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One of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots

The Insular Caribbean is one of the five most important of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, supporting 7,779 endemic species in only 263,500 km² (about the size of Illinois and Kentucky, which together have fewer than 200 endemic species). The Caribbean is a ~6,000km ring of about 7,000 islands that is home to some of the richest land and marine environments on earth. The region supports an exceptionally large number of endemic species (nearly 8,000) and diverse ecosystems, ranging from montane cloud forests to cactus scrublands. It is ranked near the top on almost every global conservation prioritization regardless of taxonomic group and technique.

Threatened Habitat

The biggest threat to biodiversity in the Caribbean is invasive species. Today more than 25% of the Caribbean’s endemic species are either threatened or have already become extinct. The Insular Caribbean’s 58 endemic mammals are particularly hard hit; 62% of the known species have gone extinct since 1600 and 100% of those remaining are threatened with extinction. Although land conversion and overexploitation have contributed to the Insular Caribbean’s extinctions, invasive mammals have played a disproportionate role. The impacts of invasive species are most acute in the Caribbean’s many protected areas, where other anthropogenic threats can be minimized, but invasive mammals continue to cause tremendous damage.

Protecting Jamaica's Iguanas from Extinction

The Jamaican Iguana is an excellent example of the impact of invasive species and the benefit of their control. Invasive species lead to the dramatic decline of the iguana through predation and, in 1940, the Jamaican Iguana was declared extinct. Then, in the 1990’s, the iguana was rediscovered in the forests of the Hellshire Hills. Control of invasive species was initiated to protect the existing iguana population. Today, the population has stabilized, but the Jamaican Iguana remains critically endangered.  It is one of the rarest reptiles in the world. In order to reduce the risk of extinction, additional populations should be established. This requires creating suitable habitat for the iguana by removing invasive species. Island Conservation is working with partners in Jamaica to permanently remove these invasive species on the Goat Islands in Jamaica.  This will create a predator free environment for the Jamaican Iguana.

The Caribbean may be the most important conservation area in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the place that has the most species at risk for extinction.


Read more about what Island Conservation is doing to restore the Caribbean on Desecheo Island!



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Featured Species
Take a closer look at this rare and stunning hummingbird found on only one island in the entire world that you are helping protect from extinction!

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