Caribbean Sea

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Caribbean Sea
Amerikanisches Mittelmeer NASA World Wind Globe.jpg
Satellite image of the Caribbean Sea
Caribbean general map.png
Map of the Caribbean Sea
Coordinates 15°N75°W / 15°N 75°W / 15; -75 Coordinates: 15°N75°W / 15°N 75°W / 15; -75
Type Sea
Native nameMar Caribe, Mer des Caraïbes, Caraïbische Zee
Part of Atlantic Ocean
River sources
Basin  countries
Surface area2,754,000 km2 (1,063,000 sq mi)
Max. depth7,686 m (25,217 ft)
Islands West Indies (Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles)
Trenches Cayman Islands
Settlements

The Caribbean Sea (Spanish : Mar Caribe; French : Mer des Caraïbes; Dutch : Caraïbische Zee) is an American Mediterranean Sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain and in the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Dutch language A West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 24 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third-most-widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Contents

The entire area of the Caribbean Sea, the numerous islands of the West Indies, and adjacent coasts, are collectively known as the Caribbean. The Caribbean Sea is one of the largest seas and has an area of about 2,754,000 km2 (1,063,000 sq mi). [1] [2] The sea's deepest point is the Cayman Trough, between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, at 7,686 m (25,217 ft) below sea level. The Caribbean coastline has many gulfs and bays: the Gulf of Gonâve, Gulf of Venezuela, Gulf of Darién, Golfo de los Mosquitos, Gulf of Paria and Gulf of Honduras.

West Indies Island region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.

Caribbean Region to the center-east of America composed of many islands / coastal regions surrounding the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.

Cayman Trough A complex transform fault zone pull-apart basin on the floor of the western Caribbean Sea

The Cayman Trough is a complex transform fault zone pull-apart basin which contains a small spreading ridge, the Mid-Cayman Rise, on the floor of the western Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. It is the deepest point in the Caribbean Sea and forms part of the tectonic boundary between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. It extends from the Windward Passage, going south of the Sierra Maestra of Cuba toward Guatemala. The transform continues onshore as the Motagua Fault, which cuts across Guatemala and extends offshore under the Pacific Ocean, where it intersects the Middle America Trench subduction zone.

Coral reef, near Soufriere Quarter, Saint Lucia Reef 247.jpg
Coral reef, near Soufrière Quarter, Saint Lucia

The Caribbean Sea has the world's second biggest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. It runs 1,000 km (620 mi) along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. [3]

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fourth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.

Belize country in Central America

Belize, formerly the British Honduras, is an independent and sovereign country located on the north eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 408,487 (2019). Its mainland is about 180 mi (290 km) long and 68 mi (110 km) wide. It has the lowest population and population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

History

Christopher Columbus landing on Hispaniola in 1492. Columbus landing on Hispaniola adj.jpg
Christopher Columbus landing on Hispaniola in 1492.

The name "Caribbean" derives from the Caribs, one of the region's dominant Native American groups at the time of European contact during the late 15th century. After Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492, the Spanish term Antillas applied to the lands; stemming from this, "Sea of the Antilles" became a common alternative name for "Caribbean Sea" in various European languages. During the first century of development, Spanish dominance in the region remained undisputed.

Island Caribs group of people who live in Venezuela and the Lesser Antilles islands

Island Caribs, also known as the Kalinago or simply Caribs, are an indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. They have descended from the Mainland Caribs (Kalina) of South America. The people spoke a carib pidgin language of Karina origins.

Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pre-Columbian inhabitants of North, Central and South America and their descendants

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian peoples of North, Central and South America and their descendants.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

From the 16th century, Europeans visiting the Caribbean region identified the "South Sea" (the Pacific Ocean, to the south of the isthmus of Panama) as opposed to the "North Sea" (the Caribbean Sea, to the north of the same isthmus). [4]

Tulum, Maya city on the coast of the Caribbean in the state of Quintana Roo (Mexico) Tulum-Seaside-2010.jpg
Tulum, Maya city on the coast of the Caribbean in the state of Quintana Roo (Mexico)

The Caribbean Sea had been unknown to the populations of Eurasia until 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed into Caribbean waters on a quest to find a sea route to Asia. At that time the Western Hemisphere in general was unknown to most Europeans, although it had been discovered between the years 800 and 1000 by the vikings. Following the discovery of the islands by Columbus, the area was quickly colonized by several Western cultures (initially Spain, then later England, the Dutch Republic, France, Courland and Denmark). Following the colonization of the Caribbean islands, the Caribbean Sea became a busy area for European-based marine trading and transports, and this commerce eventually attracted pirates such as Samuel Bellamy and Blackbeard.

Western Hemisphere half of the Earth that is west of the prime meridian and east of 180° longitude

The Western Hemisphere is a geographical term for the half of Earth which lies west of the prime meridian and east of the antimeridian. The other half is called the Eastern Hemisphere.

Vikings Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates

Vikings were Scandinavians, who from the late 8th to late 11th centuries, raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, and explored westwards to Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland. The term is also commonly extended in modern English and other vernaculars to include the inhabitants of Norse home communities during what has become known as the Viking Age, 798–1066 AD. This period of Nordic military, mercantile and demographic expansion constitutes an important element in the early medieval history of Scandinavia, Estonia, the British Isles, France, Kievan Rus' and Sicily.

Couronian colonization of the Americas

The Couronian colonisation of the Americas was performed by the Duchy of Courland, which was the second smallest state to colonise the Americas, with a colony on the island of Tobago from 1654 to 1659, and intermittently from 1660 to 1689.

As of 2015 the area is home to 22 island territories and borders 12 continental countries.

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Caribbean Sea as follows: [5]

On the North. In the Windward Channel – a line joining Caleta Point (74°15′W) and Pearl Point (19°40′N) in Haïti. In the Mona Passage – a line joining Cape Engaño and the extreme of Agujereada ( 18°31′N67°08′W / 18.517°N 67.133°W / 18.517; -67.133 ) in Puerto Rico.
Coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands Anegada Horseshoe Reef.jpg
Coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands
Eastern limits. From Point San Diego (Puerto Rico) Northward along the meridian thereof (65°39′W) to the 100-fathom line, thence Eastward and Southward, in such a manner that all islands, shoals and narrow waters of the Lesser Antilles are included in the Caribbean Sea as far as Galera Point (Northeast extremity of the island of Trinidad). From Galera Point through Trinidad to Galeota Point (Southeast extreme) and thence to Baja Point ( 9°32′N61°0′W / 9.533°N 61.000°W / 9.533; -61.000 ) in Venezuela.

Note that, although Barbados is an island on the same continental shelf, it is considered to be in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean Sea.

Geology

The Caribbean Sea is an oceanic sea largely situated on the Caribbean Plate. The Caribbean Sea is separated from the ocean by several island arcs of various ages. The youngest stretches from the Lesser Antilles to the Virgin Islands to the north east of Trinidad and Tobago off the coast of Venezuela. This arc was formed by the collision of the South American Plate with the Caribbean Plate and includes active and extinct volcanoes such as Mount Pelee, the Quill (volcano) on Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean Netherlands and Morne Trois Pitons on Dominica. The larger islands in the northern part of the sea Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico lie on an older island arc.

The shaded relief map of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico area. Caribbean Sea Gulf of Mexico shaded relief bathymetry land map.png
The shaded relief map of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico area.

The geological age of the Caribbean Sea is estimated to be between 160 and 180 million years and was formed by a horizontal fracture that split the supercontinent called Pangea in the Mesozoic Era. [8] It is assumed the proto-caribbean basin existed in the Devonian period. In the early Carboniferous movement of Gondwana to the north and its convergence with the Euramerica basin decreased in size. The next stage of the Caribbean Sea's formation began in the Triassic. Powerful rifting led to the formation of narrow troughs, stretching from modern Newfoundland to the west coast of the Gulf of Mexico which formed siliciclastic sedimentary rocks. In the early Jurassic due to powerful marine transgression, water broke into the present area of the Gulf of Mexico creating a vast shallow pool. The emergence of deep basins in the Caribbean occurred during the Middle Jurassic rifting. The emergence of these basins marked the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean and contributed to the destruction of Pangaea at the end of the late Jurassic. During the Cretaceous the Caribbean acquired the shape close to that seen today. In the early Paleogene due to Marine regression the Caribbean became separated from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean by the land of Cuba and Haiti. The Caribbean remained like this for most of the Cenozoic until the Holocene when rising water levels of the oceans restored communication with the Atlantic Ocean.

The Caribbean's floor is composed of sub-oceanic sediments of deep red clay in the deep basins and troughs. On continental slopes and ridges calcareous silts are found. Clay minerals likely having been deposited by the mainland river Orinoco and the Magdalena River. Deposits on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico have a thickness of about 1 km (0.62 mi). Upper sedimentary layers relate to the period from the Mesozoic to the Cenozoic (250 million years ago to present) and the lower layers from the Paleozoic to the Mesozoic.

Caribbean plate tectonics Caribbean plate tectonics-en.png
Caribbean plate tectonics

The Caribbean sea floor is divided into five basins separated from each other by underwater ridges and mountain ranges. Atlantic Ocean water enters the Caribbean through the Anegada Passage lying between the Lesser Antilles and Virgin Islands and the Windward Passage located between Cuba and Haiti. The Yucatán Channel between Mexico and Cuba links the Gulf of Mexico with the Caribbean. The deepest points of the sea lie in Cayman Trough with depths reaching approximately 7,686 m (25,220 ft). Despite this, the Caribbean Sea is considered a relatively shallow sea in comparison to other bodies of water. The pressure of the South American Plate to the east of the Caribbean causes the region of the Lesser Antilles to have high volcanic activity. There was a very serious eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902 which caused many casualties.

The Caribbean sea floor is also home to two oceanic trenches: the Cayman Trench and Puerto Rico Trench, which put the area at a high risk of earthquakes. Underwater earthquakes pose a threat of generating tsunamis which could have a devastating effect on the Caribbean islands. Scientific data reveals that over the last 500 years the area has seen a dozen earthquakes above 7.5 magnitude. [9] Most recently, a 7.1 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010.

Oceanography

Sketch of the North Equatorial Current and the Gulf Stream Golfstream.jpg
Sketch of the North Equatorial Current and the Gulf Stream

The hydrology of the sea has a high level of homogeneity. Annual variations in monthly average water temperatures at the surface do not exceed 3 °C (5.4 °F). Over the past fifty years the Caribbean has gone through three stages: cooling until 1974; a cold phase with peaks during 1974–1976 and 1984–1986 then; a warming phase with an increase in temperature of 0.6 °C (1.1 °F) per year. Virtually all temperature extremes were associated with the phenomena of El Niño and La Niña. The salinity of seawater is about 3.6% and its density is 1,023.5–1,024.0 kg/m3 (63.90–63.93 lb/cu ft). The surface water colour is blue-green to green.

The Caribbean's depth in its wider basins and deep water temperatures are similar to those of the Atlantic. Atlantic deep water is thought to spill into the Caribbean and contribute to the general deep water of its sea. [10] The surface water (30 m; 100 feet) acts as an extension of the northern Atlantic as the Guiana Current and part of the North Equatorial Current enter the sea on the east. On the western side of the sea the trade winds influence a northerly current which causes an upwelling and a rich fishery near Yucatán. [11]

Ecology

The Caribbean is home to about 9% of the world's coral reefs covering about 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi), most of which are located off the Caribbean Islands and the Central American coast. [12] Among them stands out the Belize Barrier Reef with an area of 963 km2 (372 sq mi) which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It forms part of the Great Mayan Reef also known as the MBRS and being over 1,000 km (600 mi) in length is the world's second longest. It runs along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

During the past ten years,[ when? ] unusually warm Caribbean waters have been increasingly threatening Caribbean coral reefs. Coral reefs support some of the most diverse marine habitats in the world, but they are fragile ecosystems. When tropical waters become unusually warm for extended periods of time, microscopic plants called zooxanthellae, which are symbiotic partners living within the coral polyp tissues, die off. These plants provide food for the corals, and give them their color. The result of the death and dispersal of these tiny plants is called coral bleaching, and can lead to the devastation of large areas of reef. Over 42% of corals are completely bleached and 95% are experiencing some type of whitening. [13] Historically the Caribbean is thought to contain 14% of the world's coral reefs. [14]

The Belize Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space Station in 2016 Belize Barrier Reef from space.png
The Belize Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space Station in 2016

The habitats supported by the reefs are critical to such tourist activities as fishing and diving, and provide an annual economic value to Caribbean nations of US$3.1–4.6 billion. Continued destruction of the reefs could severely damage the region's economy. [15] A Protocol of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region came in effect in 1986 to protect the various endangered marine life of the Caribbean through forbidding human activities that would advance the continued destruction of such marine life in various areas. Currently this protocol has been ratified by 15 countries. [16] Also, several charitable organisations have been formed to preserve the Caribbean marine life, such as Caribbean Conservation Corporation which seeks to study and protect sea turtles while educating others about them. [17]

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve.jpg
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

In connection with the foregoing, the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, conducted a regional study, funded by the Department of Technical Cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in which specialists from 11 Latin American countries (Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Venezuela plus Jamaica) participated. The findings indicate that heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead, have been identified in the coastal zone of the Caribbean Sea. Analysis of toxic metals and hydrocarbons is based on the investigation of coastal sediments that have accumulated less than 50 meters deep during the last hundred and fifty years. The project results were presented in Vienna in the forum "Water Matters", and the 2011 General Conference of said multilateral organization. [18]

Climate

Average sea surface temperatures for the Caribbean Atlantic Ocean (25-27 August 2005). Hurricane Katrina is seen just above Cuba. NASA ASMR-E image of average SSTs of Hurricane Katrina.jpg
Average sea surface temperatures for the Caribbean Atlantic Ocean (25–27 August 2005). Hurricane Katrina is seen just above Cuba.

The climate of the Caribbean is driven by the low latitude and tropical ocean currents that run through it. The principle ocean current is the North Equatorial Current, which enters the region from the tropical Atlantic. The climate of the area is tropical, varying from tropical rainforest in some areas to tropical savanna in others. There are also some locations that are arid climates with considerable drought in some years.

Rainfall varies with elevation, size and water currents (cool upwelling keep the ABC islands arid). Warm, moist trade winds blow consistently from the east, creating both rain forest and semi arid climates across the region. The tropical rainforest climates include lowland areas near the Caribbean Sea from Costa Rica north to Belize, as well as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, while the more seasonal dry tropical savanna climates are found in Cuba, northern Venezuela, and southern Yucatán, Mexico. Arid climates are found along the extreme southern coast of Venezuela out to the islands including Aruba and Curacao, as well as the northern tip of Yucatán [20]

Tropical cyclones are a threat to the nations that rim the Caribbean Sea. While landfalls are infrequent, the resulting loss of life and property damage makes them significant hazard to life in the Caribbean. Tropical cyclones that impact the Caribbean often develop off the West coast of Africa and make their way west across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean, while other storms develop in the Caribbean itself. The Caribbean hurricane season as a whole lasts from June through November, with the majority of hurricanes occurring during August and September. On average around 9 tropical storms form each year, with 5 reaching hurricane strength. According to the National Hurricane Center 385 hurricanes occurred in the Caribbean between 1494 and 1900.

Flora and fauna

The region has a high level of biodiversity and many species are endemic to the Caribbean.

Vegetation

The vegetation of the region is mostly tropical but differences in topography, soil and climatic conditions increase species diversity. Where there are porous limestone terraced islands these are generally poor in nutrients. It is estimated that 13,000 species of plants grow in the Caribbean of which 6,500 are endemic. For example, guaiac wood ( Guaiacum officinale ), the flower of which is the national flower of Jamaica and the Bayahibe rose ( Pereskia quisqueyana ) which is the national flower of the Dominican Republic and the ceiba which is the national tree of both Puerto Rico and Guatemala. The mahogany is the national tree of the Dominican Republic and Belize. The caimito ( Chrysophyllum cainito ) grows throughout the Caribbean. In coastal zones there are coconut palms and in lagoons and estuaries are found thick areas of black mangrove and red mangrove ( Rhizophora mangle ).

In shallow water flora and fauna is concentrated around coral reefs where there is little variation in water temperature, purity and salinity. Leeward side of lagoons provide areas of growth for sea grasses. Turtle grass ( Thalassia testudinum ) is common in the Caribbean as is manatee grass ( Syringodium filiforme ) which can grow together as well as in fields of single species at depths up to 20 m (66 ft). Another type shoal grass ( Halodule wrightii ) grows on sand and mud surfaces at depths of up to 5 m (16 ft). In brackish water of harbours and estuaries at depths less than 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) widgeongrass ( Ruppia maritima ) grows. Representatives of three species belonging to the genus Halophila , ( Halophila baillonii , Halophila engelmannii and Halophila decipiens ) are found at depths of up to 30 m (98 ft) except for Halophila engelmani which does not grow below 5 m (16 ft) and is confined to the Bahamas, Florida, the Greater Antilles and the western part of the Caribbean. Halophila baillonii has been found only in the Lesser Antilles. [21]

Fauna

Puerto Rican parrot Puerto Rican parrot.jpg
Puerto Rican parrot
Green sea turtle, Grand Cayman Island Green sea turtle cayman turtle farm.jpg
Green sea turtle, Grand Cayman Island

Marine biota in the region have representatives of both the Indian and Pacific oceans which were caught in the Caribbean before the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama four million years ago. [22] In the Caribbean Sea there are around 1,000 documented species of fish, including sharks (bull shark, tiger shark, silky shark and Caribbean reef shark), flying fish, giant oceanic manta ray, angel fish, spotfin butterflyfish, parrotfish, Atlantic Goliath grouper, tarpon and moray eels. Throughout the Caribbean there is industrial catching of lobster and sardines (off the coast of Yucatán Peninsula).

There are 90 species of mammals in the Caribbean including sperm whales, humpback whales and dolphins. The island of Jamaica is home to seals and manatees. The Caribbean monk seal which lived in the Caribbean is considered extinct. The solenodon is endangered.

There are 500 species of reptiles (94% of which are endemic). Islands are inhabited by some endemic species such as rock iguanas and American crocodile. The blue iguana, endemic to the island of Grand Cayman, is endangered. The green iguana is invasive to Grand Cayman. The Mona ground iguana which inhabits the island of Mona, Puerto Rico, is endangered. The rhinoceros iguana from the island of Hispaniola which is shared between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is also endangered. The region has several types of sea turtle (loggerhead, green turtle, hawksbill, leatherback turtle, Atlantic ridley and olive ridley). Some species are threatened with extinction. [23] Their populations have been greatly reduced since the 17th century – the number of green turtles has declined from 91 million to 300,000 and hawksbill turtles from 11 million to less than 30,000 by 2006. [24]

All 170 species of amphibians that live in the region are endemic. The habitats of almost all members of the toad family, poison dart frogs, tree frogs and leptodactylidae (a type of frog) are limited to only one island. [25] The Golden coqui is in serious threat of extinction.

In the Caribbean 600 species of birds have been recorded of which 163 are endemic such as the tody, Fernandina's flicker and palmchat. The American yellow warbler is found in many areas as is the green heron. Of the endemic species 48 are threatened with extinction including the Puerto Rican amazon, yellow-breasted crake and the Zapata wren. According to Birdlife International in 2006 in Cuba 29 species of bird are in danger of extinction and two species officially extinct. [26] The black-fronted piping guan is endangered as is the plain pigeon. The Antilles along with Central America lie in the flight path of migrating birds from North America so the size of populations is subject to seasonal fluctuations. In the forests are found parrots, bananaquit and toucans. Over the open sea can be seen frigatebirds and tropicbirds.

Economy and human activity

A view of San Andres island, Colombia. Panoramica de San Andres.JPG
A view of San Andrés island, Colombia.

The Caribbean region has seen a significant increase in human activity since the colonization period. The sea is one of the largest oil production areas in the world, producing approximately 170 million tons[ clarification needed ] per year. [27] The area also generates a large fishing industry for the surrounding countries, accounting for 500,000 tonnes (490,000 long tons; 550,000 short tons) of fish a year. [28]

Human activity in the area also accounts for a significant amount of pollution, The Pan American Health Organization estimated in 1993 that only about 10% of the sewage from the Central American and Caribbean Island countries is properly treated before being released into the sea. [27]

The Caribbean region supports a large tourism industry. The Caribbean Tourism Organization calculates that about 12 million people a year visit the area, including (in 1991–1992) about 8 million cruise ship tourists. Tourism based upon scuba diving and snorkeling on coral reefs of many Caribbean islands makes a major contribution to their economies. [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

The Antilles is an archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east.

Greater Antilles Region of the Caribbean

The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Six island states share the region of the Greater Antilles in total, with Haiti and the Dominican Republic sharing the island of Hispaniola. Geologically, the Virgin Islands and Sombrero Island are also part of the Greater Antilles, though politically they are considered part of the Lesser Antilles. At an area of 207,411 square kilometres (80,082 sq mi), not counting the Virgin Islands, The Greater Antilles constitute nearly 90% of the land mass of the entire West Indies, as well as over 90% of its population. The remainder of the land belongs to the archipelago of the Lesser Antilles, which is a chain of islands to the east, running north-south and encompassing the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, as well as to the south, running east-west off the northern coast of South America. The Lucayan Archipelago is not considered to be a part of the Antilles archipelagos but rather of the North Atlantic.

<i>Sargassum</i> genus of brown algae

Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalgae (seaweed) in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs, and the genus is widely known for its planktonic (free-floating) species. Most species within the class Phaeophyceae are predominantly cold-water organisms that benefit from nutrients upwelling, but the genus Sargassum appears to be an exception. Any number of the normally benthic species may take on a planktonic, often pelagic existence after being removed from reefs during rough weather; however, two species have become holopelagic—reproducing vegetatively and never attaching to the seafloor during their lifecycles. The Atlantic Ocean's Sargasso Sea was named after the algae, as it hosts a large amount of Sargassum.

<i>Lophelia</i> Species of cnidarian

Lophelia pertusa, the only species in the genus Lophelia, is a cold-water coral which grows in the deep waters throughout the North Atlantic ocean, as well as parts of the Caribbean Sea and Alboran Sea. L. pertusa reefs are home to a diverse community, however the species is extremely slow growing and may be harmed by destructive fishing practices, or oil exploration and extraction.

Green sea turtle Species of large sea reptile of the family Cheloniidae

The green sea turtle, also known as the green turtle, black (sea) turtle or Pacific green turtle, is a species of large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but it is also found in the Indian Ocean. The common name refers to the usually green fat found beneath its carapace, not to the color of its carapace, which is olive to black.

Red lionfish species of lionfish

The red lionfish is a venomous coral reef fish in the family Scorpaenidae, order Scorpaeniformes. P. volitans is natively found in the Indo-Pacific region, but has become an invasive problem in the Caribbean Sea, as well as along the East Coast of the United States and East Mediterranean. This and a similar species, Pterois miles, have both been deemed invasive species. Red lionfish are clad in white stripes alternated with red/maroon/brown stripes. Adults in this species can grow as large as 47 cm (18.5 in) in length, making it one of the largest species of lionfish in the ocean, while juveniles are typically shorter than 1 inch (2.5 cm). The average red lionfish lives around 10 years. As with many species within the family Scopaenidae, it has large, venomous spines that protrude from the body, similar to a mane, giving it the common name lionfish. The venomous spines make the fish inedible or deter most potential predators. Lionfish reproduce monthly and are able to quickly disperse during their larval stage for expansion of their invasive region. No definitive predators of the lionfish are known, and many organizations are promoting the harvest and consumption of lionfish in efforts to prevent further increases in the already high population densities.

Antilles Current A highly variable surface ocean current of warm water that flows northeasterly past the island chain that separates the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean

The Antilles Current is a highly variable surface ocean current of warm water that flows northeasterly past the island chain that separates the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The current results from the flow of the Atlantic North Equatorial Current. This current completes the clockwise- cycle or convection that is located in the Atlantic Ocean. It runs north of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, but south to the Bahamas, facilitating maritime communication from across the Atlantic into these islands' northern coasts, and connecting to the Gulf Stream at the intersection of the Florida Strait. Because of its non-dominant pace and rich-nutrient waters, fishermen across the Caribbean Islands use it to fish. It moves almost parallel to the also rich-nutrient Caribbean Current which flows south of Puerto Rico and Cuba, and over Colombia and Venezuela.

Fauna of Puerto Rico Animals found in the United States Territory of Puerto Rico

The fauna of Puerto Rico is similar to other island archipelago faunas, with high endemism, and low, skewed taxonomic diversity. Bats are the only extant native terrestrial mammals in Puerto Rico. All other terrestrial mammals in the area were introduced by humans, and include species such as cats, goats, sheep, the small Asian mongoose, and escaped monkeys. Marine mammals include dolphins, manatees, and whales. Of the 349 bird species, about 120 breed in the archipelago, and 47.5% are accidental or rare.

<i>Wild Caribbean</i> BBC nature documentary series

Wild Caribbean is a four-part BBC nature documentary series exploring the natural and cultural history of the Caribbean Islands and Sea. It was first transmitted in the UK on BBC Two in January 2007. The series was produced by the BBC Natural History Unit and narrated by actor Steve Toussaint. This series also aired in Australia on ABC1 each Sunday at 7:30pm from 15 February 2009.

The Caribbean bioregion is a biogeographic region that includes the islands of the Caribbean Sea and nearby Atlantic islands, which share a fauna, flora and mycobiota distinct from surrounding bioregions.

<i>Halophila</i> genus of plants

Halophila is a genus of seagrasses in the family Hydrocharitaceae, the tape-grasses. It was described as a genus in 1806. The number of its contained species, and its own placement in the order Alismatales, has evolved.

Hawksbill sea turtle Species of marine reptile in the family Chelonidae

The hawksbill sea turtle is a Critically Endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in the genus Eretmochelys. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Indo-Pacific subspecies—E. i. imbricata and E. i. bissa, respectively.

Isla Magueyes Island with marine research in Puerto Rico, (U.S.)

Isla Magueyes is a 7.2 hectares island 50 metres (160 ft) from the southwest coast of the island of Puerto Rico. It is encircled with mangrove and has an interior of dry scrub habitat, where it gets its name. It is named for the presence of many century plants or maguey. The surrounding shelf of the island is mostly coral reef. There are buildings on the western end of the island associated with the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. UPR- Mayagüez is the most important center in the Atlantic region for the study of tropical marine science due to its location, facilities, and first-rate researchers. The research facilities includes the Puerto Rico Water Resources and Environmental Research Institute, the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute (CCRI), the Research and Development Center, the Agricultural Research Station and the Caribbean Atmospheric Research Center (ATMOSCarib).

Vermicularia spirata, common name the West Indian worm-shell or the West Indian wormsnail, is a species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Turritellidae. Juveniles can move around, but larger individuals become sessile.

<i>Echinolittorina meleagris</i> species of mollusc

Echinolittorina meleagris is a species of small sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Littorinidae, the winkles or periwinkles.

<i>Isognomon alatus</i> species of mollusc

Isognomon alatus, the flat tree oyster, is a species of bivalve mollusc in the family Isognomonidae. It can be found along the Atlantic coast of North America, ranging from southern Florida to Brazil and Bermuda.

<i>Odostomia laevigata</i> species of mollusc

Odostomia laevigata, common name the ovoid odostome, is a species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Pyramidellidae, the pyrams and their allies.

Lobophora variegata is a species of small thalloid brown alga which grows intertidally or in shallow water in tropical and warm temperate seas. It has three basic forms, being sometimes ruffled, sometimes reclining and sometimes encrusting, and each form is typically found in a different habitat. This seaweed occurs worldwide. It is the type species of the genus Lobophora, the type locality being the Antilles in the West Indies.

Fauna of the United States Virgin Islands

The fauna of the United States Virgin Islands consists of 144 species of birds, 22 species of mammals, 302 species of fish and 7 species of amphibians. The wildlife of the U.S.V.I. includes numerous endemic species of tropical birds, fish, and land reptiles as well as sea mammals. The only endemic land mammals are six species of native bats: the greater bulldog bat, Antillean fruit-eating bat, red fruit bat, Brazilian free-tailed bat, velvety free-tailed bat and the Jamaican fruit bat. Some of the nonnative land mammals roaming the islands are the white-tailed deer, small Asian mongoose, goats, feral donkeys, rats, mice, sheep, hogs, dogs and cats.

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Further reading