Martinique: its biodiversity, an international wealth!

Biodiversity, mangrove in MartiniqueMartinique is an island known for its flowers given its nickname of island of flowers but it is all its biodiversity that deserves more attention. Indeed, the island is one of the hotspots of international biodiversity. Around the world, 34 hot spots are identified and Martinique is one of them. Over 50% of plant species and 42% of terrestrial vertebrate species live in these hot spots.

With an area of only 1,105 sq. km, Martinique has a remarkable biodiversity compared to its small area. The quality and variety of its landscapes and environments (26% of its area is occupied by natural forest) as well as the exceptional heritage values of some of its forests, more or less close to their original state, are remarkable.

Also, if we attach Martinique to the whole of France, it ranks 4th in the world heritage in terms of biodiversity!

Natural environments

The vegetation differs according to the altitude:

- The low zones (1200-1500mm of rain per year on the Caribbean coast and the south of the island, 1500-200mm of rain per year on the Atlantic coast) are characterized by vegetation which partly loses its leaves during high temperatures cooler and that can bloom on in rocky areas or on cliffs.

- The middle zone (between 50 and 300 meters) is the domain of the evergreen forest (evergreen and always in flower) tropical season, crops and most of the rural and semi-urban habitat.

Fern- The low mountain area (between 300 and 600 meters) is occupied by a submontane rain forest with many large trees (30-40m high), a complex architecture with a lot of lianas, epiphytes (plant that grows with d other plants as a support without being parasitic plants that take advantage of their host) and tree ferns.

- The upper zone and volcanic peaks (between 600m and 1397 meters) extremely rainy (more than 6 meters of rain per year), windy is the domain of the tropical rainforest (requiring a high rainfall) of fog and and its semi-treed high altitude savannas.

The natural environments of the Antilles remain very fragile because they are subject to the possibility of natural disasters (cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions) and threatened by human pressure (tourism, demography).

Ilet Madame in RobertThe numerous islets of Robert, François and Sainte-Anne are subject to more and more frequentation due to the increase in pleasure boating.

(Photo credit : Martinique Développement durable)

The species

Martinique is the island of the Lesser Antilles furthest from the two main centers of dispersal of flora and fauna (South America and the Greater Antilles). Speciation is active there and a significant number of species are endemic to the island. Others are endemic to all of the Lesser Antilles. Since the arrival of humans in the Caribbean, many species have disappeared and others have been destroyed accidentally or on purpose.

Marine biodiversity

Martinique seabedCoral reefs are distributed on the Atlantic coast from Sainte-Marie to Pointe des Salines and this one to Fort de France, on the Caribbean coast. There are 10,000 ha of seagrass meadows and 2,200 ha of mangroves.

Martinique's marine biodiversity is characterized by the presence of 182 species of fish, 48 of corals and 331 of mollusks. Three species of sea turtles still lay eggs on the beaches. The number of cetacean species is unknown but seven species have already been the subject of sightings, in particular dolphins and sperm whales.

Marine protected areas are numerous. Among them, there is the Bay of Fort de France, however heavily polluted, the Caravelle Reserve, the Genipa mangrove, the reefs on the east coast from Sainte-Luce to Trois-Rivieres, the Rocher du Diamant in particular.

Conch shellSome resources are overexploited, in particular lobsters, white sea urchins and queen conch (photo opposite). Poaching of sea turtle eggs and meat has decreased but still persists. The provisional protection put in place for white sea urchins is more or less followed.

We observe the degradation of many underwater environments, especially at Cap Salomon, which is home to three quarters of the coral species of Martinique and many sponges.

Manatees extinct species in MartiniqueMany species are threatened. The American manatee has been extinct since the 17th century, as has the Caribbean monk seal, a species considered to be extinct throughout its range since the early 1950s. Three species of sea turtles are threatened.

Thus, if Martinique is a hotbed of world flora and fauna, the fact remains that many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Everyone's efforts are necessary to allow Martinique's biodiversity to grow or already to subsist.