Andros Island in the Bahamas is the site of a large-scale demonstration project funded by the Global Environment Facility – Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management program (GEF-IWCAM), the goal of which is to create a Land and Sea Use Plan that will guide future development on the island.
At the request of The Nature Conservancy, Ecostudies Institute conducted a rapid ecological assessment of avian communities and their habitats on Andros.
Our goal was to identify areas of significant conservation value. Although the avifauna of Andros is poorly known, the island provides critical habitat for several West Indian endemics, including Great Lizard Cuckoo, Bahama Mockingbird, Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Yellowthroat, and Bahama Swallow. Although the human population on Andros is relatively low, habitat destruction and degradation from population growth and land-use changes (e.g., clearing forest for agriculture) likely have had significant impacts on birds.
A better understanding of the distribution of birds on Andros may allow for future growth to proceed in a manner that minimizes impacts to the island’s unique avifauna.
We found one of only a handful of old-growth Caribbean pine forests remaining in the world. This forest, part of the pine-rockland ecosystem that also occurs in south Florida and parts of Cuba, occurs on slightly elevated outcrops of bare limestone in the western half of the island. The stand supported a rich assemblage of birds endemic to the pinelands, including nesting Bahama Swallow, Bahama Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Unfortunately, since our visit, much of this old-growth forest has been destroyed to create agricultural fields.
- Old-growth pine forest in South Andros supports a much higher level of structural complexity and diversity than comparable second-growth pine forests.
- Old-growth pine forest in South Andros supports greater numbers of endemic bird species like Bahama Swallow than do comparable second-growth pine forests.
- Intact, old-growth coppice supported bird species not found in disturbed and fragmented coppice.
- Intact coppice may provide a refuge for White-crowned Pigeon, which is heavily hunted in coppice accessed by roads.