Tobago Cays Marine Park

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Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

Flora

Brief description of the main plant assemblages significant or particular in the area:


The terrestrial flora consists mainly of dry forest, grasses and shrubs, including species such as coconut, agave, cactus, coccoloba sp. and diospyros sp. There is one patche of Red Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) on Petit Rameau– this species is rare within SVG (although listed as least concern under the IUCN Red List). There are some Melocactus Broadwayi on the cays, which are listed as near threatened under the IUCN Red List. Underwater, there are areas of seagrass beds which contain two listed species under SPAW Annex 3 – Manatee Grass (Syringodium filiforme) and Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum). 

List of plant species within the site that are in SPAW Annex I

List of species in SPAW annex I Estimate of population size Comments if any

List of plant species within the site that are in SPAW Annex III

List of species in SPAW annex III Estimate of population size Comments if any
Cymodoceaceae: Syringodium filiforme Area covered: 232.5 ha Manatee grass shares the same habitat as Turtle grass, and is generally found mixed in with the latter. Healthy sea grass beds around Baradal were dominated by Thalassia and Syringodium, with dispersed small colonies of Porites, Acropora, Siderastrea, Manicina and sponges. Within the sea grasses was an abundance of Dictyota (algae).There are no estimates of the number or area of Manatee Grass – so an range has been given based on the total seagrass area estimate.
Hydrocharitaceae: Thalassia testudinum Area covered: 232.5 ha A very abundant sea grass to sandy bottoms and areas of mixed sand and coral rubble. Isolated areas of small patches of sparse Thalassia were noted on the Horseshoe back reef. Sea grass beds around Baradal were dominated by Thalassia and Syringodium, with dispersed small colonies of Porites, Acropora, Siderastrea, Manicina and sponges. Within the sea grasses was an abundance of Dictyota (algae). There are no estimates of the number or area of Manatee Grass – so an range has been given based on the total seagrass area estimate.
Rhizophoraceae: Rhizophora mangle Area covered: 4 ha This species can reach heights of 80' ft under favourable conditions, but is often little more than a shrub. Locally it is one of the most important of the species constituting mangrove swamps, occurring where the salinity of seawater is diluted by freshwater. There is a mud flat grown up with Rhizophora mangle on the southern side of Petit Rameau.

List of plant species within the site that are in the IUCN Red List. UICN red list : http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/search You will specify the IUCN Status (CR:critically endangered; EN:endangered; VU:vulnerable).

List of species in IUCN red list that are present in your site IUCN Status Estimate of population size Comments if any

List of plant species within the site that are in the national list of protected species

List of species in the national list of protected species that are present in your site Estimate of population size Comments if any

Fauna

Brief descript° of the main fauna populations and/or those of particular importance present (resident or migratory) in the area:


The TCMP contains a number of important threatened species, both terrestrial and marine. There are populations of Brown Pelican, Bridled Terns and Iguanas in the park, and there are many migratory birds which pass through the area. The beaches and sea grass beds are feeding and nesting grounds for Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Leatherback Turtles. The reefs are home to many species of listed coral from the Milleporidae, Alcyonacea and Scleractinia families, there are also populations of Queen Conch and Caribbean Spiny lobster in the park.

List of animal species within the site that are in SPAW Annex II

List of species in SPAW annex II Estimate of population size Comments if any
Reptiles: Chelonia mydas Number of individuals: 67 - Unit used (individuals, spots, etc): not given Green Turtles are the most common in the park and breed and feed within the sea grass beds, especially along the coastline of Baradal. The Green Turtle is the largest hard-shelled sea turtle - adults of this species commonly reach 100 cm in carapace length and 150 kg in mass. Surveys from 2010 – 2012 captured and tagged between 49 and 85 turtles, although there is not enough data to determine the long term population trend.
Reptiles: Eretmochelys imbricata Number of individuals: 4 - Unit used (individuals, spots, etc): not given Hawksbill Turtles nest and feed within the park, although they are less numerous than Green Turtles. Surveys between 2010-2012 only found 8 total turtles, although they are less easy to locate than Green Turtles.
Reptiles: Dermochelys coriacea not given This turtle is the most specialized and unique of all sea turtles. It is the largest, reaching a length of 7 feet and weighing up to one ton with flippers up to 4 feet long. They travel the furthest and are undoubtedly the greatest migrants, traversing thousands of km over the open oceans and fast currents. They nest in tropical waters and yet forage also in cold northern seas. In the TCMP no Leatherback Turtles were recorded during the recent surveys, but there are older sightings, so it may be a rarer visitor to the park.
Birds: Sterna antillarum antillarum not given These birds are coastal, occasionally seen singly or in small groups offshore and in the open sea around the TCMP. There are no current population estimates.
Pelecanidae: pelecanus occidentalis not given This large bird is seen nesting in the TCMP during February to July but may also nest sporadically for the rest of the year. Plunges for food at the surface and will filter the contents of its bill for its food. There are no population estimates for the TCMP

List of animal species within the site that are in SPAW Annex III

List of species in SPAW annex III Estimate of population size Comments if any
Hydrozoa: Milleporidae not given Blade Fire Coral (Millepora complanata) and Branching Fire Coral (Millepora alcicornis) are found across the TCMP. Blade Fire Coral occur in colonies and have thin, upright blades or plates that extend from an encrusting base. They inhabit shallow water reef tops, usually in areas with some water movement and most common in areas with constant surge. Surveys identify approximately 4% of corals on Horseshoe Reef, and it was also identified on Petit Bateau reef, and it is likely to be found across all reefs. Branching Fire Coral forms colonies of multiple branching structures, often encrusting and overgrow gorgonian colonies and taking their shape. They inhabit all marine environments and common in depths greater than 30 ft, there are no accurate surveys within TCMP, although they have been identified as present across all reefs.
Anthozoa : Gorgonacea not given Species in the Alcyonacea (previously Gorgonacea) order within the TCMP include Common and Purple Sea Fans (Gorgonia flabellum and Gorgonia ventalina respectively) and the Bipinnate Sea Plume (Pseudopterogorgia biplinnata). Sea Fans and Sea Plumes were found across all reefs; Sea Fans were particularly prevalent within Mayreau Gardens. There are no estimates of population or area.
Anthozoa : Scleractinia not given There are 15 species of Scleractinia order corals within the TCMP. Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmate) are generally the most dominant species on the fringing and bank-barrier reefs, with deeper reefs are dominated by various head corals. However disease and hurricanes have seriously affected the Elkhorn coral population across the park with many surveys noting large patches of dead or dying coral. Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) and Fused Staghorn (Acropora prolifera) are found on most reefs, but there are no good population or area estimates. Boulder Star Coral (Montastrea annularis) A very common and often predominant coral species - it is the dominant coral on the Horseshoe reef and is numerous on the Petit Bateau and Mayreau Garden’s reefs. Boulder Brain coral (Colpophyllia natans). Generally inhabiting reef tops and seaward reef slopes. Colonies are found across the TCMP, particularly on the Horseshoe reef. Starlet Coral (Siderastrea sidereal), Lesser Starlet Coral (Siderastrea radians). Both species are one of the most common corals across the TCMP. S. siderea tends to inhabit shallow to moderate reefs, generally in protected areas of shallow reefs and all deep reef environments. S. radians usually inhibit areas shallower than S. siderea, in shallow reefs and back reefs. Grooved Brain Coral (Diploria labrinthiformis). This is a common coral across the TCMP. These inhabit seaward slope of reefs, most common between 15-50 ft. Finger Coral (Porites porites), Thin Finger Coral (Porites divaricate), Branched Finger coral (Porites furcate), Mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) – all four corals are common across the reefs. A survey in 2003 estimated that Finger Coral and Mustard hill coral covering around 46% of the Horseshoe reef. Little is known about the rest of the corals, all are found across the TCMP, but there are no population or area estimates, and little other information. Yellow Pencil coral (Madracis mirablis/ Madracis auretenra) Colonies form densely packed clumps of small pencil-sized branches with blunt tips. Common to the Caribbean and generally inhabit deeper, clear water, outer reefs. Lamarck’s Sheet Coral (Agaricia lamarcki) A common Caribbean species, this coral inhabits sloping reef faces and walls. It is one of the most abundant coral on deep reefs and walls. Colonies form large, thin sheets or flattened plates that often overlap. Colonies’ undersides have no polyps and are quite smooth. Star coral (Madracis pharensis) Thinly encrusting coral, spreading in long ribbons or may form numerous small knobs. This coral grows in dark areas and most common in water deeper than 60ft. Ten-ray Star coral (Madracis decactis) Usually thinly encrusting forming small colonies with tightly bunched lobes and knobs. Inhabit most reef environments and form irregular encrustations in shaded, protected areas of the reef. Symmetrical Brain Coral (Diploria strigosa) An abundant reef coral, they inhabit many marine environments. Most commonly between 20-40 ft. Colonies form contoured plated with long valleys, often connected and convoluted. Green to brown, yellow-brown and bluish gray with valleys often brighter or of contrasting colour. Rose Coral (Manicina areolata) Common to coral reefs with colonies that grow in two patterns. The more common elliptical colonies and the less common hemispherical heads. Both patterns exhibit different habitats and behaviours. Golfball Coral (Favia fragum) A common coral, which inhabits shallow reefs and rocky substrates. They usually form hemispherical domes and occasionally encrusting. Easily distinguished from similar Elliptical and start corals by colonies’ smaller size and less protrusion of corallites. Most of this information is from OPAAL Eco Report No. 06/2007
Molluscs: Strombus gigas not given Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) are found within the TCMP, especially within the seagrass beds.
Crustaceans: Panulirus argus not given Caribbean Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is found within the TCMP
Reptiles: Iguana iguana not given Green Iguana (iguana iguana). These species are abundant on Petit Rameau and Baradal and present on most of the other cays.

List of animal species within the site that are in the IUCN Red List. IUCN Red List : http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/search You will specify the IUCN Status (CR:critically endangered; EN:endangered; VU:vulnerable).

List of species in IUCN red list that are present in your site IUCN Status Estimate of population size Comments if any
Agaricia: lamarck VU - Vulnerable not given
Chelonia: mydas EN - Endangered Number of individuals: 67 - Unit used (individuals, spots, etc): not given See previous comments on the Green Turtle
Eretmochelys : imbricate CR - Critically endangered not given See previous comments
Dermochelys: coriacea VU - Vulnerable not given See previous comments
Acropora : cervicornis CR - Critically endangered not given
Acropora : palmata CR - Critically endangered not given
Montastrea : annularis EN - Endangered not given

List of animal species within the site that are in the national list of protected species

List of species in the national list of protected species that are present in your site Estimate of population size Comments if any
Iguana: Iguana not given Protected at the national level under The Wildlife Protection Act, 1987. There is a hunting season.
Zenaida : aurita not given Partially Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Larus: all species not given All species of sea gulls are Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Fregata: all species not given All frigate birds are Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Pelecanus: occidentalis not given Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Sula: leucogaster not given Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Sterna : antillarum not given Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Sterna : fuscata not given Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Sterna : hirundo not given Protected Species under the Wildlife Act 1987
Birds: most not given Many bird species are protected under the Wildlife Act 1987. Many of them are listed as Protected with a Hunting Season.