Indicators on the status and trends of ecosystems in the Dutch Caribbean

The Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba, St.Eustatius, Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The islands have a rich biological diversity and a variety of globally threatened ecosystems. These ecosystems are important for their services such as the production of food, coastal protection, tourism attraction, erosion control, medicine, carbon sequestration and climate change resilience, water and air purification and/or retention, and non-material benefits such as heritage and recreational experiences. Robust monitoring indicators are needed to assess ecosystem health in relation to environmental change and socio-economic stressors and exploitation.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has ratified international treaties and conventions, signed regional agreements and implemented national law for the protection of nature and biodiversity in the Dutch Caribbean. These treaties call for reporting on status and trends of biodiversity.
Currently considerable effort is being invested in collecting baseline data and local monitoring to support local policy on and management of nature and biodiversity. These activities partially overlap with the demands of treaty reporting requests, but do not provide all the data necessary to satisfy the needs of either the reporting obligations or the local policy and management needs. The main issues are that:
• Existing monitoring programmes on the islands do not cover all required biodiversity and nature topics;
• Several existing monitoring programmes are based on methods that cannot be used to generate the indicators required.
This report concludes that monitoring all the separate species identified would require considerable resources. Monitoring in the Dutch Caribbean cannot be compared to the Netherlands which has a long history of monitoring the natural environment and many periodic reviews of the efficacy of monitoring techniques. Holistic monitoring of ecosystems using key indicators is a good alternative to detailed monitoring as the ecosystem health implicitly considers all dependent species. However, some additional species monitoring is necessary of keystone species, endangered species, commercially important species and invasive species.
It is recommended to :

  • Keep supporting the foolowing current activities: Maintain existing monitoring on: turtle nests, coral, cover, shark and ray densities, flamingo counts, yellow-shouldered amazon roost counts and terns. Adjust the existing monitoring for: fish densities and population structure, bird species richness, red billed tropic bird, Lesser Antillean Iguana;
  • Set up ecosystem/habitat monitoring;
  • Set up vegetation monitoring;
  • Link forest and migratory bird monitoring to vegetation monitoring;
  • Link bird of prey monitoring to flamingo monitoring on Bonaire;
  • Collect data on pressures and abiotic conditions from other sources ;
  • Stimulate the use of volunteers for monitoring

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