Terrestrial Ecosystems

Terrestrial Ecosystems

The Curaçaoan flora and fauna are characterized by a large number of endemic species that it shares with its sisterislands Bonaire and Aruba.

However, due to grazing by free-wandering live-stock and extensive logging, terrestrial systems on those islands have declined more than those on Curaçao, so that this island best reflects the typical flora and fauna of the Leeward Antilles.

Curaçao has several distinct terrestrial habitat types:

(1) The Knip-formation which consists of hard rock that is rich in silica and forms the highest mountains on the island.
This habitat type is solely found on the West side of the island and dominated by evergreen woodland in which also most of the rarer species are found.
This vegetation mainly developed in these areas due to the relative high amount of rain, protection from the sun by steep mountain sides and relatively high location above sea-level.

(2) The mid section of Curaçao is dominated by “diabaas”, which is a soil consisting of a mix of sand and clay.
Forest types occur in these areas that seasonally loose their leaves.
During the wet season, these vegetation types harbor a large variety of smaller herbs and are therefore considered the most important fouraging area for most of Curaçao’s fauna.
The vegetation on “diabaas” is easily accesible and therefore has suffered from logging, grazing by free-wandering livestock, agriculture, development and groundwater extraction.

(3) Limestone terraces that due to their ability to store water are characterized by evergreen bush- and woodland. Many species in these vegetation types produce flowers and fruits that represent (especially during the dry season) an important foodsource for certain animal species.

Terrestrial Ecosystems(4) Caves harboring bats that are of vital importance to local cacti to ensure pollination and hence the production of fruits that are an important food source for e.g. Insects and birds during the dry season.

(5) Fresh water lakes and –streams that harbor a high diversity of waterfowl. Often such areas arose due to manmade dams. Crustaceans and approx. ten species of fish (incl. eels) are found in smaller freshwater ponds and –streams.
Because many freshwater areas (locally known as “rooi”) are eroded, they provide local animals and plants with refugia from sun and wind.

(6) Saliñas where the threatened Caribbean flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) is found. Saliñas were historically used to produce salt by evaporating seawater and recently some of them have been reconnected to the ocean. This had detrimental consequences on the growth of Artemia which is the main foodsource of the flamingo.