Country Profiles

Bahamas - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The islands of The Bahamas constitute one of the most extensive archipelagos of the world, comprising a chain of more than 700 islands, cays, and rocks, spread over approximately 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The total land area has been computed at 5,382 square miles. The Caribbean islands including The Bahamas are rich in biodiversity and considered a “hotspot”.

Marine environments cover the greatest area of The Bahamas and are linked in both the flow of energy and matter through biological and ecological cycles which provide jobs, food and recreational services. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the area northeast of Little Bahama Bank and covers 260,000 square miles of islands, banks, reefs, shipping lanes, and pelagic fisheries. It sustains an enormous food network from plankton to blue marlin and giant tuna. Pine forest comprises 23% of the terrestrial ecosystems. There are no rivers or major freshwater lakes in the country but several islands contain large brackish lakes, and many tidal creeks. Wetlands comprise 40% of the land area in The Bahamas and range from narrow fringes of trees along the coast, to extensive shallow wetlands, and to large tidal creek systems. There are both inland and coastal wetlands. The Bahamas was estimated to have 4,286 km² of mangrove forest and other wetland habitats. There are three species of mangroves found in The Bahamas: red (Rhizophora mangle), black (Avicennia germinans), white (Laguncularia racemosa), and buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus). Reefs cover 1,832 km2 (2.2%) of the Great Bahama Bank and 324 km2 of the Little Bahama Bank. Coral reefs have declined in waters near the more developed and populated islands, such as New Providence and San Salvador, but are generally in good condition.

The Bahamas has approximately 1% of its total national territory under some form of protection. There are 58 protected areas throughout The Bahamas for conservation, sustainable use and management. The existing marine protected areas in The Bahamas comprise approximately 154,011 hectares spread over 10 national parks and three marine reserves.

Over 1,350 species of flowering plants and ferns have been described, representing approximately 660 genera and 144 families and 21 varieties, subspecies and hybrids. Nearly 9% (121 taxa) of plant species found in The Bahamas are endemic. There are 1,111 higher plants, 57 breeding birds, 53 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 248 fish. Additionally, 24 species of marine mammals are known to occur. There are 46 species of native herpetofauna in The Bahamas consisting of 3 frogs (including 1 endemic), 25 lizards (13 endemic), 11 snakes (7 endemic), 2 freshwater turtles, and 5 sea turtles. Presently, there are 56 species of plants and animals listed in the IUCN Red List 2009 of Threatened Species for The Bahamas, ranging from extinct to least concern.

The Bahamas is a coastal country, with the entire population living within the coastal zone. Marine environments cover the greatest area of The Bahamas and provide jobs, food and recreational services. The livelihood of the majority of Bahamians is either directly or indirectly influenced by the local environment. The major industries of tourism, agriculture and fishing relate to use of sea, land and water resources.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Out of all the threats identified for affecting biodiversity in The Bahamas, climate change is considered to have the greatest effect as 80% of The Bahamas’ landmass is within 1.5 meters (5 ft) of sea level rise and 90% of The Bahamas’ freshwater lenses are within 1.5 meters (5 ft) of the land surface making the groundwater resource fragile and highly vulnerable to contamination. Climate change could also magnify other natural threats such as coral bleaching and tropical hurricanes. The main manmade threat to biological diversity in The Bahamas is the lack of appreciation and understanding of the value of the fragile Bahamian environment and biodiversity. The five major human-related activities that destroy biological diversity are habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, pollution, introduced invasive alien species and over-harvesting.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Bahamas developed the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 1999 as a guide to CBD implementation. The main goals of the NBSAP are to enhance the quality of life in The Bahamas, develop integrated comprehensive planning, conserve biological resources and diversity, promote public awareness and education and secure financial support for implementation of the mission. The Bahamas Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission is the main agency responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the achievements of the NBSAP. In July 2008, The Ministry of Environment was created to amalgamate the majority of the agencies responsible for the environment.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The agriculture sector plan includes conservation and protection of the water resources through the development of an agricultural sector water policy and training in good agricultural practices, protection of agricultural land through the development of a land evaluation system and land zone maps, and preservation of agricultural biodiversity by establishing an ornamental research and development programme (e.g. to study Invasive Alien Species (IAS)).

The marine resources sector plan aims to develop a data collection system to provide necessary biological, economic and social data for assessment and management for all major species/fisheries; maintain and restore populations of marine species at levels that can produce the optimal sustainable yield by promoting efforts to reduce lionfish in The Bahamas, through research and educational campaigns and by introducing a certification process for crawfish fisherman; reserve rare or fragile ecosystems, as well as habitats and other ecologically sensitive areas by designating and policing protected areas.

The Forestry Act (2010) provides protection to wetlands, water reserves, endemic flora and fauna and protected trees. It establishes a legal framework for the long-term sustainable management of forests, a governmental forestry agency and a permanent forest estate. The Act classes forest into the following designations: Forest Reserves, Protected Forests and Conservation Forests. It requires a license for timber cutting and other activities in the Forest Reserves. The Act mandates that a National Forest Plan be developed every five years to govern management activities, such as harvesting and reforestation measures, prescriptions for fire prevention, wildfire suppression and prescribed burning and soil and water conservation.

The tourism sector plan implemented pump out facilities for wastewater and containment facilities for hazardous and solid waste at marinas participating in the Blue Flag Programme, resulting in the protection of the coastal environment from pollution. An ecotourism plan for Andros is also being developed as an output of the Integrated Watershed and Coastal Areas Management Project (IWCAM). The Coastal Awareness Committee chaired by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation assists in educating the public on the threats to the coastal environment and a manual for training birding guides is being developed.

The Bahamas National Trust’s strategic plan focuses on the creation of management plans for the protected areas, implementation of measures to reduce invasive alien species within the protected areas, public education and awareness for the sustainable use of wetlands and the development of a comprehensive reference library.

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are required for projects that may likely have adverse impacts on the environment under the Planning and Subdivision Bill (2010). The Bahamas also has achieved some cross-sectoral integration through various projects such as the Land Use Project and The Bahamas Land Use, Policy and Administration Project (LUPAP).

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Bahamas is a party to approximately 20 international agreements that deal with environmental and public welfare issues. From a national perspective, The Bahamas is actively involved in the following Conventions: the Ramsar Convention, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In May 2008, The Bahamas’ Government alongside leaders from Jamaica, Grenada, The Dominican Republic and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, launched the Caribbean Challenge. The Caribbean Challenge is an unprecedented commitment by Caribbean governments to build political support and financial sustainability for protected areas in the Caribbean. The regional Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management (IWCAM) project commenced in 2005 and involves 13 of the Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean. The goal of the project is to strengthen the commitment and capacity of the participating countries to implement an integrated approach to management of watershed and coastal areas. The main issues addressed by IWCAM are diminishing freshwater supplies, degraded freshwater and coastal water quality, inappropriate land use and hygiene and sanitation. Two of the eight demonstration projects are being implemented by The Bahamas. The MTIASIC project mitigates the threat of invasive alien species in the insular between The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia and Jamaica.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Routine monitoring of the major beaches on New Providence Island has been ongoing since 1995; namely, Long Wharf, Arawak Cay, Goodman’s Bay, Orange Hill, Jaws Beach, Cabbage Beach, Sandy Port Beach, South Beach, Yamacraw Beach, and Montague Beach. The parameters of the beach monitoring include testing the water quality, beach vegetation and beach erosion. Since 1990, The Bahamas Caves Research Foundation (BCRF) has collaborated with the Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) on various blue holes related research projects.