Purchasing and protecting key forest sites in the Americas

Broad billed tody. Photo: Ron Knight; WikiMedia

Sites of high biodiversity value in Latin America and the Caribbean are often divided into small, privately owned parcels, and land purchase has proved an effective way of conserving species and habitats, and the ecosystem services these provide.

BirdLife Partners in the Americas have identified priority areas for land purchase, including the Bahoruco–Jaragua corridor in dry forest of the Dominican Republic. By the end of 2012, with support from the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, 17 hectares of excellent natural forest had been purchased in the Bahoruco-Jaragua corridor, with another 44 hectares close to completion. BirdLife Affiliate Grupo Jaragua are negotiating with the owners of forest adjacent to these properties, and expect to reach their target of 168 hectares. 

Sierra de Bahoruco National Park is part of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo (JBE) Biosphere Reserve. An Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), it supports most of Hispaniola’s restricted-range species, and offers vital wintering habitat for migratory birds from North America. Endemic wildlife includes the Endangered Hispaniolan Solenodon Solenodon paradoxus  and the Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana Cyclura cornuta. The IBA also provides ecosystem services to local communities, including food, water and protection from landslides. 

But the National Park is situated in one of the poorest regions of the Dominican Republic, and pressure on forest resources is becoming unsustainable. Although it has legal protection, resources for enforcement are limited. 

Grupo Jaragua have been active at Sierra de Bahoruco for many years, and have made considerable progress in securing the long-term protection of the JBE Biosphere Reserve, for example by strengthening the network of Local Conservation Groups (LCGs).  Now local people are being empowered to help the statutory enforcement authorities protect Sierra de Bahoruco and address threats to its biodiversity. Members of LCGs will be given training in biodiversity monitoring, data gathering and reporting, and two demonstration agroforestry plots will be established to promote alternative livelihoods. 

Ecosystem services provided by Sierra de Bahoruco will be assessed to strengthen the case for increased protection, using a robust but practical toolkit developed within the BirdLife Partnership. At a regional level, the work will contribute to the Caribbean

Biological Corridor project, which seeks to stem further destruction of the environment, secure the sustainable use of biological diversity in the region, and develop an action framework to address climate change adaptation, poverty alleviation and sustainable ecosystem management.