Protecting Caribbean nature

Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) (photo: Mark Vermeij)

Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) (photo: Mark Vermeij)

From the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, 9 March 2013:

The government of the Netherlands has designated four new coastal and near-coastal Wetlands of International Importance on the Netherlands Antilles island of Curaçao. One of the new so called ‘Ramsar Sites’ is Rif-Sint Marie, a conservation area and an important bird area of 667 ha.

Rif-Sint Marie

The area of Rif-Sint Marie is relatively undisturbed and undeveloped and comprises a salt marsh surrounded by mud flats, shrub land, and forests. The marsh is a strategic feeding habitat for flamingos and several waterbirds. The coral reef of Rif-Sint Marie is well developed and shelters several threatened coral species such as elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), as well as endangered turtle species as leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea; NL: lederschildpad) and hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata, NL: karetschildpad) and threatened fishes like Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara, NL: itajara*).

Dense thickets of elkhorn coral sustain major ecological processes such as gross community calcification and nitrogen fixation; dense populations of this branching species dissipate wave energy and thus protect the coast. The area is currently used for recreational purposes like hiking, biking and guided eco-tours. The major threats to the site are uncontrolled access of visitors with dogs disturbing flamingos and potentially unwise development of touristic infrastructures in the surrounding area.

*The itajara is a fish of the Serranidae family

Text: Nathaniel Miller, DCNA

5 thoughts on “Protecting Caribbean nature

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