What Is A Protected Area?
A protected area, as defined by the IUCN, is “an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.” This definition is broad, thus allowing for different categories of protected areas to exist; from the strict nature reserves, where only very light human use is allowed to protected areas wherein sustainable use of natural resources is allowed.
In any country or any region, protected areas are the foundation of biodiversity conservation efforts. Populations of animals, plants and other organisms that are found within the confines of protected areas are allowed to persist as they would, without negative human impact. This allows for the preservation of threatened and endangered species and an overall maintenance of biodiversity.
Protected areas are also essential in national development. Through the natural and cultural resources that are protected, goods can continue to be produced and services continue to be provided – supporting the economy. Protected areas also benefit nations through uncompromised ecosystems services, such as freshwater production by watershed environments. Finally protected areas provide space for scientific research and other educational activities.
The Bahamas is an archipelago of islands that exhibits beautiful landforms, even more fascinating forest areas, creeks and caves and an unmatched marine environment. The islands consist of landscapes including: vast Caribbean Pine forests, mangrove swamp areas, Blackland coppice, sandy and rocky shores as well as tidal creeks. There are also majestic marine landscapes including blue holes, relatively large coral reef areas, open ocean areas and a huge bank system consisting mainly of the Great and Little Bahama Banks. These areas currently provide us with natural resources for direct use, ecosystem services and other economic benefits, it is therefore important to protect them for the future and not exhaust our nation’s ecosystems.
In spite of its relatively small land area, The Bahamas has many terrestrial ecosystems and, with its large expanse of ocean, a high diversity of marine ecosystems. Important and easily-recognized, Bahamian ecosystems include but are not limited to:
- Pine woodland (forest) – northern islands
- Coppice – central and southern islands
- Desert – the annual rainfall for the southerly Hogsty Reef is sufficiently small for its two small cays to qualify as desert
- Wetlands – throughout the islands; may be allocated amongst five categories: mangrove swamps and marshes, beach vegetation, swashes, pine forests/barrens, broad-leaf coppice. Mangroves are dominated by one or more species of mangrove (Avicennia, Laguncularia and Rhizophora,).
- Seagrass beds – dominated by turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum)
- Coral Reefs – of great significance in terms of Bahamian biodiversity
- Other shallow water marine habitats – rock and unvegetated sediments
Caves, sinkholes and blue holes
To find out more about the national park systems visit the Bahamas National Trust Page
To find out what areas are being proposed as future protected areas click here!