Caribbean Conservation, Biodiversity, and Renewable Energy
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The word ‘Caribbean’ invokes a warm breeze, passing over sandy beaches with palm trees looking out into a coral blue sea. The name is derived from an ethnic tribe, known as the Carib, who were indigenous peoples living in South America at the time of European contact in 1492.
The Caribbean Sea is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and east of Central America, surrounded by tropical islands of various topography and geographic formations. Some of the most frequently visited islands are Aruba, Barbados and the Cayman Islands, which are predominantly flat in comparison to the other more dominant islands such as Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, which give rise to a more dramatic mountainous landscape.
The Caribbean Sea is home to a wide range of sea and plant life due to the biodiversity of the area. Its warm waters host several species of sea life, including endangered sea turtles and coral reef formations. However, due to the invasive involvement of special interest groups, the Caribbean islands have been categorized as one of Conservation International’s hotspots.
Several of the ecosystems have been devastated by deforestation and many species from different classes of the animal kingdom are facing grave threats due to overwhelming human encroachment. Island conservation and reef conservation are just two concerns affecting this area.
Caribbean conservation organizations are striving to reverse the negative human impact on both flora and fauna as well as look at ways in which to protect the geography. Some of these organizations include Conservation International and Caribbean Conservation Corporation and Sea Turtle Survival League. Wildlife conservation and coastal conservation are two ways in which humans are trying to minimize the damage that has already been done.
The Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme (CREDP) exists “To reduce barriers to the increased use of renewable energy thus reducing the dependence on fossil fuels while contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” The program works to help Caribbean development without impacting the region in a negative way.
Conservation International has done exceptional work in disseminating information about the destruction occurring on the Caribbean Islands. Their research reveals that people have inhabited the islands for more than 4,000 years, but it is only in the last 500 hundred years that we have realized a drastic impact on the environment.
The Caribbean development of sugar cane, cacao bean, coffee, and tobacco industries are greatly responsible for much of the deforestation occurring today. The development of sugar cane plantations began in the early 1500’s and since then the loss of rain forests has been exponential.
Though it is known how destructive the sugar cane industry is to the environment, it is still the Caribbean’s most important crop. Tourism development is indeed another pressure that threatens the state of the natural ecosystems on many of the islands in the region. Vegetation has been altered and replaced by invasive species due to the installation of golf courses, resorts and transportation systems.
Conservation International states that “today, no more than 23,000 km² (10 percent of the original vegetation) remains in a pristine state in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot. While fewer than 15 percent of Cuba’s forests remain intact, they are the largest remaining tracts of forest in the Caribbean.”
Though the stress put on the natural resources are damaging due to tourism, eco-tourism has increased awareness of our impact on the islands and has begun to play a significant role in conservation.
Partnerships developing between private environmentalist groups, such as Caribbean Conservation Corporation and Sea Turtle Survival League, and the tourism industry have made great efforts towards conservation, but even with the collaborative efforts of such organizations the threats upon the Caribbean Islands are imminent.