Nature of the Dutch Caribbean islands is rich and diverse making the islands the ‘hotspot’ for biodiversity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch Caribbean is renown for its diversity of habitats and ecosystems ranging from semi-desert to lush tropical rainforest on land and from rocky shore to coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangrove forests in the water.
Our ecosystems provide critical ecological function and economic value. They are foraging, breeding, nesting and migratory stopover grounds for thousands of species such as sea turtles, flamingoes and humpback whales. These ecosystems provide clean water, coastal protection and are directly connected to the nature tourism that our islands so highly depend upon.
Mangrove forests, coral reefs and seagrass beds are considered globally endangered. The islands’ healthy tacts of these three ecosystems are therefore not only important at the local level but are also significant regionally and globally.
Coral reefs of Bonaire, Curaçao and Saba are among the most diverse and healthiest in the Caribbean according to the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has included Bonaire’s in its list of international significant coral reefs.
St. Maarten is one of the few islands in the mostly dry region of the eastern Caribbean containing expansive wetlands, making it critical habitat for transient, over-wintering, and resident waterbird species.
Saba’s ‘Cloud Forest’ is exceptional and completely unique. Its canopy reaches up to 15m in height, more than double the usual height of cloud forest found elsewhere in the Caribbean. Tree branches are covered with mosses, orchids and other epiphytes.
The Saba Bank, a submerged coral reef atoll, is the largest actively growing atoll in the Caribbean and possibly the third largest atoll in the world. The Bank supports local fishermen and contains some of the richest diversity of marine life ever found in the Caribbean. As of October 2010, 2,679 km² surrounding the Saba Bank is designated as a protected area, making it the fifth largest in the Wider Caribbean.
Aruba’s expansive white sandy beaches are not only a major tourist draw, but also provide nesting habitat for the critical endangered leatherback sea turtle. The reef islands off Aruba’s coast are critical breeding and roosting habitat for nine different tern species.