Native To Nevis

This Biodiversity Website Profile is designed to highlight environmental conditions in St. Kitts-Nevis as they pertain to the conservation of terrestrial biological resources on the two islands. As such, this website profile can be seen as a thematic refinement and partial updating of the 1990 Country Environmental Profile: St. Kitts and Nevis, by the Caribbean Conservation Association and Island Resources Foundation, which deals with a broader range of natural, historical, cultural, land use, pollution control, and institutional factors. This Biodiversity Profile is complemented by the concurrently published

A Vegetation Classification of St. Kitts and Nevis: Implications for Conservation, which provides a scientifically up-to-date measure of the underlying vegetation communities and associations of the islands.
More than these other documents, A Biodiversity Profile of St. Kitts and Nevis is an unfinished and dynamic document which is necessarily incomplete and should be subject to constant revision and updating, expansion and extension. We have explicitly identified areas where we believe such growth is necessary or desireable, but the framework is open to incorporate all relevant new biodiversity knowledge.

First among these areas for growth of the biodiversity profile is a conservation assessment of the marine and near coastal conditions of St. Kitts-Nevis, with special attention to the reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves of the Sand Point Reef, the Southeast Peninsula, the Narrows and coastal Nevis. These resources are well exploited by local and regional fishers and dive tourism is a significant economic factor on both islands. In this version of the profile, we have only incorporated a small discussion of marine invertebrate species as a place marker for future research findings and to capture the significant elements of certain recent publications pertinent to studies of global and regional marine invertebrate biology.

In many respects the References section of the Profile should be its most valuable resource. As technology and this website evolves, we assume that hypertext linking will enable this website to present both the overview of this profile, and link directly to many of the detailed background documents and scientific studies. An example of such detailed background information is presented in “Appendix A: List of Plants of St. Kitts and Nevis,” which includes over 200 species newly identified as part of the researches conducted for this phase of biodiversity investigations.

A second, more difficult, task is linking the scientific information on species to common names. This simple sounding process is extremely difficult, subject to high error rates, and ultimately may be so ambiguous because of temporal and geographic variations that it may be of dubious value except to etymologists, linguists and anthropologists. Island Resources Foundation does not recommend common language glossaries or indices as part of the biodiversity conservation planning process—such tools may, however, have value as environmental education tools, especially in communities with second languages or dialects.

Finally, this profile needs to link to constantly improving geographic knowledge of biodiversity, as expressed in maps of key biodiversity indicators, such as vegetative communities, species distribution, critical habitats, protected areas and so on. Biodiversity conservation is not solely a process of setting geographic reserves (e.g., banning the pesticide DDT was very conserving for many species of waterfowl and raptors), but geography is indispensable for understanding many biodiversity and conservation issues.

In this profile we have newly incorporated the Nature Conservancy’s 1999 re-interpretation of the 1980’s ECNAMP (Eastern Cariibbean Natural Areas Mapping Programme) vegetation maps. (See Appendix B for the detailed metadata of these maps, which are presented below.) These maps need to be corrected and updated.

Are the actual vegetation classifications used correct? They have not been verified or ground-truthed by Nature Conservancy. Contact Jeff Parrish for details at jparrish@tnc.org

The maps also need to be updated with new mapping at finer geographic scales (e.g., 1:20,000) and thematic resolution (e.g., 25 classes, instead of six or eight). These finer scales are necessary for planning, policy making and resource management at national and local scales. (Usually even finer scales are necessary for management at the level of the individual reserve.)

St. Kitts and Nevis are part of the Lesser Antillean Archipelago, a chain of islands separated from the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) by the Anegada Passage and extending from Anguilla in the north (18o30’N) 850 km to Grenada in the south (12oN). North of Dominica (15o20’N), the Lesser Antillean Archipelago splits to form two chains. The outer (eastern) chain—Marie Galante, Grande Terre, La Desirade, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Barthelemy, St. Martin, Anguilla, and Sombrero—consists of low-elevation compositions of older volcanics overlain by carbonates. The inner (western) chain—Basse Terre, Montserrat, Redonda, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Eustatius and Saba—consists of newer volcanic rock forming characteristically steep, mountainous islands (Martin-Kaye, 1959, 1969; Pregill et al., 1994).

The small size and insularity of the West Indies influence the number of terrestrial species that occur in the region, factors that contribute to the relatively high concentration of endemism and the vulnerability of its biota to disasters and longer term stressors such as human-caused habitat changes or climate change.

This website (and this biodiversity report) summarizes and sites much of the available data on the plant and animal species found in the dual-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The data on the occurrence of vascular plants and vertebrates (reptiles, birds and mammals) are fairly complete, although field research—even during recent decades— has uncovered new species not previously known to exist in the country. This ability to still discover new vertebrate species or vascular plants is a strong argument for the country to support added field research in biology. In addition, such research is necessary because even for these supposedly well-known taxa, little is known about their abundance, distribution or conservation status.

Data on the most diverse group of organisms, the invertebrates, are much more limited. Even species presence/absence data—the most rudimentary level of information used in conservation planning—are lacking. Invertebrate research is a priority both to assess the nature of local invertebrate communities from the standpoint of evolutionary science and to better understand ecosystem dynamics in the various communities of the two islands. (St. Kitts-Nevis lies at the intersection of invertebrate migrations from North America and South America—understanding local community composition can contribute to broader understanding of how life has populated the Antilles over the eons.)
Fortunately, the primary approach used in invertebrate conservation is protection of habitat, and—if the country has the determination to do so—enough information already exists to protect immediately the diversity of vegetation communities and their associated invertebrates found in St. Kitts and Nevis.

In this profile we have applied the IUCN conservation status definitions. In this system, conservation status is defined in terms of a two-tier labeling system modified from the Red Data Book Categories of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
– Common (widespread in distribution and/or large size), or
– Uncommon (moderately restricted in distribution and/or size), or
– Rare (very restricted in distribution and/or size)
– Stable (no apparent danger), or
– Endangered (danger of extirpation), or
– Vulnerable (likely to move into Endangered category if causal factors continue to operate), or
– Not known (suspected, but not known, to belong to Vulnerable category).