The Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve and related national parks are characterized by great biological diversity. The delta includes large areas of permanent wetlands and seasonally flooded freshwater swamp forests, providing habitat for several endangered and endemic species.
Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve
The Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve, designated in 2009, is located within Delta Amacura state in northeastern Venezuela and represents about one-third of the state's total area. The region has geopolitical importance because it provides access to the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve encompasses 1,125,000 ha (2,780,000 acres), including the protected, buffer, and transition areas. It is the largest protected area within the delta region.
Three National Parks within the Orinoco delta region, all created in 1991, include:
Delta del Orinoco National Park: covers an area of 331,000 ha (818,000 acres).
Turuïpano National Park: protects portions of the northern extent of this region and covers 72,600 ha (179,400 acres).
Mariusa National Park: covers 265,000 ha (655,000 acres) along the northern coastal delta and protects some of the smaller outliers of this ecoregion, especially along the Maracao River.
The Orinoco Delta is a highly dynamic and complex fluvial-marine sedimentary basin formed in the Holocene. Its sediments are deposited substantially by the Orinoco River main flow and, to a lesser degree, by geomorphologic units surrounding it, including the San Juan River, flows and other currents draining from the plains of La Mesa.
The delta is embedded in a mosaic of mangroves, swamp forests, moist forests, plains, and an aquatic ecosystem of shallow waters. A series of fluvial channels and tide channels, the last one in the coastal plain, divide the vegetation.
The Orinoco Delta Swamp Forests and the Orinoco Wetlands (flooded grassland) occur in a diverse and porous matrix of coastal vegetation types along the river delta and surrounding regions of northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Guyana.
Flora and Fauna
A tremendous biological diversity characterizes the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Delta del Orinoco. These ecosystems comprise variable vegetation with over 2,000 plants and rich terrestrial and marine fauna.
More than 151 mammal species, 464 bird species, 76 reptiles, 39 amphibians and 210 ichthyology species are found here. In addition, many terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates inhabit this territory.
Among its vegetation, the dominant species are Machaerium lunatum and Motrichardia arborescens, Ludwigia spp, Mikania congesta and bignoniaceas climbers. Likewise, floating prairies appear to be formed mainly by Eichhornia crassipes y E. azure.
Regarding fauna, the Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve is home to valuable vertebrates and invertebrates of taxonomic value, the latter represented by numerous groups that are important sources for local consumption like mollusks represented by Crassostrea virginica (oyster), Melongena melongena and Pomacea ursus (guarura).
Several crustaceans represented by shrimps and crabs, such as Macrobrachium carcinus, Macrobrachium surinamicum, Macrobrachium amazonicum, Litopenaeus schmitti (white shrimp) and Xiphopenaeus kroyeri (titi shrimp).
Besides common species in the region, like the Carina moschata, the Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve is also home to various endemic species, such as Dasyprocta guamara, Picummus nigropunctatus, Dendrocincla fuliginosa deltana and Anolis deltae.
Most indigenous Warao settlements are located in the eastern delta, comprising most of the sector's population (approximately 20,000 Warao inhabitants). The primary use of this territory is fishing, hunting, and harvesting forestry products and others that serve as bases for handicraft manufacture and agriculture.