The Caribbean region is one of the most diverse and rich regions of the world. Its geographical situation and climate make biodiversity unique and interesting. Despite the natural beauty of this region, human activities changed somehow the landscape and endangered many species. The Caribbean region is very interesting for research and study. Investigation of its flora and fauna, particular landscape features of each island is of great scientific interest. As it consists of numerous islands, examples from different countries will help to see the whole picture of this region.
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The Caribbean region is situated on the Caribbean plate. The boundary with the North American plate goes through the southeast coast of Cuba, north of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Thus, the north part of the Caribbean region lies on the boundary of two plates. This makes seismic activity in the region intense. Volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and tsunamis often threaten the lives of people.
Climate and Vegetation Zones
Most of the Caribbean region is located in the tropical zone. The Bahamas’ climate is tropical to subtropical. According to the Koppen climate classification, the climate of the Bahamas is trade-wind, because winds bring precipitation during cool times of the year. The rest of the region belongs to a tropical wet-and-dry climate. Conditions are usually warm and humid, northeasterly winds bring precipitation. But in the part of the Antilles, the driest month has precipitation less than 60 mm. Very low precipitation forms the Circumcaribbean dry belt.
Temperature fluctuation is not significant: around 28 in summer and 24 in the cooler season. Temperature lows before sunrise increase till noon and remain the same till late afternoon. The North of the region (the Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica) undergoes considerable reduction of temperature during January-February. The coldest temperature was registered in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Between June and November, the Caribbean region experiences the hurricane season. In stormy weather, wind travels at more than 100 km per hour. Rainfall ranges from very low to heavy.
As a result of the combination of varying rainfall amounts, island size, shape and landscape each individual island has many microclimates. That is why precipitation and vegetation can vary within one small island. For example, the windward coast of Dominica is more humid than the lower and wider plain of the windward coast of St Lucia.
Classification of the natural vegetation of the Caribbean region can be applied only to separately taken islands. For example, in the Dominican Republic, vegetation types change from montane pine forest and mixed pine-broad-leaved forest with occasional montane rain forest and cloud forest in the mountains to mangrove and tidally flooded evergreen shrubland on the coast. Much of the territory of this country is occupied by sugar and rice grassland, African palm and Coco palm orchards.
Types of Agriculture
Forest trees, the particular feature of this region, have shallow and extensive root systems. This can be explained by adaptation to steep slopes and little amount of nutrients. Many tree species are deciduous. They shed leaves in the dry months. Others curl leaves from the sun. Limestone forests are dry, they can be found in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. But they are under threat from urban development. In fact, the Caribbean region is a major center for endemic species. Such spices are unique to a particular location. Rainforests have more species than grasslands because they have several stories.
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The landscape of the Caribbean region also differs from island to island. But the pattern of Jamaica with mountains inland (the Blue Mountains) and the narrow coastal plain is typical. Jamaica and other islands of Antilles are igneous, with thick layers of limestone. The highest point is Blue Mountain Peak (2,256 m), second, go the John Crow Mountains. The island is famous for karst formations, co-called Cockpit Country. Due to mountains, two types of climate exist here: upland tropical on the windward and semiarid on the leeward side.
Mountains in the Dominican Republic are numerous. As it is situated on the island of Hispaniola along with Haiti, their landscape is similar. Major rivers are the Yaque del Norte, the Yuna River, the San Juan River, the Yaque del Sur and the Artibonito. There are many lakes. For example, the salt lake of Enriquillo is the lowest point of the Caribbean. Coastal lagoons make outstanding landmarks of Hispaniola.
The Caribbean region is famous for its unique reefs. “The coral reefs on the Bahamas are the most extensive area of fringing reefs in the world” (Potter, Barker, Conway, and Klak 34). They are extremely important because they remove carbon and reduce greenhouse gases. They also prevent beach erosion and serve as a source of beach sand. Thus, the protection of coral reefs is of global importance. They shelter extinct species and protect them from the rough sea.
Landscape and climate determine agriculture, which remains the most important sector for domestic consumption. Export of agricultural products is one of the main important income items. The products comprise sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, and cacao.
Unfortunately, not only coral reefs suffered from human activities. Clearance of natural vegetation for agricultural needs is the primary cause of changes in the landscape. Deforestation shifted forests to remote uplands. Periodic flooding due to deforestation and tropical storms kills a lot of people. Bajos de Haina with its battery recycling smelter in the Dominican Republic is one of the most polluted places in the world. Thus, pollution endangers the environment. “The application of excessive fertilizers leads to nitrogen enrichment of surface and groundwater” (Potter, Barker, Conway, and Klak 38).
The richness of the Caribbean region and its environmental problems go hand in hand. The favorable geographical position, uniqueness of each island, and rich potential make this region of paramount interest and bring economic reforms along with pollution and devastations. This region is a commonly recognized tourist center, and it should be investigated and protected for future generations. Developing countries of this region need support and new technologies to develop their economy and protect nature.
Potter, B. Robert, Barker, David, Conway, Dennis, and Thomas Klak. The contemporary Caribbean. New York: Prentice Hall, 2004.