Biosphere Reserve



Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco Lago Enriquillo Parque Nacional Jaragua

What is a biosphere reserve?  

A biosphere reserve is a site management category that includes terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems or any combination of them which have conditions for nature conservation, sustainable development, and research, educational and recreational activities.  Its functions include:

1– Protect representative samples for the conservation of species, genetic resources, ecosystems and natural landscapes. 
2– Promote sustainable economic and human development with participatory involvement of all stakeholders. 
3– Support activities for sustainable development that are in harmony  with conservation and are related to research, education, and recreation by local and international parties. 




Dominican Republic received the designation of its first Biosphere Reserve (Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo) on November 6, 2002.  This is the first one of the island, and number 412 in the world.  Its designation was approved by the International Coordinating Committee of the Man and the Biosphere (MaB) Program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo biosphere reserve is a reality thanks to the hard work of over 40 professionals from many fields of knowledge, including economics, sociology, anthropology, agriculture, biology, history, community development, and theology, among others. Many institutions also participated; these included the central government, local governments, civil society, UNESCO, international cooperation institutions, civil society organizations, community grass roots group, the church, and the Dominican MaB Commitee.  To be designated as a biosphere reserve it was necessary to fulfill a number of prerequisites such as the presentation of a formal proposal by the Dominican Government to UNESCO's headquarters in Paris as well as the establishment of a National MaB Commitee. 


General Description


The Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve is located in the southwest of the Dominican Republic at geographic coordinates 18°01'19" N; 71°34'34" W. It includes three biogeographic regions in the Caribbean: the ‘Hoya del Lago Enriquillo’, the ‘Sierra de Bahoruco’ and the ‘Procurrente de Barahona’. It also includes islands and cays with high endemism.  


The three core areas of the Reserve are National Parks: 1- Jaragua National Park, established in 1983, 2 - Bahoruco National Park, established in 1974, and 3- Lake Enriquillo Natural Park, established in in 1974.  These core areas contain a great variety of natural ecosystems. Jaragua National Park is comprised of carstic terraces and an extensive marine area including islands and cays with a rich biodiversity and regional endemism. Enriquillo National Park encompasses a highly saline lake under sea level.  Bahoruco National Park is a great example of tropical highland ecosystem, extremely important for bird conservation.  


Many of the human communities in the Reserve area suffer from a lack of basic public services, such as health, education, running water, and have a very vulnerable economic situation. The main goal of the reserve is to create alternative economic incomes from renewal natural resources in agriculture production, organic agriculture, ecotourism, research facilities and basic services.


Major habitats and land cover types


Dry forest characterized by Prosopis juliflora, Acacia macracantha, Bursera simarouba, Pilosocereus polygonus and Ziziphus rignoni; Deciduous evergreen forests including cloud forests (dominated by Schefflera tremula, Podocarpus aristulatus and Brunellia comocladifolia), humid forests, semi-humid forests and riverine forests; pine forests dominated by Pinus occidentalis; wetlands with Conocarpus erectus, Typha domingensis, Batis maritima and Sesuvium portulacastrum; coastal, marine habitats including seagrasses, coral reefs and mangroves with Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa and Coconarpus erectus


Biological Significance

– It has a considerable diversity of fresh and salt-water fishes, including the largest Cyprinodon, Cyprinodon nichollsi. 

– The highest amphibian diversity of the Dominican Republic, as well as a grerat variety of reptiles.  

– The most densely populated aggregation of juvenile hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) documented in the world. 

– Contains other threatened sea turtles, such as leatherback  (Dermochelys coriacea) and green sea turtles (Chelonya mydas).

– It has the largest existing population of rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta).

– It has the remaining populations of Ricord's iguana (Cyclura ricordi), a critically endangered species. 

– It has the largest known population of the endangered snake (Alsophis anomalus).

– It has the smallest known amniote vertebrate in the world: the gekko Sphaerodactylus ariasae or "salamanquejita de Jaragua".

- It supports the only remaining population of the American crocodyle (Crocodylus acutus) of Hispaniola.  

– Whitin the reserve, all endemic bird species of Hispaniola are found, including nine that are endangered.  Among these are: the bay-breasted cuckoo (Hyetornis rufigularis), La Selle's Thrush (Turdus swalesi), the chat tanager(Calyptophilus frugivorus), the tanager (Calyptophilus tertius) and the white-winged warbler (Xenoligea montana).  Also represented are numerous  migratory birds, such Bicknell's thrush (Catharus bicknelli).
 There are also historical records of the endemic Ridgway's hawk (Buteo ridgwayi), although no recent sightings have been documented.   

– Numerous aquatic and marine birds are present, including flamingoes, spoonbills, ibises and egrets, among others.  Also, It holds the largest breeding colony of the sooty tern (Sterna fuscata).

– It has the largest breeding aggregations of the white crowned pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) in the Caribbean.

– It has extensive seagrass beds that support the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) as well as important populations of queen conch (Strombus gigas) and spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus)

– It has important populations two endemic mammals: the extremely rare Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus)  and the banana rat (Plagiodontia aedium).

– Unknown invertebrates known to science, suggested by recent discoveries of new cave species, grasshoppers (Jaragua oviedensis and Acridurus robustus), and scorpions such as Centuroides jaragua.

– It has a high plant diversity, with high endemism.  Noteworthy species include 19 species of economic importance and  48 threatened species.  Some of these species have a very reduced distribution, such as the aromatic Jaragua's canelilla  (Pimenta haitiensis), endemic palms, such as Cocothrinax ekmanii and an extensive forest of the butttonwood mangrove Conocarpus erectus. It also supports the best genetic representation of the native pine (Pinus occidentalis) and the highest density of cactii in Hispaniola.  

– In total, it holds 72 endangered animals, including some that are critically endangered.  




Total area (in hectares)


Core area(s)

 318,400 (of which marine: 900)

Buffer zone(s)


Transition area(s) when given

 112,300 (of which marine: 11,200 )

Altitude (m. above sea level)

 -40 to +2,370

Year designated


Administrative authorities

 Planning Committee (Consejo de Planificación), presided by the Environmental and Natural Resources Secretariat



The region has a population of about 360,000 inhabitants.  The average population density is  63 persons per km2.  The reserve does not have inhabitants within its core areas (with the exception of semi-permanent fishing camps in Jaragua).  The Reserve's buffer zone has 1,443 inhabitants.  

National commitment

By proposing the creation of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Reserve, the Dominican government and the involved civil society institutions have assumed an important commitment.  The formal declaration of the reserve in 2002 is only the start of the management of the area.  Specifically, the commitments assumed include: 

– The formation of a MaB Committee that represents the most suitable government institutions as well as civil society groups involved in collaborative management, as well as community groups that are stakeholders of the area's resources.  

– Define the responsible institution or authority for the management of the reserve.  

– Form a multisectorial committee for the management of buffer and transition areas of the reserve.  

– Conduct all above mentioned activities in a participative and transparent manner.  

Last Updated: 06 Jul 2006

Questions or coments about this page? contact: Yolanda León