Map boundaries: 10 to 20 degrees North; 56 to 64 degrees West
Countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, France (Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barthelemy, St. Martin), Grenada, Netherlands (Saba, Sint Maartin, Sint Eustatius), St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Anguilla, Montserrat), Venezuela (Delta Amacura, Federal Dependencies, Monagas, Sucre, Nueva Esparta)
The subduction of the South American and North American plates underneath the Caribbean Plate has led to the development of an island arc extending north from South America. To the north, the Leeward Islands consist of a western mountainous volcanic arc, extending from Saba (Netherlands Antilles) south to Basse Terre (Guadeloupe). An eastern arc of islands, extending from Sombrero Island (Anguilla) south to Marie-Galante (Guadeloupe), is less mountainous and made of limestone. Major limestone-only islands are Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Barbuda, Grande-Terre, Desirade, and Marie-Galante. South of the Leeward Islands are the Windward Islands, extending from Dominica to Grenada, which consist of a series of volcanoes. Barbados, Tobago, and Trinidad make up an additional line of islands extending on the South American Plate-Caribbean Plate boundary. In the southwest of the map is a small portion of the coastal range of Venezuela, the Paria and Araya peninsulas of Venezuela, and Margarita Island, a large island north of the Venezuelan coast.
Active volcanoes include Soufriere Hills (Montserrat N16.7 W 62.2), which destroyed the city of Plymouth in 1997) Soufriere (Guadeloupe N 16.1 W 61.7), Pelee (Martinique N14.8 W 61.2), and La Soufriere (St. Vincent and the Grenadines N13.3 W 61.2), and Kick-em-Jenny (approximately N 12.4 W 61.6, offshore and west of Ronde Island, Grenada). However, all are potentially active, as indicated by geothermal features such as a boiling lake on Dominica.
The ecological pattern of the region consists of mangroves at sea level and at river mouths, coastal deserts at low elevations, tropical dry deciduous forests at middle elevations, and tropical rain forests on the highest peaks.
World Wildlife Fund Terrestrial Ecoregions
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests
NT 117, Cordillera La Costa montane forests. Isolated high mountain patches in a desert of cactus and mesquite. Evergreen forests from 600 to 900 me consist of Gyranthera, Trophis, and Ficus. Evergreen montane cloud forests are at elevations of 1000 to 2200 m, consisting of Ecclinusa, Graffenrieda, palms, epiphytes, and ferns, and upper montane elfin forest is above 2200 m, consisting of Libanothamnus and Clusia. Found in Venezuela—Sucre and Monagas.
NT 134, Leeward Islands moist forests. White chestnut, sweetleaf mohagony, kapok, and mountain cabbage palm trees. Found on St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, and Basse-Terre.
NT 147, Orinoco Delta swamp forests. Inundated swamps with Carapa, Ceiba, Dimorphandra, and palms. Found in Venezuela–Monagas and Sucre.
NT 171, Trinidad and Tobago moist forests. Typical trees are in the genera Carapa, Ceiba, Spondia, and Mora. This ecoregion is adjacent to South America and the islands are on the South American continental shelf. The species reflect the ecology of South America, and there are fewer endemics than other islands in the Caribbean.
NT 179, Windward Islands moist forests. Typical tree genera are Dacryodes, Sloanea, and Amanoa. Found on Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada. Endemic parrots are found on Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.
Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests
NT 220, Leeward Islands dry forests. Typical tree genera are Lantana, Gliricidia, Tamarind, Tabeduia, Begonia, Byrcia, Imrayana, and Aristida. There are many endemic plant genera. This ecoregion covers St. Eustatius, Barbuda, interior Montserrat, and coastal Anguilla and Antigua.
NT 231, Trinidad and Tobago dry forests. Typical trees are gumbo-limbo, saltfishwoods, tamarind, guavas, and yellow povi with cactus, agave, and bromeliads in understory. Found in northwestern Trinidad and offshore islands and northeast Tobago. Also Patos Island, Venezuela.
NT 234, Windward Islands dry forests. Forests of Didymopinax and Charianthus. Found in Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Carriacou, and Grenada.
Flooded Grasslands and Savannas
NT 906, Orinoco wetlands. Flooded grasslands and scattered palms in a matrix of swamp forests, mangroves and llanos. Found in Venezuela—Sucre.
Deserts and Xeric Shrublands
NT 1301, Araya and Paria xeric scrub. Mosaics of cactus, thorn scrub, and bamboo. Thorn scrub consists of mesquite, legumes, and tree cactus. Halophytic coastal herbs, thorn scrub, and low elevation deciduous forests are also included. Found in Venezuela—Federal Dependencies, Nueva Esparta and Sucre.
NT 1309, La Costa xeric shrublands. Sparse dry desert scrub of mesquite, acacia, and cactus in northeast Venezuela. Found in Venezuela—Monagas and Sucre.
NT 1310, Leeward Islands xeric scrub. Vegetation of cactuses, Acacia, Bursera, and Prosopis. Includes most of Anguilla, St. Martin, Saba, St. Barthelemy, Antigua, Grande Terre, and Marie-Galante as well as lower elevations on the volcanic islands of the Leeward Islands.
NT 1317, Windward Islands xeric scrub. Consists of cactus and other succulent, spiny shrubs on the west coast of the larger islands. All of Barbados, coastal Trinidad, Grenada, St. Lucia, Martinique, and Dominica and lower elevations on the other Windward Islands.
NT 1411, Guianan mangroves. The largest and most diverse incidence of mangroves in Venezuela, with mangrove trees to 130 feet. Nesting area for scarlet ibis. Found in the Gulf of Paria margins in Delta Amacuro, Monagas, and Sucre.
NT 1416, Lesser Antilles mangroves. Found associated with Pterocarpus swamp forests at river mouths. The largest mangrove areas are in Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, but found from Sombrero south to Grenada. West Indian manatees are found on St. Kitts and Nevis.
NT 1436, Trinidad mangroves. Found at 35 sites on Trinidad, 10 on Tobago, and two on Chacachacare Island.
Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW) (Spalding et al., 2007)
Tropical Atlantic Realm, Tropical Northwestern Atlantic Province
64. Eastern Caribbean. Includes the Leeward and Windward Islands and Barbados
66. Southern Caribbean. Includes the continental shelf of South America from Trinidad west.
Tropical Atlantic Realm, North Brazil Shelf Province
71. Guianan. Includes areas south of Trinidad and Gulf of Paria.
Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (Abel et al., 2008)
Central America Region
216. Windward and Leeward Islands.
South America Region
304. South America Caribbean Drainages. Includes Trinidad.
309. Orinoco Delta and Coastal Drainages.
World Heritage Sites
Morne Trois Pitons National Park, south central Dominica. Endemic species in luxurient tropical forest, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, a boiling lake, 5 volcanoes, and 50 fumaroles. Chataignier trees in lowlands and elfin woodlands at higher elevations. Trails to Valley of Desolation and Boiling Lake, waterfalls and summits (Riley and Riley, 2005). Ecoregion 179.
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, St. Kitts. A well-preserved 17th and 18th century military installation is representative of European colonial expansion, African slave trade,a nd the emergence of new societies in the Caribbean. Ecoregion 1310.
Pitons Management Area, St. Lucia. Two volcanic spires rising side-by-side from the sea, a geothermal complex, and coral reefs. Ecoregion 234.
Ramsar Sites (wetlands of international importance)
Caroni Swamp, Trinidad. Scarlet ibis and oilbirds. Ecoregion 1436.
Codrington Lagoon, Barbuda. Ecoregion 1416.
Etang des Salines, Martinique. Ecoregion 1317.
Buccoo Reef, Tobago. Ecoregion MEOW 64.
Graeme Hall Swamp, Barbados. Ecoregion 1317.
Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin, Guadeloupe. Ecoregion 1310.
Mankota Mangroves, St. Lucia. Ecoregion 1416.
Nariva Swamp, Trinidad. Red-bellied macaws, savanna hawks, and howler monkeys. Ecoregion 1436.
Savannes Bay, St. Lucia. Ecoregion 1416.
Other places and items of interest:
Asa Wright Nature Center, Trinidad. Toucans, cuckoos, coquettes, and hummingbirds on 700 acres at elevation 1200 feet in the northern rainforest. Ecoregion 171.
Aves (Bird) Island Refuge, Venezuela. A rocky beach and sandy island covered by Sesuvium and Portulaca, a breeding ground for sooty tern and brown noddy. Ecoregion 1310.
Barbuda bird sanctuary. Magnificant Frigatebirds, salt ponds, and caves with petroglyphs. Ecoregions 220 and 1310.
Basse-Terre National Park, Guadeloupe. The largest wing of the “butterfly” that outlines Guadeloupe, the island of Basse-Terre contains an active volcano, the tallest mountain in the Lesser Antilles at 4813 feet; rainforests, and waterfalls. Ecoregions 134 and 1310.
Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Serene island with working, 250-year old plantation. Ecoregion 1317.
Cabrits National Park, Dominica. Dry forests and coastal wetlands. Ecoregion 1317.
Cap Juluca, Anguilla. Ecoregions 220 and 1310. A blufftop hotel and resort area.
Carriacou Island, Grenada. Called the land of reefs, noted for world class snorkeling and beaches. Ecoregion 234.
Cerro el Copey National Park, Nuevo Esparta, Margarita Island, Venezuela. Ecoregion 1301.
Chacopata Wetlands. A coastal bay and mangroves, home of Caribbean flamingo and Pelecanus, Sucre, Araya Peninsula, Venezuela. Ecoregion 1411.
Chaguaramas National Park. Preserves Trinidad and Tobago dry forest in the offshore islands of northwest Trinidad and the peninsula of Trinidad. Ecoregion NT 231.
Curtain Bluff, Antigua. Home of annual yacht regatta in April. Ecoregion 1310.
Eden Rock, St. Barthelemy. Castle-like landmark jutting out from the beach. Ecoregion 1310.
Gratton Wildlife Sanctuary, Tobago. Blue-crowned mot-mots. Ecoregion 171
Guacharo Cave National Park, Monagas, Venezuela. Ecoregion 117. Home of 18,000 oilbirds nesting in largest cave in South America.
Golden Lemon, St. Kitts. Hotel beneath the 3,800 foot volcanic Mount Liamuiga. Ecoregions 134 and 1310.
Grenada Island, Grenada. Known as the “Isle of Spice,” rainforests contain more than a dozen waterfalls, including Royal Mount Carmel, Concord, Seven Sisters, and Honeymoon falls. Ecoregion 179.
Gustavia Harbour, St. Barthelemy. Sheltered harbor on mountainous island. Ecoregion 1310.
Habitation Lagrange, Martinique. Hotel on working banana plantation. Ecoregion 179.
K-Club, Barbuda. Beach hotel on island with no paved roads. Ecoregion 1310.
Kick-em-Jenny, Grenada. A submarine volcano. Ecoregion MEOW 64.
Little Tobago Island. Tropicbirds. Ecoregion 231.
Marie Galante, Guadeloupe. Plantations, windmills and oxcarts on rustic island. Ecoregion 1310.
Marites Lagoon, Nueva Esparta, Margarita Island, Venezuela. Coastal arid shrublands and mangroves. Ecoregions 1301 and 1411.
Morne Diablotin National Park, Dominica. Imperial parrots. Ecoregion 179.
Mount Pelee, Martinique. Active volcano with magnificent tropical rainforest. Ecoregion 179, 234, and 1317.
Mustique, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The private island has 100 villas for rent and two hotels. The rolling hills are crisscrossed with nature trails. Ecoregions 234 and 1317.
Pinney’s Beach, Nevis, St. Kitts and Nevis. A reef protected beach under a dormant volcano.
Northern Range Sanctuary Forest, Trinidad. Golden tree frogs. Ecoregion 171.
Paria Peninsula National Park, Sucre, Venezuela. Ecoregions 1301 and 117.
Petit St. Vincent, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Privately owned resort island covering 113 acres. Ecoregion 1317.
Pitch Lake, Trinidad. Petroleum seep in southwestern Trinidad. Ecoregion 171.
Rawlins Plantation, St. Kitts. Hotel, restaurant, and gardens on site of old sugar works. Ecoregion 1310.
Redonda, Antigua and Barbuda. An uninhabited rock rises 1,000 feet out of the water. Ecoregion 220.
Saba National Marine Park, Netherlands Antilles. Ecoregions 134 and 1310. Hike to 3000’ Mount Scenery or dive in marine park with coral reefs that surrounds the island.
St. George’s Harbour and Grand Anse Beach, Grenada. The horseshoe-shaped port is the crater is an ancient volcano.Ecoregion 1307.
Isle des Saintes, Guadeloupe. Winding trails and pastel cottages. Ecoregion 1310.
La Samanna, St. Martin. Resort on Baie Longue Beach. Ecoregion 1310.
Sandy Lane, Barbados. Resort with 320 acres of gardens. Ecoregion 1317.
Scotts Head/Soufriere Bay Marine Reserve, Dominica. Marine ecoregion 64.
Shoal Bay and Gorgeous Scilly Bay, Anguilla. Beach and nearby island noted for marine life. Ecoregion 1310.
Soufriere Hills, Montserrat. A series of lava domes in the southern half of Montserrat. The active volcano can be viewed from a small safe zone. Ecoregions 120, 220, 1310.
Speyside, Tobago. Site of diving for monster manta rays. Ecoregion MEOW 66.
Tobago Cays National Marine Park, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This cluster of five islands near Union Island are enclosed within a horseshoe-shaped coral reef. Ecoregion 1317.
Tobago Forest Reserve. 123 butterfly species. Ecoregion 171.
Turuepano National Park, Monagas and Sucre, Venezuela. Located in the Orinoco Delta, home of mangroves and grasslands with waterfowl, parrots, and manatees. Ecoregions 174, 906, and 1411.
Abell, Robin and 27 others. 2008. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Biogeographic Units for Freshwater Biodiversity Conservation. Bioscience 58:403-414.
Beare, Emma, ed. 2006. 501 Must-Visit Destinations. Bounty Books.
Beare, Emma, ed. 2007. 501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders. Bounty Books.
BirdLife International. 2008. BirdLife’s Online World Bird Database. Accessed 29/12/2008 at http://www.birdlife.org/
Box, Ben. 2008. Footprint South American Handbook.
Olson et al., 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:933-938. WildWorld map: www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld
Riley, Laura and William. 2005. Nature’s Strongholds. Princeton University Press.
Schultz, Patricia. 2003. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company.
Spalding, Mark D. and 14 others. 2007. Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. Bioscience 57:573-583.
Williams, A.R. Trinidad and Tobago. National Geographic, March 1994, pp. 66-89.
World Heritage List, whc.unesco.org/en/list.