Man O War Shoal 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 Man O War Shoal Marine Park  represent the most of the healthiest reefs found in the waters off St Maarten. They are significant for their structure, the habitat they provide as well as for the animals and plants that live there. The different reef formations; patch reefs, spur and groove reefs as well as caves and canyons represent many of the reef types found in the region.

The Man O War Shoal Marine Park is an important habitat for turtles, Caribbean Reef Sharks and Nurse sharks, as well as other species of shark. These animals also migrate between Anguillan and St Bathelemy's waters.

Conservation value:


The habitats within the Man O War Shoal 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), see Attachment 4.

The Shark Research Project within Man O War Shoal Marine Park, which is carried out by nature Foundation St Maarten is providing further information on shark abundance, migratory patterns and home range in the marine park and near coastal waters. This information will allow the decision makers to continuously fine-tune and enforce the decree for protection of sharks and rays on St. Maarten.

Along with neighbouring MPA's the Man O War Shoal Marine Park forms part of the AGOA marine mammal sanctuary, offering protection to all mammals, from the smaller dolphin species to the larger Humpback Whales.

 

 

Rarity:


The coral reef habitats found within Man O War Shoal Marine Park have been depleted accross their range throughout the wider Caribbean. Coral reefs and seagrass beds are globally threatened by anropogenic stresses.

Naturalness:


Due to it's location off shore, the area covered by the Man O War Shoal Marine Park has, so far, seemingly avoided many local anthropogenic disturbances. Most of the Man O War Shoal Marine Park is between 1km and 7 km off shore, making it less vulnerable (but not totally isolated from) to terrestrial inputs than islands with MPA's  that contain fringing reefs. Fishing has had an impact on the ecology of the area, but the establishment of the MPA in 2010 will hopefully go some way to addressing this. The structure, function and species of the various habitats are largely intact. 

Critical habitats:


The coral reef, seagrass and benthic habitats within the Man O War Shoal 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 area was also once home to conch populations which now may have a chance to recover.

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

Diversity:


The coral reef and segrass habitats of the Man O War Shoal 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 the local human population.

Connectivity/coherence:


The Man O War Shoal Marine Park is relatively close to other marine parks; Reserve Natural St Martin, located on the French Side of St Maarten, which is only 6km from the North West boundary along the relatively undisturbed East Coast of St Maarten.  Over open sea, the Man O War Shoal Marine Park is also conected to Saba National Marine Park (45km), Saba Bank National Marine Park (55km) and St Eustatius National Marine Park (60km), which may possibly act as seeding grounds for species with free swimming larval stages of their life cycles. The Man O War Shoal Marine Park staff are currently working closely with the AGOA marine mammal sanctuary iniative to establish a large, cohesive protected site for marine mammals in the region.

The deeper St Barthelemy Channel to the south of the Man O War Shoal Marine Park, including the deeper water in the MPA is likely to act as a ecological and biological corridor. 

Resilience:


As a protected site, the Man O War Shoal Marine Park will provide a source of juveniles for nearby marine habitats on St Maarten. This is particularly the case for corals and other invertebrates that have a larval stage in their life cycle where they are dispeared into the water column. Many of the coastal marine habitats of St Maarten are under threat from pollution, sedimentation and development, making the Man O War Shoal Marine Parka critical site for aiding recovery. The habitats and species within the Man O War Shoal Marine Park are relatively resilient to natural threats because of their distance from the nearest terrestrial influences on stress to marine organisms.