The islands of the Caribbean host countless endemic species, as well as a myriad of ecosystems. Among the increasingly threatened ecosystems are mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds, wetlands, mudflats, lagoons, estuaries, xeric formations, cactus scrub, pine forests, and sub-tropical wet, moist, and dry forests.
The majority of protected areas in the Caribbean were established during the 1950s in response to growing concerns over watershed protection. This was followed in the 1980s by a second wave of protected area declarations which sought to protect the region’s unique biodiversity. Given the space limitations of islands and growing human populations throughout the region, the integration of conservation into people’s economic, social, and cultural lives is vital.
Protected areas are extremely important to the Caribbean tourism industry, with more than $80 million collected from national park visitors. Tourism, however, can also pose a significant threat through overuse of park resources and inappropriate development. The people of the Caribbean have a vested interest in preserving their protected areas by monitoring and regulating tourism to protect the beauty and biodiversity of these islands.
The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean
Photo: Local indigenous women wash in the Limon River
Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic © Connie Gelb/TNC