During the week of March 19th, conservation practitioners, key experts and members of the government from Bonaire, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba and Curacao met to discuss biodiversity monitoring. The meeting convened over the course of two days and participants addressed challenges facing their strategy to monitor the biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean’s ecosystems. At the heart of the discussion was a proposed biodiversity monitoring program that would target habitats and priority species living inside and out of the protected areas of all six islands.
This plan would also assess the impact of threats to biodiversity such as the nefarious lionfish, and other degrading factors on the natural wildlife on and around the islands. An overall strategy for monitoring biodiversity in the Dutch Caribbean islands will create a coordinated perspective on the health of the islands in concert with each other. The managers from each park and conservation organization will have access to a database of information that will provide a greater understanding of how priority species are being affected on their own islands as well as in the region. This broad knowledge will make it easier for managers to prioritize their conservation strategies and adapt to meet new challenges. Based on feedback from the meeting, a small committee was formed by the participants to revise, finalize and distribute a new version of the proposed plan, which includes monitoring templates for each priority species and ecosystem in the Dutch Caribbean.
Protection of the natural resources on all of the islands is not only important for tourists and locals to enjoy; globally endangered ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves, cloud forests and seagrass are highly valued in the Dutch Caribbean and play an important role in the world’s economy. These ecosystems are home to many of the islands’ priority species, as well as previously undiscovered species of life, and need to be carefully monitored in order to implement the best practices for conservation.
Although the nature parks in the Dutch Caribbean are highly regarded by the international community for their excellent management of protected environments, a collaborative effort between local and national government and all six of the islands’ conservation organizations will be necessary to address the threats we face today. The proposed biodiversity monitoring program will strengthen the capacity for collaboration and communication between the parks, conservation organizations and the government, furthering the impact of conservation efforts in the Dutch Caribbean.