The Saint-Martin National Nature Reserve protects the environment of the northeastern coast, which provides habitat to many species. The reserve comprises rocky coasts, cliffs and beaches while the offshore area is composed of marine flowering plants and many coral formations.
Saint-Martin National Nature Reserve
The Saint-Martin National Nature Reserve is located in the northeastern part of the island of Saint Martin (French portion) and covers 3,060 ha (7,561 acres). The largest part of the reserve is offshore, covering over 2,900 ha (7,166 acres).
The onshore part of the reserve comprises rocky coasts, cliffs and beaches which are home to many species of seabirds. These include Northern Gannets, frigate birds, brown pelicans as well as a large number of herons which nest in the mangroves.
The variety of flora within the reserve include cactus, bougainvillea, hibiscus, croton, paradise flower, poinsettia and alpinia. Mammals found here include racoon and mongoose, which feed on crabs, eggs and small fish living in the mangroves as well as in the many coral heads along the coast.
The mangroves are dominated by the Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) which can be found in the salt ponds. Ponds and mangroves are highly productive biological systems that provide a safe haven for young crustaceans and fish. They also provide food and shelter for many species of birds.
Sea turtles (Caretta caretta, Eretmochelys imbricata and Dermochelys coriacea) also come ashore onto the large beaches and islets of the east coast to nest and lay their eggs.
The offshore area of the Saint-Martin National Nature Reserve is composed of marine flowering plants and many coral formations. These dense shrub-like trees, like the coral reefs, provide shelter for many species of invertebrates and molluscs (starfish, sea urchins, lobsters, slipper lobsters and conches) as well as many fish species (coffer-fish, grouper, surgeon fish, parrot-fish, tarpon, barracuda and angelfish).
From January to May, the offshore zone of the reserve is a gathering area for humpback whales, which are particularly fond of the shallow waters in the mating season. Large dolphins are found a bit further out in the offshore areas as well.
The aim of the Saint-Martin National Nature Reserve is to preserve the ecosystems and natural biodiversity of the plant and marine life on the island.