The Leeward Islands xeric scrub ecoregion covers the dry non-forested areas of the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean. The ecoregion is present mainly on the low elevations of the peripheries of the islands.
Leeward Islands Xeric Scrub
The Leeward Islands xeric scrub ecoregion covers the dry non-forested areas of the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean. The ecoregion is present mainly on the low elevations of the peripheries of the islands.
Non-forested lower elevations in the region receive less rainfall, are typically semi-arid, and are generally home to low shrubs or small woody plants.
Leeward Islands refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, stretching from the Virgin Islands in the north to Guadeloupe in the south. Starting with Dominica, the more southerly part of this chain is the Windward Islands.
Though there are smaller islands in the region as well, the larger island groups that contain xeric scrub that make up this ecoregion include:
US Virgin Islands - eastern parts of the islands
British Virgin Islands - eastern parts of the islands
Saint Kitts and Nevis - low-lying coastal areas
Antigua and Barbuda - northern Antigua and all of Barbuda
Montserrat - low-lying coastal areas
Guadeloupe - a small portion of Basse Terre, the western island, and most of Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the smaller islands
Flora and Fauna
The Leeward Islands xeric scrub ecoregion features floral communities that range from plants that grow on the sandy ground above the high-tide line of the beach, shrubland of small woody plants, savannas of mixed woodland and grasslands, and coastal woodlands which serve as transitional areas on the forest's edge.
Plant communities in this ecoregion are often associated with the former agricultural use of the land:
Former cotton or sugar cane fields often contain species such as gum arabic tree (Acacia nilotica), (Acacia lutea), twisted acacia (Acacia tortuosa), or sweet acacia (Vachellia farnesiana).
Areas associated with charcoal production now feature Bursera and Pisonia fragrans.
Savanna areas feature acacias, (Prosopis chilensis), and common guava (Psidium guajava).
The two most significant threats for all the islands within the ecoregion are habitat loss and introduced species.
Map depicting the location of the Leeward Islands xeric scrub (islands inside the dashed blue box)