In 2013, the Haitian government designated a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the northeast coast of Haiti, called the Three Bays National Park (3BNP). The protected area encompasses three bays: Limonade, Caracol, and Fort Liberté, as well as one of the largest inland brackish water lagoons – the Important Bird Area (IBA) of Lagon aux Boeufs – covering an area of 75,618ha. To date, there are very few peer-reviewed papers or grey literature describing the ecosystems within 3BNP. The Nature Conservancy was contracted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to conduct an ecological assessment of 3BNP. The main objective of this consultation is to provide assistance to the Ministry of Environment by conducting a detailed biological inventory of the marine and coastal resources of the Park and developing a biodiversity database.
The Three Bays National Park (both shallow marine and coastal terrestrial areas) was mapped from recent high-resolution satellite imagery and ArcGIS to provide a detailed and up-to-date characterization of the spatial extent and distribution of the different terrestrial and marine benthic habitats. The Park was further subdivided into 8 sub-regions which separate watersheds, bays, and offshore areas. Extensive surveys by scientific specialists were then carried out across these different habitats and sub-regions to characterize the terrestrial flora and fauna, freshwater fauna, and marine flora and fauna.
Although there have been significant human interventions within 3BNP over the years, there remains biologically significant flora and fauna within the Park. Extensive land clearing and deforestation over many centuries have greatly reduced the extent and quality of terrestrial and freshwater riparian habitats. Despite this, we documented one hundred and seventy-nine (179) native vascular plant species throughout the Park including five (5) IUCN Red listed (endangered) plant species. Plant diversity was the lowest in Human Altered areas, which was characterized by weedy, non-native species including a number of invasives. In contrast, most of the native species, including the Red listed plant species, were observed in portions of the Fort Liberté Peninsula with relatively intact Dry Broadleaf Evergreen-Shrubland habitat. The third class, Acacia farnesiana Shrubland, is essentially a monoculture of a single species with remnant populations of other weedy and invasive species. Acacia farnesiana is considered an invasive species here as it aggressively spreads into other vegetation types, reducing the biodiversity of those areas.