Additional toolsBack to regions
The Caribbean region is mainly a chain of islands surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.
This islands hotspot comprises a total of 30 nations and territories and up to 5000 islands from 100 to 100,000 km2.
The Caribbean region is home to 16 European overseas entities related to
The climate of the area is tropical but rainfall varies with elevation, size, and water currents.
Populations have increased significantly in the last 40 years to reach 38 million with a very high cultural and socio-economic diversity.
Populations of many of the smaller islands change enormously during the year due to the seasonal influx of tourists.
The majority of people in the Caribbean live in urban area close to the coast. Over the last 20 years, tourism (with associated construction and service industries) has become the primary economic activity in the majority of the Caribbean islands hotspot.
Nowadays, tourism and diving industry represent 60% of the divers in the world and up to 50% of the world cruise tourism with revenue of 40 billion US dollars/year.
Agriculture has remained stagnant or contracted in many countries while fisheries are one of the key sectors in the region (390 million US dollars/year).
The Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) was adopted by the Wider Caribbean States and territories in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, in March 1983.
Signed in 1990 the Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol) is the only legally binding regional agreement that protects the marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems of the Wider Caribbean.
The Caribbean islands hotspot supports an important biodiversity within its diverse terrestrial ecosystems with a high proportion of endemicity making the region one of the world’s greatest centers of biodiversity. It includes about 11,000 plant species of which 72% are endemics. For vertebrates high proportions of endemic species have been assessed (100% of 189 amphibian species and 95 % of 520 reptile species). Endemicity is also high with birds (26% of 564 species) and mammals (74% of 69 species most of which are bats).
Species endemic to the hotspot represent 2.6% of the world’s 300,000 plant species and 3.5% of the world’s 27,298 vertebrate species.
With 26,000 km of coral reefs, the Caribbean region represents 7% of the world total coral reef ecosystems and includes the 2nd and 3rd barrier reefs in the world (Belize and S. Andres Archipelago). The shallow marine environment contains 25 coral genera, 117 sponges, 633 molluscs, over 1400 fishes, 76 sharks, 45 shrimps, and 23 seabirds species.
Due to a high degree of connectivity, marine habitats share many of the same marine species especially migrating species (in the region 30 species of marine mammals, 6 out of 7 marine turtles are commonly found).
The Caribbean’s biodiversity is at serious risk of species extinctions. More than 700 species are globally threatened making it one of the top hotspots assessed by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for globally threatened species.
The world database on protected areas lists some 749 protected areas in the region covering 67,719 km2 with more than half being marine. Unfortunately on many islands protected area management is still weak and inadequately funded.
Through the BEST preparatory action implemented by the European Commission a total of 4 projects for the Caribbean out of 18 have been funded. Moreover, to date, the CEPF has approved 58 grants for actions in the neighbouring countries of the European Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories. BEST represents in this regard an important initiative for fostering and strengthening regional cooperation at the level of the entire Caribbean hotspots enabling bridging actions.
The main threats to the terrestrial biodiversity of the insular Caribbean are habitat destruction and fragmentation due to agricultural, urban, tourism and commercial development; overexploitation of living resources and predation by invasive alien species. For the marine environment, pollution is also considered a major threat.
*Source: CEPF- Ecosystem Profile- The Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot – 2010.