Country Profiles

Saint Lucia - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

Saint Lucia’s total land area is approximately 616 km2. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the mountainous landscape and tropical location of Saint Lucia have endowed the island with a range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Ecosystems range from dry cactus scrubs to rainforest, as well as mangroves and coral reefs. Within these ecosystems, there are over 1,300 plant species, 160 birds, 250 reef fish and 50 coral species. Endemic species include the Saint Lucia parrot and the Saint Lucia whiptail lizard. With the exception of the rainforest and the montane forest formations, terrestrial environments have been radically transformed by human activity, mainly by the building of monoculture plantations. Between 1977 and 1989, 22.5% of the forest was lost and it is estimated that 40% of the once thriving mangroves have been lost. In addition, over 12% of Saint Lucia’s beach length is being mined for sand and 50% of the wetlands have been converted for cultivation, marinas and for construction.

Biodiversity is important to the country for food, shelter, medicines, water, sustainable livelihoods, agriculture and tourism industries and future untapped industries of the country. The key economic sectors are tourism and agriculture, with the economy having undergone a major transition from an agrarian-based economy to a service economy since the 1990s. Both the tourism and agricultural sectors rely heavily on the country’s natural/biological resources for their sustainability, yet also impact on it, sometimes adversely.

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

The main threats to biodiversity and ecosystems in Saint Lucia at this time are habitat modification and destruction and invasive alien species, such as the green iguana, giant African snail and fungal pathogens affecting agricultural biodiversity and causing severe losses. Habitat change is occurring at a rapid rate and is expected to increase even further in the future with several projected hotels, marinas and golf courses and an increase in housing and infrastructure. Another threat is induced climate change. Climate change impacts have already affected biodiversity (for instance, coral reefs have suffered bleaching in a number of areas of the country). Climate change also appears to be impacting coastal and marine ecosystems, resulting in a reduction in fish landings. Another impact of climate change and variability has been demonstrated in changes in flowering and fruiting patterns for several agricultural crops, affecting agricultural production patterns and overall food availability. A decline in the quantity and quality of the country’s water supply has also been associated with the impacts of climate change and variability; quantity has been affected by the increasing incidence of extreme events of no rainfall and drought while quality has been affected by nutrient pollution. Nutrient pollution of freshwater resources results in an increase in human health-related diseases. Nutrient pollution also contributes to habitat change which, in turn, affects marine life and aquatic species

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Development of the first NBSAP for Saint Lucia commenced in 1997 and went through a process where baseline studies were conducted in 6 key areas, followed by an extensive consultation process. The NBSAP was completed and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in September 2001. The third edition was released in 2008. The establishment of a full-time Biodiversity Unit, albeit on a very small scale, provided a formal institutional framework through which actions for biodiversity management were focused. The Unit provides coordination and regular follow-up on activities and sources requisite support and resources where necessary to ensure completion. The objectives of Saint Lucia’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) were to (i) conserve the country’s diversity; (ii) promote sustainable use of these resources; (iii) encourage the equitable distribution of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity; and (iv) facilitate the participation of people and institutions in the management of biodiversity. To achieve these objectives, five broad programmes were established, which are: planning and policy formulation; research and monitoring; conservation; sustainable use; education and awareness. Each programme has its own set of objectives and related activities to be implemented. Finally, 22 specific projects were defined, including a description of planned activities and estimated total costs. By 2010, 80% of the projects in the NBSAP had been completed.

A draft revision of the NBSAP has been prepared however requires further elaboration to include provisions for invasive alien species, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, etc. Saint Lucia intends to integrate the NBSAP and national targets into its Medium Term Development Strategy, National United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), Poverty Reduction Strategies, National Climate Change Adaptation Strategies, social development policies. The finalization of the draft second NBSAP to include the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Strategic Environmental Assessment and emerging issues will be completed by 31 March 2014.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Several protected areas have been established, including the Soufriere Marine Management Area and the Canaries/Anse La Raye Marine Management Area. Although 26 marine reserves have been established, including 2 Ramsar mangrove sites, a number do not have management plans in place. There is also a World Heritage Site known as the Pitons Management Area. The plan for a System of Protected Areas was reviewed through the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods Project (OPAAL) in 2009, and is to be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers for endorsement. While this plan is being reviewed, the National Environment Policy and National Environmental Management Strategy also propose strategies for the integration of protected areas into broader land and seascapes. The latter has been approved but has not yet been implemented.

Over 10% of the forest ecosystem has been effectively managed and conserved. There are also legal instruments, including the Forest Management and Plant Protection Act, Forest Water and Soil Conservation Act, Wildlife Protection Act, Forest Management Plan, and Fisheries Act. Ex situ conservation includes work programs for orchids, yams, sweet potatoes, plantains, pineapples, bananas and ferns, which are conserved within the Tissue Culture Laboratory. In situ conservation measures for two local species, the Latanye and Mauby, include a propagation programme, a farming programme for dry and sub-humid areas, and a harvesting regime. Other initiatives undertaken include the sustainable harvesting of mangrove trees for charcoal production, the selective felling of trees in production forests, participatory management with fishermen and other resource users in the Soufriere Marine Management Authority, and the production of Latanyne on private and Crown Lands on a rotational basis.

To determine the status, trends, and threats related to traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous communities, meetings funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have been held. These facilitated the formation of groups, such as marine and terrestrial resource users, and medicinal herbs farmers, and enquiry into their concerns. All of these groups work closely with officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Social Transformation.

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

Biodiversity concerns are principally integrated into the agenda of the Ministries of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology and Agriculture. Several other government departments and other national and local levels of government have also embraced biodiversity within their agendas. Saint Lucia is a contracting party to 14 regional and international multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) relating directly to the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. A National Biodiversity Awards Ceremony developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry and Fisheries and sponsored by the Bank of Saint Lucia, targeted schools, communities, individuals, private sector and the media thus promoting biodiversity integration at all levels.

A draft National Biosafety Framework was developed and is currently being implemented with a view to providing safety in the handling transport and use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Saint Lucia. A central aspect of this framework is the development of a draft Biosafety Policy and a Biosafety Bill.

Biodiversity issues are addressed in environmental impact assessments (EIAs) through the relevant recommendations made by the natural resource agencies (for instance, the Department of Forestry’s recommendations regarding forest and wildlife conservation, Department of Agriculture’s recommendations regarding agro-biodiversity protection and conservation, etc.). Various economic and social incentives have been developed and introduced which support mainstreaming of biodiversity issues in key economic sectors. However, many of these incentives are of a voluntary nature and do not always demonstrate a direct economic benefit.

The country has been pursuing an approach of integrated development planning, which seeks to promote an inter-sectoral approach to planning and development, in order to minimise potential conflicts, particularly as it relates to the use of resources. An Environmental Management Act has been drafted and several policies and strategies for environmental and natural resources management have been updated as well. The Sustainable Land Management Project also addresses the issue of mainstreaming biodiversity.

The Agricultural Incentives Regime developed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry and Fisheries, promotes biodiversity through the provision of concessions to farmers for the adoption of environmental management measures. Other agricultural related incentives programmes, such as Fair Trade, Global GAP and Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP), address biodiversity issues. Incentives to promote biodiversity issues in the tourism sector and industry include the use of global environment awards such as Green Globe and ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems. There is a draft Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Bill to be currently revised to include provisions of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

A 2006 State of the Environment Report (GEO Saint Lucia), which includes an assessment of key ecosystems, was published by the Sustainable Development and Environment Unit of the Ministry of the Environment. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States has also produced a regional biodiversity database with Saint Lucia as the pilot under the Protecting the Eastern Caribbean’s Biodiversity project. The Department of Fisheries database has been further upgraded under the Biophysical Inventory Project (2009), as has the marine biodiversity database under the Coastal Habitat Monitoring Project (2008).