The Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve and related national parks are characterized by great biological diversity. The delta includes large areas of permanent wetlands as well as seasonally flooded freshwater swamp forests which provide habitat for a number of endangered and endemic species.
Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve
The Delta del Orinoco Biosphere Reserve, designated in 2009, is located located within the Venezuelan state of Delta Amacura and represents about one-third of the state's total area. The region has geopolitical importance in that 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 areas, the buffer area and the 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 offers protection to 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, whose sediments deposited substantially by the Orinoco River main flow and in a lesser degree by geomorphologic units surrounding it, including San Juan River flows and other currents draining from the plains of La Mesa.
The delta is embedded in a mosaic of mangroves, swamp forest, moist forest, plains and 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 as well as 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.
A great biological diversity characterizes the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Delta del Orinoco. These ecosystems comprise a variable vegetation with more than 2,000 plants and rich terrestrial and aquatic fauna.
More than 151 mammals species, 464 bird species, 76 reptiles, 39 amphibians and 210 ichthyology species are found here. In addition, a considerable number of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates inhabit this territory.
Among its vegetation, dominant species are Machaerium lunatum and Motrichardia arborescens, also Ludwigia spp, Mikania congesta and bignoniaceas climbers. Likewise, floating prairies appear to be formed mainly by the species Eichhornia crassipes y E. azure.
In terms of 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 source for local consumption like molluscs 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 of the indigenous Warao settlements are located in the eastern delta, comprising most of the population of the sector (approximately 20,000 Warao inhabitants). Primary use of this territory is fishing, hunting, harvesting of forestry produce and others that serve as base for handicraft manufacture and agriculture.