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The Caribbean, (Spanish: Caribe; French: Caraïbe or more commonly Antilles; Dutch: Cariben or Caraïben, or more commonly Antillen) or the West Indies, is a group of islands and countries which are in or border the Caribbean Sea.

The countries and islands of the Caribbean are located to the south and east of Mexico and to the north and west of Venezuela, South America. There are at least 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cayes in the region. They are organized into 25 territories including sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies.

Seagrasses are found throughout the Caribbean. They grow in the reef lagoons between the beaches and coral reefs or form extensive meadows in more protected bays and estuarties. 

There are 7 species of seagrass recognised in the Caribbean. Thalassia testudinum (turtle grass), is the most abundant seagrass in the region. Syringodium filiforme (manatee grass), has a similar geographical distribution. It usually grows intermixed with Thalassia testudinum, but can grow in monospecific meadows or patches from the upper sublittoral to more than 20m. 

Halodule wrightii (shoal grass), is found throughout the wider Caribbean region. It is found growing on sand and mud from the intertidal down to 5m. Ruppia maritima (widgeon grass), is also found throughout the Caribbean. It is a shallow water species found in the brackish waters of bays and estuaries between 0 and 2.5m deep.

The 3 species belonging to the genus Halophila - Halophila baillonii, Halophila engelmanni and Halophila decipiens- are small and delicate. Halophila decipiens is found in deep water, to 30m, while Halophila engelmanni is found only down to 5m and is restricted to the Bahamas, Florida, the Greater Antilles and the western Caribbean. Halophila baillonii is only found in the Lesser Antillies.

Threats to seagrass in the Caribbean include: destruction or removal by the construction of coastal developments associated with tourism or other coastal activities; anchor and propeller scarring due to increased traffic of ships and recreational vessels; shading by marinas and piers; removal to make way for salt production and mariculture; dynamite fishing; illegal sand mining from beaches; pollution from land-based sources including sewage, agricultural fertilizers, hydrocarbons, pesticides and other toxic wastes. As seagrasses actively form and maintain extensive subtidal flat structures in the Caribbean, there is concern about the effects of global warming and sea-level rise on seagrasses. Models of global climate change predict considerable changes for the coastal enviroments in the Caribbean, including rising sea level, increasing wate temperature and more frequent hurricanes. Seagrasses should be able to maintain vertical rates of habitat accreation in pace with predicated rises in sea level until at least the middle of this century, and a rise in sea level is not expected to seriously affect the predominant species unless a general deterioration of the habitat occurs.


Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Principal watchers: Dawn Cowie, The Nature Conservancy
Occasional and past watchers:
Site code:

Saint Croix is an island in the Caribbean Sea and a constituent of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States. It is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, being 28 by 7 miles (45 by 11 km). However, the territory's capital, Charlotte Amalie, is located on Saint Thomas.   There are two towns on the island; Christiansted with a 2004 population of 3,000 and Frederiksted with a 2004 population of 830. The total population of the island is about 50,000. Inhabitants are called "Crucians" and English is the most common language with some Creole and Spanish also spoken.

Buck Island Reef National Monument preserves a 176 acre (71 ha) island just north of Saint Croix and the surrounding reefs. This is a popular destination for snorkelers, and it is the only underwater national park in the United States.

Point Udall on the island is proclaimed as the easternmost point in the United States. (However, that distinction actually belongs to Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean)

St. Croix has an area of a little over 207km² (80 eighty square miles). The terrain is rugged, though not extremely so.  Fairly severe and extended drought has always been a problem, particularly considering the lack of fresh ground water. Desalination is an option, however most residential homes have a built-in cistern used to collect rain water.

East End Marine Park

East End Marine Park, the first territorial park in the U.S. Virgin Islands, will protect the largest island barrier reef system in the Caribbean. Legislative approval recently made the area an official park. Extending from the high-water mark out 4.8 kilometers (three miles), it encompasses 155.4 square kilometers (60 square miles) of offshore coral reef and other marine habitat.

The park includes about 13 square kilometers (five square miles) of "no-take areas," which are off limits to any fishing and harvesting. A turtle refuge will extend about a mile (1.6 kilometers) into the Caribbean Ocean from the shoreline of the island's primary hawksbill and green turtle nesting beaches on Jack Bay, Isaac Bay and East End Bay.


The appropriately-named park encompasses the last six miles (10 kilometers) of the eastern end of St. Croix. It includes about 12 miles (20 kilometers) of coastline.


St. Croix reefs, like those in most of the Caribbean, are dominated by elkhorn and staghorn corals, and various species of brain, lettuce, finger, star and starlet corals. In the early 1980s, scientists began noticing what has evolved into a rapid decline of these hard corals. They are being replaced with macroalgae, fire corals and species such as sea whips, sea rods and sea plumes.

Tropical seagrass communities, among the most productive in the world, are ideal for fish and other sea creatures. Turtle grass is the overwhelmingly dominant sea grass off the shores of St. Croix. Manatee and shoal grasses are less abundant, but do thrive in sandy shoals.   Predatory fish such as grouper, snapper, shark and barracuda, and algae-eating fish such as parrot fish, doctor fish and surgeon fish rely on the reefs and sea grass beds for food and shelter and as a breeding ground. An estimated 400 species of fish live in and around the East End.

The park is also home to endangered green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles. The population of leatherbacks nesting at Sandy Point (managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) has grown almost 10-fold over the last two decades. Over the last three years, populations of green turtles have stabilized, while hawksbill populations are declining. Hawksbill shells are used to make valuable jewelry and purses.

Some 17 species of nesting seabirds rely on East End Park for food and shelter. These seasonal and year-round residents include shearwaters, tropicbirds, boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, gulls and terns




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