The highly mountainous Madre de las Aguas contains the best representations of coniferous pine, montane broadleaf, and cloud forests on the island. The highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte, rises to 10,125 feet from within the park. The rugged topography of the park contributes to the species richness and high endemism found here: over 90 percent of the amphibians and reptiles found in the area are endemic, along with 40 percent of plant species, 50 percent of butterflies, and 35 percent of its birds.
Hispaniolan pine, montane broadleaf, manacla palm, and cloud forests have been identified in Rapid Ecological Assessments as the highest priorities for conservation. These diverse forests are home to many unique species. About 90 percent of the conservation area's amphibian and reptile species, 43 percent of the butterfly species, 10 percent of the bird species, and 94 percent of the bat species are unique to this area. The endangered solenodon is a small shrew-like mammal found only on the island of Hispaniola. The rare hutia, a large rodent, can also be found in these forests. Of the 300 birds found in the Dominican Republic, 27 are found nowhere else in the world, including the Hispaniolan woodpecker and the narrow-billed tody.
About 40 percent of the Dominican Republic’s 5,600 plant species in Madre de las Aguas are found nowhere else in the world. Hispaniolan pine forest covers a vast part of this region. Manacla forest, named for an endemic palm tree, is critical in maintaining amphibian, reptile and bird populations. Cloud forest is also found in the conservation area and plays a critical role as the origin of fresh water for much of the country's river systems, while montane broadleaf forests provide protection to these waterways at lower elevations.
Madre de las Aguas is critical to the Dominican Republic not just for its ecological values, but for its economic and social values, as well. However, deforestation resulting from commercial logging, agriculture, and cattle ranching, and the resulting soil erosion and sedimentation of aquatic areas, pose severe threats to the integrity of both terrestrial and aquatic resources within Madres de las Aguas.
A Strategy of Success
Unlike most PiP sites, Madre de las Aguas is considered a multi-site landscape, which necessitates the inclusion of many institutions and individuals in the management process. One of PiP’s preliminary efforts was focusing on forming conservation coalitions among local stakeholder organizations. Outstanding involvement has occurred in Valle Nuevo and Armando Bermúdez National Parks, with organizations receiving training in and implementing sustainable agricultural practices. Along with bringing organizations together, PiP activities, facilitated by partner organizations Fundación Moscoso Puello (FMP) and the Dominican Park Service, have concentrated on basic resource management, as well as supporting ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, forestry, and watershed conservation.
The Dominican Park Service has permanently improved its ability to address threats to the area through establishing a radio communication system, purchasing basic equipment, building of park stations and surveillance towers for fire prevention, improving park trails and park entrances, training park staff, and improving facilities for ecotourists.
With the assistance from The Nature Conservancy’s Freshwater Initiative, the first ecoregional aquatic classification was performed for Madre de las Aguas and the entire Dominican Republic using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. This study has permanently improved watershed management and conservation in the Dominican Republic.
Community awareness was also an early focus of the project, and was addressed with a radio program designed to inform local communities about conservation and improved agricultural practices. School teachers helped develop regional awareness of the need to protect Madre de las Aguas. Teachers produced an environmental guide to educate students and their parents about the value of the places they live and how to protect the resources upon which they depend.
Under the PiP program, two of the national parks in the Dominican Republic have received intensive support in park management. Upon site consolidation, FMP and the Dominican Republic government took responsibility for management and financial support, hoping to increase the protection of all parks within the Madre de las Aguas Conservation Area.
Read more about Madre de las Aguas...
The Nature Conservancy in Madre de las Aguas
Online Field Guide to Madre de las Aguas