Northeast Tobago Biosphere Reserve (Trinidad and Tobago)

Northeast Tobago Biosphere Reserve (Trinidad and Tobago)

Wed, 02/10/2021 - 12:32
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The Northeast Tobago Biosphere Reserve is located within the northeast region of the island of Tobago, made up of a large marine and terrestrial area. The reserve presents a rare Caribbean Island Ridge-to-Ocean ecosystem that includes the world's oldest tropical rain forest reserve.

Northeast Tobago Biosphere Reserve

The Northeast Tobago Biosphere Reserve is situated in the southeast Caribbean Sea in Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost island country in the Caribbean. The reserve is located within the northeast region of the island of Tobago, made up of a large marine and terrestrial area.

The reserve presents a rare, largely intact, Caribbean Island Ridge-to-Ocean ecosystem that includes the world's oldest tropical rain forest reserve, the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, established in 1776. It also hosts a significant proportion of Tobago’s coral reefs, including those at Man-o-war Bay and Speyside.

The Northeast Tobago Biosphere Reserve is now the largest Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) site in the English speaking Caribbean Small Island Developing States; the only larger UNESCO Biosphere reserve in the Caribbean is located in the French territory of Guadeloupe.

The total surface area of the Biosphere Reserve is 83,488 ha (206,303 acres) of which 15,104 ha (37,323 acres) is terrestrial and 68,384 ha (168,980 acres) is marine. The surface area is broken down into zones as follows:

  • Core area(s): 3,938 ha (9,731 acres)
  • Buffer zone(s): 73,000 ha (180,387 acres)
  • Transition zone(s): 6,550 ha (16,185 acres)

The marine protected area encompasses several large coral reef formations, Little Tobago Island, Goat Island, St. Giles Islands and numerous Rocks, such as the Sisters and Brothers Rocks. Bays that are within this site include King’s Bay, Tyrrel’s Bay, Man-of-War Bay and Bloody Bay.

The coral systems protected by the Biosphere Reserve host a diverse ecosystem with representation from several globally threatened species including Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis), Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), brain corals (Montastraea sp.) and Hawks-billed turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).

Biology

Overall, 1,774 species have been recorded in its 19 habitat types and it is home to globally unique and endangered plants and animals including 83 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List species and 41 endemic species.

The bird life found here is uniquely distinct. Two species of avifuana stand out in this region: the charismatic Trinidad Motmot (Momotus bahamensis) and the and the less conspicuous Tobago greenlet (Hylophilus insularis). Both of these species are endemic.

The offshore islands are critical for avian biodiversity, serving as important regional breeding habitats for seabird species such as: Audubon's shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri), Red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus), Brown booby (Sula leucogaster), Red-footed booby (S. sula), Magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens), Sooty tern (Sterna fuscata) and Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus).

However the highest faunal endemism is found among the herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) which include three snakes, one lizard and four frogs. This reserve is home to one of the last remnants of a dry tropical forest in the Carribean.

Local Inhabitants

The area of the reserve also contains 15 communities with a rich historical and cultural heritage in northeast Tobago. The communities are home to approximately 10,000 residents.

By joining the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the communities aim to revitalize cultural and spiritual bonds between people and nature and boost the preservation of this fragile natural landscape.