Country Profiles

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an archipelagic nation located within the Windward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean, composed of 32 islands, islets and cays. St. Vincent is rugged and mountainous with steep slopes and fertile yellow earth, volcanic ash and alluvial soils while the Grenadines are characterized by low, dry hills surrounded by extensive coral reefs. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is part of the Caribbean Islands Hotspot. Based on data collected, the following list of species has been recorded on St. Vincent and the Grenadines:

Mammals – 17 species, including 12 species of bats.

Birds – 190 species, including 2 island endemics, the St. Vincent Parrot (Amazona guildingii) and the Whistling Warbler (Catharopeza bishopi) and over 14 regional endmics. Two endemic subspecies of Myadestes genibarbis and Troglodytes aedon also exist.

Reptiles – 21 species, including 5 endemics - four lizards: Anolis griseus, Anolis trinitatus, Sphaerodactylus kirbyi (endemic to Bequia and Mustique), and Gonatodes daudini (endemic to Union Island) and one snake - the Black Snake (Chironius vincentii). There are 4 species of turtles: Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coraica). Two of the 21 species are apparently recent invasive species.

Amphibians – 4 species, including one endemic, Eleuthrodactylus shrevei, and two invasive species.

Plants – 1,150 species of flowering plants with 16 endemics. There are 163 species of ferns, 4 are endemic, including the Tree Fern (Cyathea tenera) found on the uppermost ridges within cloud and rain forests.

Fresh water – There are 25 fresh and brackish water species.

Marine – There are over 500 marine species including 450 species of finfish, 12 species of whales and dolphins, 4 species of turtles, 9 species of gastropods, 11 species of seaweed and 30 species of corals recorded. There is also 1 invasive species of fish, i.e the lionfish (Pterois volitans, Pterois miles) and 1 invasive species of seagrass (Halophila stipulacea) and the invasive species of brittle star (Ophiothela mirabilis).

• 25 species of diplopods (centipedes and millipedes), 220 species of arachnids (not including microscopic mites), 2,000 species of insects, and 35 terrestrial crustaceans have been recorded in the country.

• 875 species of molluscs (75 terrestrial and aquatic, 800 marine) exist.

• 16 species of nematodes have been recorded for Union Island alone.

Many of these species are of very high economic value, whilst others perform vital supportive and regulatory services.

The country has 12,700 hectares or approximately 29% of tropical forest, including primary and secondary rainforest, palm brakes, elfin woodland, littoral woodland, dry scrub woodlands and mangrove forests. It has been seen that, between 1949 and 1993, total forest cover declined by almost 10%. The current rate of deforestation is estimated to be between 3-5% per annum. Approximately greater than 42 hectares of four distinct species of mangroves remain along coastal areas, mainly on Union and Mustique Islands and a very tiny area on St. Vincent’s south coast. The country has 24 wildlife reserves, 6 marine conservation areas, 3 forest reserves, and 1 marine park and 1 marine reserve, which account for 47.2% of the country’s total marine habitat, 42% of terrestrial habitat and 38.4% of freshwater habitat.

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

The country’s biodiversity is threatened by various factors, including limited and ineffective land use planning, deforestation and other forms of habitat loss and fragmentation, excessive use of ago-chemicals, forest fires, sand mining, destructive harvesting practices and unsustainable use of resources. Natural threats to the forest ecosystems include volcanic eruptions, tropical cyclones, extended drought and landslides. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to squatting for housing and development are now also major factors threatening forest biodiversity in the country. Invasive alien species are also on the rise, presenting significant challenges to forest and marine biodiversity. Threats to agricultural ecosystems and biodiversity include export markets, natural disasters, genetic erosion, invasive alien species and introduced pathogens. Unplanned development and the unregulated use of the coastal and marine resources of the Grenadines have already led to significant degradation in many areas. Overfishing, coastal habitat destruction, sedimentation, solid waste and sewage disposal from land-based and boat sources, as well as the recreational abuse of coral reefs, have been cited as causative factors for this deterioration. Coral bleaching, as a result of global climate change, is also considered one of the greatest threats to coral reefs. The fragmentation of habitats and degradation of coastal ecosystems is making the country increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, storm surges and heavy rains, the effects of which are expected to worsen under climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

St. Vincent and the Grenadines developed its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 2000, to guide implementation of the Convention in the country by systematically addressing what were regarded as main threats and key priority areas for action. The Plan’s objectives were to: develop and articulate a National Biodiversity Policy which fosters the sustainable use of biological resources and the maintenance of biodiversity; integrate biodiversity conservation into national planning processes; encourage integrated natural resource management techniques with emphasis given to developing practical and cost-effective measures for the preservation of natural habitats; rationalize land use allocation and encourage sectoral and regional planning for human settlements; create conditions and incentives for effective conservation at both the national and local levels; strengthen the human capacity for conserving and using biodiversity sustainably. The document also contained 8 priority areas for action.

Activities are currently underway to revise the NBSAP and, with a view to exploiting synergies, are being conducted in parallel with the process of revising the UNCCD National Action Programme (NAP).

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

An ecological GAP analysis for the Protected Area System was conducted in 2006 by members of the National Implementation Support Partnership with technical assistance from The Nature Conservancy. The analysis determined the “representativeness” of the current system and identified actions that could be taken to ensure better representation of biodiversity in protected areas. Through the Grenadines Marine Resource Space-use Information System (MarSIS) project implemented by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), and the Sustainable Grenadines Project, information on marine space-use in the Grenada Bank, upon which the Grenadine islands sit, has been compiled that can be used to identify areas for special management attention such as: critical habitats; representative marine ecosystems, areas of high aesthetic value and cultural importance; areas important for livelihoods, fishing grounds and marine-based tourism; and areas of highest human threat and space use conflict.

Several species have been legally protected using total bans, quotas, closed seasons, size, weight and gear restrictions and trade restrictions. Protected species include the St. Vincent Parrot, the armadillo, the Caribbean Spiny Lobster, the Humback Whale and all species of corals. The Draft Fisheries Management Plan also outlines specific management objectives and strategies for species in the following fisheries: coastal pelagics, large pelagics, shallow-shelf and reef fishes, deep-slope fishes, lobster and conch. Targets to improve the status of agricultural crops threatened by invasive species are included in the work plan of the Ministry of Agriculture. These targets fall under various programmes, including the Mango Seed Weevil Eradication Programme and the Pink Mealy Bug Eradication/Control Programme. In order to conserve the genetic diversity of species important to agriculture, the Agriculture Department has established 3 germplasm plots.

Environmental Impact Assessments are effective in the country. However, the requirements are not explicit regarding the biodiversity assessment component. Strategic Environmental Assessments are also expected to make their way into current planning practices with the enactment of the draft Environmental Management Act (2009), which has provisions for Strategic Environmental Assessment.

To reduce the unsustainable consumption of biological resources, the Government is promoting sustainable livelihoods, the development of value-added products from unutilized or underutilized species, a transition from harvesting near-shore fisheries resources to those with lower harvesting pressures such as deep slope species, the development and use of selective fishing gear that minimize by-catch, and forest patrols. Finally, the Integrated Forest Management and Development Programme was established in 2003 to address deforestation and illegal forestry activities. Capacity-strengthening initiatives are also central to the Sustainable Grenadines project, which aims to equip local communities with the tools to sustainably use and manage their resources.

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

The recently created National Environmental Commission is a multi-stakeholder committee which functions as the primary mechanism for facilitating the effective integration of environmental and sustainable development considerations into economic and social development planning and decision-making in the country. In addition, the Environmental Management Department coordinates the implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements and inter-agency collaboration in environmental management.

The plans of the forestry sector include aspects of forest biodiversity protection and wildlife management; promotion of sustainable utilization of forest resources; public education and awareness; and community participation in forest management. In the tourism sector, a more systematic approach has been the development and strengthening of a comprehensive system of protected areas and heritage sites. Capacity building of community-based organisations to undertake site management is also an integral part of the tourism development plan. The policy framework of the fisheries sector comprehensively addresses what are regarded as the key threats to the sustainability of the fisheries sector, particularly over-exploitation. The protection and restoration of endangered species, maintenance and restoration of populations to maximum sustainable yield capacities (taking into consideration relationships among species), as well as effective monitoring and enforcement regarding fishing activities, are important policy objectives to the sector. Similarly, the policies of the agricultural sector have focussed on diversification of banana in order to improve food security and to improve export earnings. Affordability of produce and environmental sustainability are important objectives within the agricultural policy framework.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

No comprehensive monitoring measures have been established in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, however several small targeted inventories have been established by diverse institutions. Under the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, a biodiversity inventory and assessment were carried out for the Kingshill Forest Reserve through the implementation of the project on protecting the Eastern Caribbean Region’s biodiversity. The information collected is entered into a web-based database that is periodically updated with the help of the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. The Tobago Cays Marine Park regularly conducts inventories of the sea grass beds, fish, coral and marine vertebrates found within the Park. Regular assessments are also done on Mustique Island, organized by the Mustique Company. The Forestry Division conducts a by-annual Parrot Census as well as regular inventorying of the population of the endemic Black Snake and Endemic Frog. Bird Life International and Avian Eyes conduct inventories from time to time on important bird areas/species found in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.