Coral reefs support a rich diversity of marine life. Yet in the Caribbean small island states, as in many places around the world, they face threats from overfishing, pollution, human development and climate change.
The government of St. Maarten recently advanced conservation of these ecosystems when it established the country’s first national park in 2010. Until then, the benefits and services provided by the coral reef – and the importance of its health for the local economy – were not sufficiently acknowledged.
An ecosystem valuation analysis quantified the economic value of the proposed park’s tourism and fishery. Alongside broad stakeholder involvement, this study demonstrated the strong link between ecosystem conservation, sustainable management of resources and economic benefits to the community.
The results of this analysis were used to identify the significance of individual species and implement or enforce management actions for their conservation. Furthermore, a resiliency programme was set up to respond to climate change impacts.