human well-being. She is currently working to develop CI’s institutional framework for identifying geographic priorities and to link science staff in CI headquarters with technical staff in the field. She is a member of the metrics and priority setting team and the freshwater and species teams. She compiled data, supported analysis, KBA delineation and prioritization, and edited the manuscript.

Richard Young isHead of Conservation Science at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and leads research programmes to support the design, management and evaluation of Durrell’s conservation efforts in Madagascar, Mauritius, the Caribbean, the Pacific and India. He is Co-Chair of the IUCN/SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Bath, UK. He compiled publicly available spatial data on the distributions of globally threatened amphibians and reptiles for the Caribbean, including liaising with global experts to gather unpublished data, and drafted KBAs boundaries for review by national committees. He provided comments on the design of the paper and edited two drafts of the manuscript.

Brian Boom serves as Director of the Caribbean Biodiversity Program and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden.  In collaboration with Cuban scientists, his current principal focus is to identify and assess Cuba’s most vulnerable plant species in the face of climate change and habitat loss. For this study and paper, he compiled spatial distribution data on globally threatened plant species in the Caribbean region, and, with NYBG colleague Hannah Stevens, mapped these occurrences to propose new KBAs.

Yolanda M. León is a research professor at Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, managing the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory and specializing in environmental applications of GIS.  She is the President of Grupo Jaragua, whose mission is to preserve the biodiversity of Hispaniola (with emphasis on the Jaragua-Bahoruco-EnriquilloUNESCO Biosphere Reserve) through work with local communities, environmental advocacy and education. She co-coordinated the Dominican Republic’s KBA stakeholder workshop, assisted with KBA identification, processed experts’ information, developed shapefiles and edited the manuscript.

Yvonne Arias is the Executive Director and founder member of Grupo Jaragua and Vice-president of the IUCN Committee for the Dominican Republic. She was recently recognized with the Woman Merit Medal in the category of Science and Technology for the Conservation of the Environment and the Natural Resources granted by the Dominican Republic government.   She has 30 years of experience in ecology and herpetology, protected areas and environmental education. She is the coordinator and co-author of the Important Bird Areas and coordinated the Dominican Republic’s KBA stakeholder workshop, and edited the manuscript.

KelleeKoenig is the GIS Manager and Cartographer at Conservation International. She contributed to the study by compiling and helping correct the GIS data.

Alcides L. Morales is a biologist working on wetland enhancement and terrestrial bird surveys, and President of Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña, Inc. He is experienced in wildlife research and conservation, working and collaborating with governmental agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations as a scientific research assistant and adviser both with plants and animals (especially birds). He contributed field observations, report and data to the 27 Puerto Rican KBAs, and provided general review to the manuscript. 

Wayne Burke is Barbados Project Manager of BirdLife International currently working on a Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act funded project focusing on increasing survival prospects for Neotropical migratory shorebirds on Barbados.  He acted as a facilitator and resource for species information and site descriptions for Barbados and the Lesser Antilles, and provided general review to the manuscript.

Amiro Pérez-Leroux is the Interim Director for the Americas Division of BirdLifeInternational.  He is in charge of overseeing the implementation of key programmes and projects together with project managers, annual workplans, budget review, and financial issues. He coordinates and oversees the implementation of major fundraising initiatives with key donors including the financial and technical reporting. He leadthe design and facilitation of three national and one regional workshops that were the basis for the CEPF Caribbean profile and this research.

Catherine Levy is an independent researcher and co-represents Windsor Research Centre on the Steering Committee of the UNDP project “Strengthening the operational and financial sustainability of the National Protected Area System”. She has previously been President of BirdLife Jamaica and the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. For over 10 years she has been on the Management Board of the Natural History Museum, and a Director of the Windsor Research Centre. She was the co-author of Jamaica’s Important Bird Areas, and provided general review to this manuscript.

Susan Koenig holds a doctorate from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University.  She is a founding director of Windsor Research Centre, an environmental NGO located 5 km inside Jamaica’s Cockpit Country and which has a mission to conserve Cockpit Country through a programme of research, education outreach, and advocacy. She is co-author of the Jamaica section in the publication Important Bird Areas of the Caribbean.  She collated the amphibian, reptile, and bat datasets, which were utilized by Jamaica’s National Ecological Gap Assessment Report and which subsequently were provided to this study.  She participated in Jamaica’s national workshop, which defined the island’s KBAs, and assisted with editorial review of the manuscript.

Lynn Gape is the Deputy Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT).  She was recently recognized for her 20 years of service to the BNT.  She serves on the National Biodiversity Sub Committee and acts as an advisor and sometimes instructor in the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Tour Guide Training Programme.  She has a keen personal interest in birding and was one of the founding members of the BNT’s Ornithology group. She acted as a resource for species information and site descriptions with regards to the 26 Bahamas KBA’s.

PredensaMoore is the Science Research Officer for The Bahamas National Trust. She is the coordinator for the International Piping Plover Census in The Bahamas and author of The Bahamas section in the Important Bird Areas for the Caribbean directory.  She reviewed the species information for The Bahamas KBAs.

 

 

Abstract:  The Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot is exceptionally important for global biodiversity conservation due to high levels of species endemism and threat. A total of 755 Caribbean plant and vertebrate species are considered globally threatened, making it one of the top Biodiversity Hotspots in terms of threat levels. In 2009, Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) were identified for the Caribbean Islands through a regional-level analysis of accessible data and literature, followed by extensive national-level stakeholder consultation. By applying the Vulnerability criterion, a total of 284 Key Biodiversity Areas were defined and mapped as holding 409 (54%) of the region’s threatened species. Of these, 144 (or 51%) overlapped partially or completely with protected areas. Cockpit Country, followed by Litchfield Mountain - Matheson’s Run, Blue Mountains (all Jamaica) and Massif de la Hotte (Haiti) were found to support exceptionally high numbers of globally threatened taxa, with more than 40 such species at each site. Key Biodiversity Areas, building from Important Bird Areas, provide a valuable framework against which to review the adequacy of existing national protected-area systems and also to prioritize which species and sites require the most urgent conservation attention.

 

Keywords: Biodiversity, BirdLife, Caribbean, hotspot, Important Bird Area, Key Biodiversity Area.

 

 

 

The Key Biodiversity Area series documents the application of the concept and showcases the results from various parts of the world.  The series is edited under the auspices of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas/Species Survival Commission Joint Task Force on ‘Biodiversity and Protected Areas’, with the editors supported by BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, NatureServe, Parks Canada, and PlantlifeInternational.

 

 

For images, tables -- click here

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot is exceptionally important for global biodiversity conservation, due to high levels of species endemism and threat.  The Caribbean is home to approximately 11,000 plants species, of which 72% are endemic to the region. The vertebrates are also characterized by extremely high levels of species endemism: 100% of 189 amphibian species, 95% of 520 reptile species, 74% of 69 mammal species and 26% of 564 species birds are unique to the Caribbean Islands. In terms of endemism at the genus level, it ranks third among the world’s 34 Biodiversity Hotspots with 205 plants and 65 vertebrate genera endemic to the islands (Smith et al.2004). Species restricted to the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot represent 2.6% of the world’s 300,000 plants species and 3.5% of the world’s 27,298 vertebrate species (Wege et al. 2010).

The high level of biological diversity in the Caribbean is due to several factors. During the early Cretaceous (120 to 140 million years b.p.), a chain of volcanic islands (called Proto-Antilles) began to emerge along the eastern edge of the Caribbean Plate in the Pacific Ocean. The plate drifted eastward serving as a stepping-stone route for limited exchange of terrestrial organisms between the Nearctic and Neotropicalregions. By the Eocene (58 million years b.p.), the core of the Greater Antilles achieved their present positions (Brown & Lomolino 1998). The Lesser Antilles are the active remnants of an ancient volcanic chain, and are younger than the Greater Antilles. Several islands have particularly rugged and mountainous landscapes separated by large stretches of sea, which resulted in the isolation of populations and eventually to speciation.

The Caribbean has suffered from high levels of habitat loss since the arrival of Europeans in the 1490s. This destruction has reduced the hotspot’s original estimated 229,549km2of natural vegetation to just 22,955km2 (or just 10%). The loss of native habitat combined with other threat factors, such as introduced (alien invasive) species, has resulted in severe and widespread degradation of the Caribbean’s unique biodiversity. Currently, 755 plants and vertebrate species are at risk of extinction, making the region one of the biodiversity hotspots holding the most globally threatened species.

National governments and donor agencies have primarily invested in developing protected areas systems to halt biodiversity loss. However, these are rarely comprehensive in their overlap with unique species and habitats, are frequently inadequately managed, and often fail to protect important places for biodiversity. Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in the Caribbean can be used as a tool for reviewing the efficacy of existing national protected-area systems. KBAs provide a site-based framework against which gaps in protected-area coverage can be identified and candidate sites for expansion. This paper has three objectives. First, to explain the identification process for Caribbean KBAs that was conducted within the context of developing the Caribbean Islands Ecosystem Profile for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Second, to evaluate how the identified KBAs are represented in the region’s existing protected-area systems, therefore highlighting key gaps in them, and to prioritize among the KBAs for conservation action. Finally, to evaluate the effectiveness of the KBA approach in guiding conservation priorities in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot.

 

 

METHODS

 

The Caribbean Islands Hotspot (Image 1) includes the biologically and culturally diverse islands of The Bahamas (Image 2), Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico (Image 5), Jamaica (Image 3), Cuba (Image 2) and Hispaniola [comprising the countries of the Dominican Republic and Haiti] (Image 4)), Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Lesser Antilles (Image 5) and the Netherlands Antilles (Image 6). It does not include Trinidad and Tobago. So defined, the hotspot represents a complex geopolitical region of 12 independent nations, and six British and three U.S. overseas territories, two French overseas départements, two French overseas collectivités, three special municipalities of the Netherlands and two constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The hotspot encompasses more than four million km2 of ocean (not included in the analysis) as well as c. 230,000km² of land area, with the four islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico making up about 90% of this. The coastal area included in the analysis embraces territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles. The elevational range spans from over 3,000m above sea level to 40m below sea level and encompasses a diverse array of habitats and ecosystems.

The Caribbean KBAs were identified as an integral part of developing the Caribbean Islands Hotspot Ecosystem Profile for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund during 2009 (Wege et al. 2010). For the Caribbean Islands Hotspot, only the Vulnerability criterion was applied to select KBAs, with the confirmed presence of globally threatened species triggering the definition of a KBA. The Irreplaceability criterion was not applied due to lack of quantitative data for other taxa in the hotspot.  This criterion is currently only used to define KBAs for birds, as this is the only group for which the concept of restricted-range species has been quantitatively defined: species with global breeding ranges of less than 50,000km2(Stattersfield et al. 1998). However, to prevent a bias toward site priorities for birds, KBAs in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot are identified only based on the Vulnerability criterion.

The KBA identification process comprised a desk-based, regional-level analysis of accessible data and literature, followed by national-level stakeholder consultations coordinated byBirdLife International, in collaboration with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the University of Bath and the New York Botanical Garden, and with technical support from Conservation International. Important Bird Areas (IBAs), documented by BirdLife partners and collaborating organizations in 2008 (BirdLife International 2008), were used as a scientifically robust starting point for KBA identification.  

This foundation of IBAs was supplemented by applying the Vulnerability criterion to non-avian taxa to define terrestrial KBAs based on the occurrence of globally threatened species as categorized on the 2008 IUCN Red List (a global, standardized assessment of species threat status). The taxonomic groups used to define KBAs were land-based mammals, birds (through the IBA process previously mentioned), amphibians, reptiles and plants. Sea turtle nesting beaches were included in the analysis where more than 100 crawls annually had been recorded (Dow et al. 2007). KBAs were delineated using a geographic information system (GIS) and by taking into consideration the distribution of available habitat for the globally threatened species, and also land/ protected area management units. The degree of protection of the KBAs was analyzed against the 2010 World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA).

National profile coordinators in The Bahamas (Bahamas National Trust), Dominican Republic (Grupo Jaragua), Haiti (Société Audubon Haïti), Jamaica (BirdLife), Lesser Antilles (BirdLifein Barbados) and Puerto Rico (Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña) facilitated a review of priorities within their own countries. In Cuba, it was not possible to conduct the analysis for taxonomic groups other than birds. National workshops were held in Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica during June 2009, with a region-wide workshop held in July 2009 on Antigua as a formal part of the 17th Regional Meeting of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds.

 

 

RESULTS

 

A total of 284 Key Biodiversity Areas were defined for all the countries and territories contained within the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot (Table 1).  The 284 KBAs in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot cover just over 50,000km2, or roughly 22% of the terrestrial and coastal portion of the hotspot. Half of the KBAs are either fully or partially protected according to the 2010 WDPA (Images 1–6). 

In total, 409 globally threatened plants and vertebrate species triggered the Vulnerability criterion to define KBAs (hereafter  referred as trigger species).  No data were available for the other 346 globally threatened species, most of which were plants, at the time of this analysis. Plants had the highest number of globally threatened species, while for vertebrate species groups, amphibians and then birds were the most abundant groups (Table 2). However, globally threatened birds were responsible for defining the largest number of KBAs, followed by amphibians and plants (Table 3).   The majority of KBAs were defined by the presence of multiple globally threatened trigger species, with almost half of all KBAs (141 or 49.64%) supporting two to 10 trigger species and 28 (or 9.86%) by 11 to 44 species. Cockpit Country in Jamaica supports an incredible 60 globally threatened species, followed by Litchfield Mountain–Matheson’s Run, Blue Mountains (both with 44) and Massif de la Hotte in Haiti (with 42).  On the other hand, 114 (or 40%) KBAs were identified for a single trigger species (Table 4).

A total of 173 (or 42.29%) of the trigger species have distributions confined to just one KBA (see Table 5). However, 25 KBAs hold populations of more than one of these “single-site” species with Cockpit Country, Blue Mountains and Massif de la Hotte each supporting populations of more than 20 such species. An important result of the KBA process was the identification of 56 KBAs which contained the only record of a globally threatened species in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. No fewer than 19 of these KBAs were identified in 2010 as global Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites (Tables 4 and 5)—defined by the presence of Critically Endangered or Endangered species confined to just a single site.  One hundred and sixty nine (169 or 41.32%) of the trigger species occur only in two to five KBAs and the other 67 (16.38%) trigger species occur in more than six KBAs (Table 4).

 

 

DISCUSSION

 

The countries with the greatest numbers of Key Biodiversity Areas are the large islands of the Greater Antilles and multi-island countries such as The Bahamas. 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 larger numbers of endemic species and consequently higher numbers of globally threatened taxa. Small islands in archipelagos such as The Bahamas often result in taxonomic isolation and the presence here of globally threatened species occupying very small ranges (often confined to a single island) has in turn led to the definition of relatively large numbers of KBAs. In Cuba, the KBAs included only IBAsas it was not possible to incorporate the results of analyses of other taxonomic groups or consultations with experts for the definition of other sites. 

The amount and quality of available data on the distribution of globally threatened species among Caribbean KBAs vary between taxonomic groups but the sites identified will almost certainly be important for other groups for which data are not currently available. However, there are likely to be additional sites holding globally threatened species that have not been identified during this process. This is because reptiles, plants (especially cacti and orchids) and bats have not been systematically assessed against Red List criteria. Neither have freshwater fish (of which there are numerous endemics in the region), such that just five have so far been categorized as globally threatened, and no KBAs were defined for this group.

In addition to the occurrence of globally threatened species (the Vulnerability criterion), KBAs can also be defined on the basis of the presence of restricted-range species (the Irreplaceability criterion): their inclusion as a next step may result in a better coverage of the poorly represented taxonomic groups mentioned above. 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. However, there are no quantitative data for restricted-range species (other than birds) in the hotspot and thus this criterion could not be applied.

The main threats to the terrestrial biodiversity of the insular Caribbean, as prioritized during the national ecosystem profiling workshops in order of highly significant regional threat or impact are: invasive species; residential and commercial development; severe weather events and global climate change; agricultural expansion and intensification; over-exploitation of natural resources; mining and energy production; pollution; transportation; and geological events. There is a complex mix of interacting socio-economic, political, cultural and environmental factors that are driving environmental change and threatening biodiversity (and thus the KBAs) in the insular Caribbean. Principal among these are the increasing human population and material consumption, poverty and inequitable access to resources, the inherent economic and environmental vulnerability of the islands to external forces, such as changes in global trade regimes, and climate change. Some of these, such as poverty, are local or national issues, while others, such as climate change, require attention at the global level. All these drivers can be either exacerbated or mitigated by public policies and institutional arrangements, at national, regional and international levels.

A number of constraints need to be overcome to address the environmental threats and achieve more effective conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The main ones discussed during the national workshops and consultations in order of highly significant regional barrier are: weak and ineffective policy; poor land-use planning; limited capacity and resources for biodiversity conservation; inefficient institutional frameworks; poor participation by stakeholders; limited technical and scientific knowledge for decision-making; and lack of awareness of biodiversity and ecosystem services (particularly their value) among decision-makers and the general public.

Most countries have significantly updated, or are in the process of updating (e.g. Haiti and St.Vincent), their policies and legislation on biodiversity, environmental management and sustainable development while their obligations under international agreements have helped drive this process (Brown et al. 2007). However, there exists significant variation among countries with regard to comprehensiveness and effectiveness, particularly concerning the protection of threatened biodiversity and ecosystems (BirdLifeInternational 2008), and there is a need for specific analyses of “gaps” in legislation and policies, which very few countries have undertaken (an exception being Jamaica [NEPA 2003]). Overall, national public policy frameworks for environmental management remain largely oriented toward control, regulation and a reactive approach to environmental issues, although new approaches and instruments, including environment service markets, have begun to be promoted by some donors, governments and NGOs as means of changing destructive patterns of behavior.

Environmental policy in the Caribbean tends mostly to address environmental issues and impacts rather than their underlying root causes/drivers, such as human population increase. In the case of climate change, Caribbean countries do not consider themselves to be net contributors and therefore policy responses are largely limited to adaptation. All the countries in the hotspot are active participants in the main multilateral environmental agreements. All are signatories to the three “Rio Conventions”—the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change —and most are members of the other key biodiversity related agreements, such as the Ramsar Convention, the World Heritage Convention and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, but not the Convention on Migratory Species.

At the regional level, the main agreement is the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) and its three Protocols.  These together constitute the only legal instrument for regional cooperation on environmental issues for the wider Caribbean, although not all signatory countries are properly meeting their commitments, e.g. required legislation not enacted, management plans not developed, and biodiversity action plans not in place.

Key Biodiversity Areas can achieve the following:

(i)  Help Caribbean nations honour their  commitments to multilateral environmental agreements

(ii) Provide the basis for protected area gap analyses (as is the case in Haiti where KBAs are being used in the development of the national system for protected areas plan)

(iii) Provide a prioritized framework within which to monitor the status of biodiversity in the region.

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Alliance for Zero Extinction (2010). 2010 AZE Update. www.zeroextinction.org.  Accessed on January 2011.

BirdLife International (2008). Important Bird Areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 15), 348pp.

Brown, N., T. Geoghegan & Y. Renard(2007). A Situation Analysis for the Wider Caribbean.Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, x+52pp.

Brown, J.H. & M.V. Lomolino (1998). Biogeography—2ndEdition. SinauerAssociates, Inc. Publishers, Sunderland, Massachusetts, 691pp.

Dow, W., K. Eckert, M. Palmer & P. Kramer (2007). An Atlas of SeaTurtleNesting Habitat for the Wider Caribbean Region. The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network and The Nature Conservancy. WIDECAST Technical Report No. 6. Beaufort, North Carolina, USA, 267pp.

NEPA (2003). Gap analysis of relevant policies. Report no. 2.Policy Analysis Report, prepared by Pauline McHardy. National Environment and Planning Agency, Kingston, Jamaica, 86pp (unpublished report).

Smith, M.L., S.B. Hedges, W. Buck, A. Hemphill, S. Inchaustegui, M.A. Ivie, D. Martina, M. Maunder, & J.F. Ortega (2004). Caribbean Islands, pp.112–118. In: Mittermeier, R.A., P.R Gil, M. Hoffmann, J. Pilgrim, T. Brooks, C.G. Mittermeier, J. Lamoreux & G.A.B. da Fonseca (2004). Hotspots Revisited: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Ecoregions. Mexico City (Mexico): CEMEX, 392pp.

Stattersfield, A.J., M.J. Crosby, A.J. Long & D.C. Wege (1998). Endemic Bird Areas of The World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. Cambridge, U.K.: BirdLife International, 846pp.

Wege, D.C., D. Ryan, N. Varty, V. Anadón-Irizarry & A. Pérez-Leroux (2010). Ecosystem Profile: the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. Washington, DC: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, 153pp (unpublished report).

 

 

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Copyright (c) 2012 V. Anadon-Irizarry, D.C. Wege, A. Upgren, R. Young, B. Boom, Y.M. Leon, Y. Arias, K. Koenig, A.L. Morales, W. Burke

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