Haiti is a Caribbean nation located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. Only about 50 years back, forests covered nearly 50% of the country but indiscriminate deforestation activities have greatly reduced the forest cover of the country in recent years. The forests and other natural habitats of Haiti host some endemic species that have evolved in isolation over a period of millions of years. If not protected, the endemic wildlife of these habitats will be lost forever. The 12 biodiversity hotspots of Haiti, according to the Haiti National Trust, are as follows:
12. Grand Bois
This isolated mountain is located in the southwest of Haiti. The highest summit of the Grand Bois is 1,262 m tall. Rainforests cover most of the mountain and host several endemic species of flora and fauna. 68 vertebrate species are found here including 2 species of threatened birds. A critically endangered species and three newly discovered frog species also occur here. Magnolia ekmanii is a rare tree that grows on this mountain. A lack of protection subjects the Grand Bois to ecological losses.
11. Deux Mamelles
The Deux Mamelles is located at the edge of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula where it is the highest mountain with an elevation of 1281 m. The slopes of the mountain are covered by primary forests growing on limestone rock. Unique flora and fauna found here make this mountain one of the biodiversity hotspots in the country.
10. Morne Bellevue
Another one of Haiti’s biodiversity hotspots, the Morne Bellevue is a ridge located in southwestern Haiti. The highest point here is at 1509 m. In 2013, an expedition by a team on a helicopter to the mountain discovered one of the last surviving populations of the Hispaniolan solenodon, a nearly extinct mammal on this mountain ridge. 5 reptilian species and 12 species of frogs were also discovered in the forests of the area.
9. Chaîne de la Grande Colline
This mountain range is located to the west of the Macaya Range in southwestern Haiti. The highest peak here is 2025 m tall. The Grande Colline hosts one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the country. Giant tree ferns and hardwoods are found in the forests of this range. The region hosts 19 species of birds, 20 frog species, 17 reptilian species, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, vast areas of primary forests here have been destroyed but little protection is offered to the flora and fauna of the Grande Colline.
This is the largest biodiversity hotspot in Haiti. It is also located in the southwestern part of the country and is the Massif de la Hotte’s largest mountain range. The highest peak here is 2,347 m tall. The Macaya National Park protects the ecosystem in the upper parts of this mountain range. Over 900 species of flora including 123 orchid species grow here. The fauna here also exhibits significant biodiversity. 73 species of birds, 27 reptilian species, and 31 species of frogs are found here.
7. Morne Bois Pangnol
This mountain is located in southern Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula. The mountain is 1273 m tall. A 2012 scientific expedition to this mountain revealed the existence of 16 species of frogs, 19 avian species, and 15 reptilian species in the mountain ecosystem. A new species of plant was also discovered here.
6. Morne Tête Boeuf
This is a ridge located in the Tiburon Peninsula’s southern part. The highest point of the ridge is at 1370 m. A 2012 expedition by a team of biologists discovered 8 avian species including Hispaniolan spindalis, broad-billed tody, etc., 4 reptilian species, and 13 species of frogs living in the forests on this high ridge. It is believed that that bad weather affected the recordings of bird species in the region which is expected to be higher.
5. La Visite
The La Visite is a national park located south of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. The park features a mountainous area with the highest peak being 2,275 m tall. Part of the mountain range of Massif de la Selle is located within the limits of this park. Both hardwood and pine forests are found here. This protected area is one of the two national parks of the country. The park hosts a rich birdlife which includes 74 species of birds. 18 reptilian species and several species of amphibians are also found here.
4. Morne La Selle
The 2,679 m tall Morne La Selle is Haiti’s highest mountain. Pine forests cover most parts of this mountain with pockets of hardwood as well. The black-capped petrel, an endangered species, is found here. Several species of frogs like the South Island telegraph frog, khaki bromeliad frog, southern pastel frog have been spotted at this mountain. Lizards like the earless galliwasp, Hispaniolan smooth galliwasp, etc., are also found here. The montane forests have been subjected to large-scale deforestation leaving barren rock in many areas.
3. Île de la Gonâve
This island of Haiti is also a biodiversity hotspot in the country. The island is located near Hispaniola and has an elevation of only 764 m at its highest point. The island hosts some endemic species that have evolved over millions of years of relative isolation. 19 species of reptiles like the lesser sharp-nosed treesnake, ashy sphaero, Hispaniolan hog-nosed racer, etc., live in this park. 1 species of frog have also been recorded here. Recently, two previously unknown species of lizards have also been found to live on the island.
2. Morne Boeuf
Northern Haiti’s highest mountain, Morne Boeuf has an elevation of 1,797 m above sea-level. Although the mountain was once covered with forests in most areas, a 2011 expedition to the mountain revealed that very little of the original forests remain today. Only a few species like the Hispaniolan smooth galliwasp, Hispaniola laughing treefrog, etc., were recorded on this mountain. Only immediate action can stop the wanton destruction of Morne Boeuf’s forests but no protective measures are yet in place.
1. Morne Basile
This narrow, isolated ridge is located in the northern part of Haiti. The highest elevation here is 1,477 m above sea-level. Several rare species of plants and animals grow on Morne Basile. 8 species of birds and four reptilian species have been recorded here. The monarch butterfly, red-tailed hawk, Jamaican fruit-bat, etc., are some of the fauna found here. A recent expedition to the ridge helped rediscover a plant species, the Miconia basilensis. The plant was not seen for nearly a century.