Application Form for Area of Importance for Bat Conservation (AICOM) Kleine Bonaire
Located in the South Caribbean xeric region, approximately 800 m from the Island of Bonaire, Klein Bonaire is a small flat island (maximum elevation 7 m a.s.l.) with a surface of 690 ha of limestone of coral reef origin and an estimated age of 30.000 to 40.000 years. Free of herbivorous exotic species since the 1980s, it presents a dry thorny forest dominated in the central area by columnar cacti of two species, Stenocereus griseus, and Cereus repandus. These cacti have high production of flowers and fruit, suggesting high foraging activity of the two nectar-feeding bats that live on Bonaire Island, Glossophaga longirostris, and Leptonycteris curasoae. Ecological interactions established between these bats and the cacti (pollination and seed dispersal) are essential for the maintenance of the dry ecosystems present on Bonaire. In addition, the bat pollinated tree Crescenta cujete is also a common species in the plant community. Other species on the island use its fruits. Because of the short distance that separates Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, the second is an important source of food resources for L. curasoae, known to fly over seawater. As natural habitats of Bonaire, including protected areas, undergo a degradation process due to the negative impact of exotic herbivore mammals (goats, sheep, donkeys, and pigs) and the land suffers a fragmentation process due to touristic and urban developments, the importance of Klein Bonaire as food reservoir for fruit bats increases. This island is free of exotic herbivores, and the construction of any type of residential structure is forbidden. Despite being already considered a protected area locally and internationally, its designation as AICOM is important for several reasons: a) it will help enforce future management plans for the island in favor of its wildlife, b) it will influence the approval of future environmental projects on the island (e.g., reforestation, research, recreational activities), c) it will enforce the need to protect the island, d) it will facilitate its designation as a KBA (Key Biodiversity Area) and, e) it will complement the current system of AICOMs and SICOMs recognized for the ABCs.