Important Bird Areas of the Caribbean - St. Maarten

St Maarten’s IBAs—the country’s international site priorities for bird conservation—cover 815 ha (including marine areas), and about c.36% of the country’s land area. Of the five IBAs, Pelikan Rock (AN005) is protected within the St Maarten Marine Park, and Fort Amsterdam (AN004) is protected as a historical site. The IBAs have been identified on the basis of eight key bird species (listed in Table 1) that variously trigger the IBA criteria. They are centred on wetland and marine sites being primarily significant for their populations four congregatory waterbird and seabird species (including the Near Threatened Caribbean Coot Fulica caribeae. However, shrublands in three IBAs support populations of the four restricted-range species known to occur in the country. With further targeted field research, three additional restrictedrange birds that occur in the montane forest across the border in St Martin would be expected to be found in the semievergreen forest remnants on the St Maarten side. Such a discovery could warrant the identification of an additional IBA for these forest dependent species.

The wetland IBAs of Little Bay Pond, Fresh Pond and Great Salt Pond all face similar, multiple threats such as land reclamation for development, inappropriate development, use for landfill, pollution and contamination from runoff and sewage, inappropriate water management (e.g. maintaining water levels by pumping in sea water), alien invasive predators and disturbance. The Nature Foundation of St Maarten and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) have variously planted mangroves, constructed bird observation towers and installed educational signage at Little Bay Pond and Fresh Pond IBAs, but it is clear that enforced legislation is critical if the biological integrity of these wetlands is to be maintained in the long term.

The protection afforded Fort Amsterdam (Historical Site) and Pelikan Rock (Marine Park) IBAs appears to be preventing site-based threats although factors outside of these areas are having negative impacts such as disturbance to the mainland pelican nesting colony from jet skis, dive boats, and parasail boats. Over-fishing, oil spills, and plastics entanglement are constant threats to the marine-based seabirds and waterbirds. The regular monitoring of the waterbirds at St Maarten’s IBAs (e.g. as has been undertaken by EPIC) and the monitoring of the other key bird species should be used to inform the assessment of state, pressure and response variables at each IBA in order to provide objective status assessments and inform management decisions (should the necessary legislation be enacted) that might be required to maintain these internationally important biodiversity sites.

Retrieved from Birdlife International

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