Saba National Marine Park

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Chapter 4. ECOLOGICAL CRITERIA

(Guidelines and Criteria Section B/ Ecological Criteria) Nominated areas must conform to at least one of the eight ecological criteria. Describe how the nominated site satisfies one or more of the following criteria. (Attach in Annex any relevant supporting documents.)

Representativeness:


The coral reefs of Saba National Marine Park are significant for their structure, the habitat they provide as well as for the animals and plants that live there. The ecological communities represent many of the reef types found in the region.

The Saba National Marine Parks environments, in particular the sea mounts, are important habitats for turtles, sharks and other pelagic megafauna as well as a plethora of reef plants and creatures.

Conservation value:


The habitats within the Saba National Marine Park provide a home and migratory stop over or breeding site for 54 IUCN Red List Species, 10 CITES Appendix I species and 89 Appendix II species (2011 data, Attachment 12).

Along with neighboring MPA's the Saba National Marine Park borders the French AGOA marine mammal sanctuary, offering protection to all marine mammals, from the smaller dolphin species to the larger Humpback Whales.

As the entire coastline of Saba to a depth of 60m falls within the marine park, permanent residents as well as migratory species are offered protection from the threats they face.

Rarity:


The coral reef habitats found within The Saba National Marine Park have been depleted across their range throughout the wider Caribbean (Attachment 22). Coral reefs and seagrass beds are globally threatened by anthropogenic stresses.

The seamounts found within the Saba National Marine Park are unique to the region.

Naturalness:


Saba is surrounded by relatively deep waters in excess of 300-500m depth. This provides a natural buffer from anthropogenic threats from neighboring islands such as pollution, which may otherwise decrease the naturalness of the environment.

The dramatic topography of Saba and the reduced opportunity for development means terrestrial sources of stress on the marine organisms of the park have been limited.

These two factors mean that the marine habitats of Saba have been protected from human induced change and biophysical disturbance has been kept to a relatively low level.

Critical habitats:


The coral reef, seagrass and benthic habitats within the Saba Bank Marine Park provide a home and migratory stop over or breeding site for 54 IUCN Red List Species, 32 SPAW Annex II species and 246 Annex III species. These include hard and soft corals, marine mammals, endangered sea turtles, sharks and many fish species including grouper. The marine park was also once home to conch populations, which may have a chance to recover.

Coral reefs and seagrass beds are globally threatened by anthropogenic stresses.

Diversity:


The coral reef and seagrass habitats of the Saba National Marine Park are home to many endangered species, as listed above. It is also home to many more species of plants and animals that are not (or not yet) classified as endangered. This adds to the diversity of the area, both in terms of the actual number of different species and the diversity of the populations of each species. Often the 'less endangered' species have value as flagship species for conservation and the local human population.

Connectivity/coherence:


The Saba National Marine Park is relatively close to other marine parks; The Saba Bank National Marine Park, Man O War Marine Park (St Maarten), Reserve Natural St Martin and St Eustatius National Marine Park, which may possibly act as seeding or receiving grounds for species with free swimming larval stages of their life cycles. The Saba National Marine Park staff are currently working closely with the AGOA marine mammal sanctuary initiative to establish a large, cohesive protected site for marine mammals in the region. It is clear that marine mammals move between these various islands, inlcuding sperm whales and humpback whales  (Attachment 13). 

The deep waters around the marine park are likely to act as a ecological and biological corridors. 

To the north of the island, the Saba National Marine Park is directly connected to the "Saba National Land Park" , a 43 ha pie-shaped tract of land. Formerly owned by the Sulfur Mining Company, was officially turned over to the Saba Conservation Foundation in 1999. The boundaries of the land park stretch from the high tide limit of the marine park to the summit of Mount Scenery, encompassing all of the major terrestrial habitats on the island. This is the only place on the island where protection is offered to habitats from the summit to the 60m depth contour.


Resilience:


As a protected site, the Saba Bank National Marine Park will provide a source of juveniles for nearby marine environments. This is particularly the case for corals and other invertebrates that have a larval stage in their life cycle where they are dispersed into the water column. Many of the coastal marine habitats of neighboring islands are under threat from pollution, sedimentation and development, making the Saba National Marine Park a critical site for aiding recovery. The habitats and species within the Saba National Marine Park are relatively resilient to natural threats because of relatively few local terrestrial and marine stresses.