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Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea, is located in the West Indies off the coast of Central America.[1] The capital of Jamaica is Kingston.[1] The original inhabitants of the island were the Taino people.[1]

In 1494, the island was first sighted by Christopher Columbus, putting it under Spanish rule.[1] Columbus had called the island Santiago, however, the use of the island's Indigenous name, Jamaica (or Xaymaca), continued.[1] By the time that the English had come to rule the island in 1655, the Spanish had essentially annihilated the Indigenous Taino population.[1] Jamaica remains under a British constitutional monarchy.[1]


(Jamaican Rainforest)

Dominant Biomes

  • Tropical Rainforest [2]
  • Subtropical dry broadleaf forests

Dominant Ecoregions

  • Tropical moist forest [3]
  • Tropical dry forest
  • Elfin forests (high mountains), rainforests (valleys), savannahs, dry sandy areas[4]


Biophysical Limits
  • Dry forests are limited by water availability, affecting both flora and fauna within the region
  • Moist forest are limited by sunlight availability, primarily impacting flora
  • Invasive species brought over during colonization have endangered local species, such as the Iguana, which is a keystone species in the region[5]
  • furthermore, deforestation has resulted in habitat loss for a number of local species, increasing the likelihood of endangerment, and possible extinction - this too is the result of colonial and imperialistic extraction industries (ie. sugar cane and banana plantations)[5]
Climatic Limits
  • tropical rainforests: average temperature from 21-32 C, 150-500 cm of rainfall annually that is typically spread out evenly throughout the year[6]

Biogeographical Limits

Jamaican Iguana is a keystone species in the region, but have become endangered and face a variety of threats including invasive species that hunt young iguanas and deforestation leading to habitat loss. They are also limited to dry forest regions which is not a dominating ecoregion in the country.[5]


Island of Jamaica submerged around 20mya, in the late Eocene (submarine epoch)[7]

  • Results in Jamaica being mostly covered by limestone and karst formations
  • Late Miocene: Jamaica = lifted above sea level
    • “Newly raised island available for new biological colonization, resulting in plenty of endemic animal and plant species” (p.346)
  • By looking at their DNA, you can identify intraspecific geographically separated populations for species endemic to Jamaica

Within Jamaica there are 3,304 vascular plant species, this includes 136 species of butterflies, 600 species of ferns, and 106 known bird species; each of these species are only found within Jamaica[8] . Furthermore, these species are currently under threat as a result of climate change, and the droughts/extreme weather events which are occurring as a result.

Jamaica is one of the most diverse islands in the Caribbean, with the highest number of endemic birds and plants for any Caribbean island[9]. It holds the fifth global ranking, in terms of endemic flora, indicating its immense importance in terms of biodiversity[9].

A region known as the 'Cockpit Country' - covering parts of St James, Trelawny, St Ann, St Elizabeth and Manchester - is the most biodiverse region within Jamaica [10]. Of the 21 bat species present on the island, 13 live in the Cockpit Country; there are also 79 species of birds (28 of which are endemic to Jamaica) in this region, and the list goes on[10].

Jamaican Tody (Todus todus)

It is important to note, that maintaining biodiversity is integral for everyday life amongst Jamaicans, as they rely on aspects of both floral and fauna biodiversity to provide themselves with food, clothing, shelter, etc.[9].

The similar evolutionary development of many terrestrial animals in Jamaica demonstrates patterns of island colonization during the Cenozoic era (current geological era), supporting the theory of plate tectonics.[11]

Biogeographic distributions for many groups of species including beetles, amphibians, and reptiles, show that species originating in Central America dominated the colonization of Jamaica; Cuba and Hispaniola have played a large part in contemporary dispersal.[11]

Additionally, Tertiary uplift and alternating cycles of glacial and interglacial periods during the Pleistocene era, impacting sea levels and climate, both have influenced the biodiversity patterns of Jamaica’s fauna.[11]

Human influences

Earliest Colonization and Land Use Change

Jamaica is one of the least studied islands in the Greater Antilles, and so there remains a significant amount of uncertainty, when it comes to the impact humans have had on local ecosystems and biodiversity. [12]

Jamaica was settled relatively late, which was shown through a clear shift in vegetation present on the island, beginning around 1050 cal years BP. There is evidence that this shift in vegetation was the result of anthropogenic fire use.[12]

Furthermore, studies of pollen and Phytolith have shown that human influence on the environment varied geographically, throughout Jamaica (and the rest of the Caribbean), and occurred gradually.[12]

Due to the parallel timing of the anthropogenic fires and the arrival of manioc, paleobiologists argue that early colonizers likely burned vegetation in order to increase manioc germination, for sustenance and economic purposes.[12]

In the 18th century, there was a wave of deforestation to establish plantations in Jamaica.[13]

As time progressed, European colonists began to join in on the industrialization of sugarcane, which led to a reduction in canopies - executed primarily through fires - and the resulting appearance of panicoid grasses. Many researchers believe that this is the most impactful influence colonists had on the Jamaican environment, and its legacy can still be seen today.[12]

Jamaica has dealt with substantial natural vegetation loss because of the centuries of improper land usage. This has resulted in the island being afflicted with major environmental issues, which includes, soil erosion, habitat degradation, flooding, and decreased surface flows in streams and rivers.[13]

Mining Impacts

(Bauxite Jamaica - 1984)

Jamaica’s mining and extraction activities have impacted local ecosystems and communities through water supply, soil quality, and air quality.

Jamaica’s water quality has been decreased through contamination, sedimentation, leaching, and improper waste management from mining companies.[14][15]

Bauxite mining (open cast mining to extract alumina) is one of the most prevalent concerns over landscape damage. Soils have been eroded, preventing them from being used for productive agricultural crops and forcing them to relocate.[16]

These land use changes also increased air pollution damaging local communities livestock and infrastructure because the location of the mines was based on minimizing cost rather than looking to avoid potential environmental impacts.[16]


Jamaica’s tourism industry is one of its main outlet to foreign income. Investment and development in this industry has led to increased constructions and cruise ship traffic has led to caused habitat fragmentation, increase land run-off and waste which led to detrimental impacts on the mangrove and coral reef ecosystems that surround the hotels and ports.[17]


Main threats: habitat loss, climate change, resource over exploitation, invasive alien species, pollution [17]

(Panoramio - Jamaican Resort)

According to the National Environment and Planning Agency's Fifth National Report for Jamaica, “conservation constraints include: lack of political will, limited public awareness, conflicting policy/limited inter-Agency collaboration, unwillingness to share data/information, limited scientific information, limited information on biological resources and natural heritage, low revenue/funding, limited expertise in areas such as taxonomy, poor socio-economic planning and weak law enforcement” (p.3).

Habitat degradation and lost economic activities are responsible for a significant level of Habitat degradation and loss. “For example, multimillion dollar investments by TransJamaican Highway Limited and China Harbour in 2006 and 2010 respectively, to construct multilane highways throughout the country, have resulted in significant clearing of terrestrial biodiversity; even in ecologically sensitive areas such as mangrove and dry limestone forest” (p.23).

Further, the tourism industry in Jamaica has led to more constructions and more cruise ship traffic which have led to habitat fragmentation, increased land run-off and waste which cause detrimental impacts on the mangrove and coral reef communities.

Overexploitation in harvesting plants and animals, often for food, is unregulated. This places added pressure on Jamaica’s biodiversity

For Jamaica, climate change will lead to increased land and sea temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, sea level rise, and increased intensity of storm events. These changes put many species at risk and also contribute to further degradation of landscapes and ecosystems.


Kristy: Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan (STRAP)

With habitat loss being a major threat to conservation and biodiversity loss in Jamaica, NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) has on-going projects to recover critically endangered species (p.3).[17] At sea, turtles are vulnerable to accidental consumption of trash, being entrapped by shrimp and fish nets, poor water quality and pollution, and illegal hunting[18]. While on land, turtles are disturbed by increasing human presence causing more noise and light.[18]

The 2011 Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan (STRAP) aims to enhance the survival of the threatened American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and sea turtles in Jamaica.[17] This is achieved through on-going monitoring of the “status and trends among nesting and foraging populations” (p.9), with the added bonus of “increas[ing] public awareness of the endangered status of sea turtles” (p.9).[17] The 2007 to 2013 data on sea turtle nesting activities demonstrated a fifty percent increase in nesting activity in 2013. For instance, nesting females was estimated between three and five in 2010, to eight and eighteen in 2011.[17] This project also has a page on the NEPA website which provides additional information about Jamaica's beaches and recommended steps if tourists come across turtle eggs or turtles hatching.[19] They have also implemented an 'Education and Awareness Programme' to train more people to conduct nesting surveys on beaches, have presentations and workshops about sea turtle biology and conservation measures.[18]

Caitie: Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT)

(Blue Mountain National Park - Park Ranger House)

The Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust is a project that was created in 1988.[20]

It is responsible for the protection and management of both the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, which take up a collective of 101,313 acres of land in Eastern Jamaica.[20]

These mountain ranges are one of two locations, within Jamaica, in which the giant swallowtail butterfly resides, which is the largest butterfly on the Western Hemisphere.[20]

Furthermore, the mountains house the endangered Jamaican coney, the endangered Jamaican blackbird, as well as the Jamaican boa, all important species for the ecosystem.[20]

This protected park is an important source of biodiversity within Jamaica, and it is crucial that conservation be a key focus in this region.[20]

In an effort to enact this conservation, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park is protected under a number of conservation laws, including the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act, as well as the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Act.[20]

Furthermore, these mountains have been determined to be a World Heritage Site. this was decided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).[20]

Gurleen: Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group (JIRG)

Female Jamaican Rock Iguana (Cyclura collei)

The Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group (JIRG), formerly known as the Jamaica Iguana Research and Conservation Group, was founded in 1992[21] for the conservation of the iguanas of Hellshire Hills.[22] The Jamaican Rock Iguana was thought to be extinct by 1940s but a small population of the species was found in Hellshire Hills in the 1990s.[22]

The Jamaican Rock Iguana is categorized as critically endangered and is threatened by non-native mammal predators, habitat destruction, and illegal forest use.[23] The predators that threaten the Jamaican Rock Iguana are typically mongooses, stray dogs, cats, and feral pigs.[24] The Hellshire Hills are included in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA), Jamaica’s largest protected area, which was declared in 1999.[23]

The strategies being employed are a combination of nest protection, controlling predators, and releasing the iguanas back to Hellshire Hills.[23] The National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA) formally took over oversight of this group in 2013.[22] Through collaboratively working with the Hope Zoo in Kingston and the International Iguana Foundation, over 468 Iguanas have been released back into Hellshire Hills to date.[23]

This conservation effort can be viewed as a success due to the large number of iguanas they have been able to release back into their habitat. The success of the Jamaican Iguana Recovery Program has led to it to be widely recognized as one of world’s most outstanding conservation success stories.[23]

Sydney: Jamaica Environment Trust (JET)

The Jamaica Environment Trust project is a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1991 by a group of citizens concerned about Jamaica's environmental state, specifically natural resources.[25]

To achieve their goal of protection, they use methods such as education, conservation, law, and public policy to work with citizens and companies to highlight environmental concerns. By engaging with the public, JET is able to gain insight on individuals experiences in the way that environmental disasters have impacted their livelihood, and they are able to work to advocate for these communities. [25]

This project mainly employs education strategies, engaging with the public to spread awareness of particular issues that are affecting Jamaican communities and represent these communities during environmental impact assessment public hearings. [25]

One issue JET raised concern over was the waste management and accumulation of single use plastics along coastlines. They called on the government for an improvement in the waste management and in 2018 the Government of Jamaica banned single use plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam containers.[25]


Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.

Note: Before writing your wiki article on the UBC Wiki, it may be helpful to review the tips in Wikipedia: Writing better articles.[26]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Ferguson, J. A.; Bryan, Patrick. "Jamaica". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. Yu, Mei (January 2017). "Extent of Night Warming and Spatially Heterogeneous Cloudiness Differentiate Temporal Trend of Greenness in Mountainous Tropics in the New Century". Scientific Reports. 7 – via Nature.
  3. Schipper, Dan (2022). [( "Jamaican Moist Forests"] Check |url= value (help).
  4. Black, Clinton. "Jamaica".
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Jamaican Iguana".
  6. "Environment".
  7. "Shallow phylogeographic structure of Puerto Rico freshwater crabs: an evolutionary explanation for low species diversity compared to Jamaica". Phylogeography and Population Genetics in Crustacea. CRC Press. 2011. pp. 345–365. ISBN Check |isbn= value: invalid character (help).
  8. Morris, Answorth. "Jamaicans Encouraged To Protect Rich Biodiversity".
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Jamaica's Biodiversity Information Network. "Introduction to Jamaican Biodiversity".
  10. 10.0 10.1 digjamaica. "What's Right with Jamaica? Amazing Biodiversity".
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Buskirk, Ruth (1985). "Zoogeographic patterns and tectonic history of Jamaica and the northern Caribbean". Journal of Biogeography – via JSTOR.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Elliott, Sarah (2022). "The Legacy of 1300 Years of Land Use in Jamaica". The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology: 1–33.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Evelyn, O.B. (2003). "Forest cover and deforestation in Jamaica: an analysis of forest cover estimates over time". International Forestry Review. 5: 354–363 – via JSTOR.
  14. "A Changing Climate: The Youth Response in Jamaica".
  15. "Environmental Impacts" (PDF).
  16. 16.0 16.1 Coke, Lloyd; et al. (1987). "Environmental Impacts of Bauxite Mining and Processing in Jamaica". Social and Economic Studies – via JSTOR. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 Newell, Dionne (2015). "Fifth National Report for Jamaica" (PDF). National Environment and Planning Agency.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 NEPA and Government of Jamaica. "The Ecology and Conservation of Sea Turtles in Jamaica" (PDF).
  19. NEPA & Government of Jamaica. "Sea Turtles, Jamaica Beach Guide".
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 Jamaica Conservation Partners. "Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT)".
  21. bin Zayed, Mohamed. "Jamaican Iguana (Cyclura collei)".
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Pasachnik, Stesha (July 25, 2018). "Brighter future for Jamaican Iguanas".
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 "Jamaican Rock Iguana". International Iguana Foundation.
  24. "Cyclura collei". Iguana Specialist Group.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 "Jamaica Environment Trust". Jamaica Conservation Partners.
  26. (2018). Writing better articles. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This Tropical Ecology Resource was created by Course:GEOS303.