Tobago Cays Marine Park

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Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

c - Biological features

Habitats

Brief description of dominant and particular habitats (marine and terrestrial)*: List here the habitats and ecosystems that are representative and/or of importance for the WCR (i.e. mangroves, coral reefs, etc):


Most of the TCMP is marine, with only around 5% terrestrial. There are small areas of wetland and mangrove forests, but most terrestrial ecosystems are beach or dry forest. Within the marine areas there are large coral reefs, both fringing and bank-barrier, as well as a areas of seagrass beds. The marine ecosystems provide habitat for a wide variety of marine life including turtles, conch, sea eggs, occaisional large fish (such as sharks, jacks and barracuda) and many smaller and juvenile reef fish. Major corals include Montastrea, Porites, Acropora, Millepora and Siderastrea species. 

Detail for each habitat/ecosystem the area it covers:

Marine / coastal ecosystem categories
Detail for each habitat / ecosystem the area covers
Size (estimate) Description and comments
unit Area covered
Mangroves
Red Mangrove forest ha 4 There is one small patches of Red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) in Petit Rameau.
Coral reefs
All coral reefs ha 1336 Surrounding the Tobago Cays are several shallow fringing reefs around the islands, and a major bank-barrier reef known as Horseshoe Reef. Other major reefs in the park include World’s End Reef, Egg Reef and Mayreau Gardens. The fringing reefs around Mayreau and the Mayreau Gardens reef are considered to be the most biodiverse and healthy, with Horseshoe Reef and the reef around Petit Tabac being the next richest. Finally, the World’s End and Egg reef, as well as the other fringing reefs are considered to be the most degraded and least diverse in the park. The common corals on the reefs are Montastrea, Porites, Acropora, Millepora and Siderastrea species, as well as patches of soft corals such as Gorgonians (Sea Fans) and sponges. Large fish, such as barracuda and jacks, are occasionally found in the park, although most of the fish species are small. Algae and disease are prominent across all reefs and affect coral health. Surveys in 2007 concluded that most reefs were dominated by dead coral rubble and had live coral cover between 5% and 30%, and all reefs are considered to be in decline (OPAAL survey). The area estimate also includes estimates of the deep reef in the TCMP, however there is very little information about its composition, structure or biodiversity values
Sea grass beds
Seagrass beds ha 365 Most sea grass beds lie within the shallow ‘lagoon’ south of Baradal in the centre of the cays, although there are tiny patches of sea grass near the Horseshoe back reef. The main species of seagrass are Thallassia and Syringodium, with small colonies of loggerhead sponges (Spheciospongia verparium), various soft corals and small colonies of Porites and Siderastrea. The sea grass beds support several species of juvenile fish, green turtles (Chelonia mydas), starfish (Oreaster reticulates), conchs (Strombus gigas) and sea eggs (Tripneustes ventricosus), however there are also significant areas of algae.
Sand cover
Beaches ha 9 There are small beaches on all of the cays, and on certain areas in Mayreau.
Terrestrial ecosystems
Size (estimate)
unit Area covered
Forest
Coastal and Riparian Forest sq.km 166 Mostly dry forest, mainly on Mayreau.
Wetlands
Salt Pond sq.km 5 The salt pond in Mayreau is the only wetland in the TCMP.