Terrestrial Plant Communities of The Bahamas

All You Need to Know About Bahamian Flora and Their Communities

By Ethan Freid, PhD
Botanist, Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve
efreid@bnt.bs

The Bahamas is a subtropical, dry island archipelago with pronounced warm/wet and cool/dry seasons. The islands’ relatively flat topography and uniform geology – lacking significant elevation, freshwater rivers, and streams—result in a limited variety of plant communities compared to other Caribbean islands. Most of the terrestrial plant community is Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formations (DBEF) and Pine Woodlands (PW). Coastal terrestrial systems, while widespread throughout the archipelago, occupy a smaller footprint than the more extensive DBEF and PW communities.

Understanding This Plant Community Classification

Developed from extensive field observations and a comprehensive review of pertinent literature, this classification system categorizes the plant communities of The Bahamas into distinct groups. It is based on Areces-Mallea et al., 1999. This system generally splits most communities into different formations and alliances, but not associations. The exception is Human Altered. This classification system is for terrestrial communities and does not cover marine ecosystems such as mangroves, coastal estuaries, or tidal flats. In many wetlands, there is a transitional zone where freshwater merges indistinctly into saline environments. These areas, like the western side of Andros, pose challenges for accurate mapping due to tidal variations, seasonal changes, and rainfall patterns.

Invasive Species and Human Influence on Plant Communities

The presence of invasive species and human modifications significantly impacts our terrestrial plant communities. There is a difference between a natural system that has invasive species, such as a dune, versus areas directly physically altered by humans and then subsequently invaded by those plants. They both can be loosely construed as Human Altered as even in a dune system, the invasive species are there because humans brought them to the region; but for mapping and classification purposes, their distinction may be important. Additionally, for dunes with invasive species, the levels of invasiveness can range from a few non-native individuals to areas where there are no native species left.

Terrestrial Plant Communitues of The Bahamas – sensu-lato
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Terrestrial Plant Communitues of The Bahamas – sensu-lato
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References & Glossary

References & Glossary

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