Forests of Hope site - Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic
Site name: Sierra de Bahoruco
Country: Dominican Republic
Location: Provinces of Pedernales, Independencia and Barahona.
Site area: 130,000 ha
Partner: Grupo Jaragua - www.grupojaragua.org.do/
Values of site
The Sierra de Bahoruco Important Bird and Biodiversity Area is one of the richest tropical highland ecosystems on the island of Hispaniola. The area is recognised as globally important from an ecological perspective and in 2002 Sierra de Bahoruco National Park was included as one of three key zones in the UNESCO Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve. It connects to a key biodiversity area in Haiti (Massif de la Selle mountain range), creating a transnational ecological corridor.
Threatened species at the IBA include Hispaniolan Solenodon Solenodon paradoxus, Hispaniolan Hutia Plagiodontia aedium and Minor Red Bat Lasiurus minor. Many Eleutherodactylus frogs also inhabit the area. Threatened reptiles include the Rhinoceros iguana Cyclura cornuta. For birds, the site’s importance is also exceptional: with 32 of the 34 restricted-range species of the Hispaniola Endemic Bird Area present. It also supports Endangered birds such as the Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, Bay-breasted Cuckoo Coccyzus rufigularis, La Selle Thrush Turdus swalesi and the largest known population of Hispaniolan Crossbill Loxia megaplaga. The IBA provides vital wintering habitat for 21 migratory species including the Vulnerable Bicknell’s Thrush Catharus bicknelli. Other threatened birds include the Hispaniolan Parakeet Aratinga chloroptera, Hispaniolan Amazon Amazona ventralis, White-necked Crow Corvus leucognaphalus, Golden Swallow Tachycineta euchrysea, White-winged Warbler Xenoligea montana and the Chat Tanager Calyptophilus frugivorus.
In terms of flora, 1,410 species have been recorded to date, in the Sierra de Bahoruco. 52% of the orchid species found in the country are represented in the Sierra de Bahoruco, 10% of which are endemic to the Sierra de Bahoruco.
The Sierra de Bahoruco IBA lies in one of the poorest regions of the country and the surrounding local populations depend heavily on forest resources in the area. Indeed, Grupo Jaragua works extensively with the local communities in most of the project they are implementing. In particular, the Sierra de Bahoruco provides important ecosystem services to surrounding populations such as the provision of food, water and non-timber forest products. Water catchments in the region carry water to Lago Enriquillo and Pedernales. The forest also protects lowland areas against landslides.
Key threats to the site include:
- Subsistence and commercial agriculture
- Charcoal production
- Forest fires
- Illegal immigration
- Introduced animals including feral dogs, cats, pigs and goats, together with mongooses, rats and mice.
- Species hunting and collection. e.g. parrot chicks
- Mining (concessions for bauxite and limestone mining)
If these activities continue, the forest will soon be highly fragmented and degraded. This will diminish the integrity of the ecological corridor in this region and further threaten the species which it supports.
Historical conservation approach
The site includes two Protected Areas: Sierra de Bahoruco National Park and Loma Charco Azul Biological Reserve. A Management Plan has already been created for the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park. However, lack of government funding for its implementation and insufficient political will to assign necessary resources to the area have constrained conservation efforts.
A new management system for Sierra de Bahoruco and its integration to the Biosphere Reserve has now been developed and includes: (1) the current Administration (Office for Protected Areas and Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources) for day-to-day management (2) a Board of Directors including local stakeholders for the National Park and its buffer zone; and (3) a body for strategic management of the whole Biosphere Reserve, with capacity to coordinate actions and relations with sectorial institutions. Despite the government’s willingness to protect the natural heritage of the country, insufficient government funding limits the implementation of management plans in protected areas.
New conservation approach
As part of the BirdLife International Forests of Hope programme, Grupo Jaragua, already experienced in terms of land purchase activities for biodiversity conservation, aims to set up a ‘land fund’ with the goal of purchasing more land for conservation purposes.
Various plots adding 123 ha which are particularly important for the protection of the two endangered endemic mammals, Solenodon and Hutia, were purchased within the natural corridor between Sierra de Bahoruco and Jaragua IBAs. Privately owned land is well respected in the country and land acquisition thus provides the most effective approach to forest conservation in the area.
With access to a ‘land fund’, Grupo Jaragua would be in a position to react rapidly to opportunities for land purchase. Once the land is acquired, it is managed and monitored primarily by Grupo Jaragua personnel along with community volunteers and with support from the National Park staff. A co-management agreement with the Ministry of the Environment and local government agencies is then signed.
A strategy for financial sustainability at Sierra de Bahoruco is being developed for implementation during the next three years. Ecotourism is being developed with direct links to conservation, in order to incentivise the protection of the forest.
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