Jamaican dry forests

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Jamaican dry forests are subtropical dry forests located in southern Jamaica. The most extensive dry forests are in the limestone hills of the Hellshire Hills in St. Catherine and Portland Ridge in Clarendon in southern Jamaica. These areas are dry because they lie in the orographic rain shadow of the Blue Mountains. The Hellshire Hills have been described as one of the last substantial areas of primary, undisturbed dry forest in the Caribbean.[1]

Jamaican dry forests are dominated by plants in the Rubiaceae, the Euphorbiaceae and the Myrtaceae. In this regard they are similar to Puerto Rican dry forests, but differ sharply from dry forests on the mainland of South and Central America which are dominated by the Fabaceae and the Bignoniaceae.[2] Over 271 plant species have been reported from the Hellshire Hills, including 53 species endemic to Jamaica.[3][4] McLaren and coauthors (2005) found forests in the Hellshire Hills to be dominated by Drypetes lateriflora, Metopium brownei, Bauhinia divaricata and Krugiodendron ferreum.[5]

Much of the remaining Jamaican dry forest lies within the Portland Bight Protected Area[6] which includes the Portland Ridge and the Hellshire Hills, which are the best-studied areas of Jamaican dry forest. The endangered Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei) is restricted to dry forests in the Hellshire Hills. The endemic tree frog Eleutherodactylus cavernicola, two endemic Thunder snakes, Trophidophis stullae and Trophidophis jamaicencis, and the endemic Blue-Tailed Galliwasp (Celestus duquesneyi) are restricted to the Portland Ridge. Other endemic species present in the area include the Jamaican boa (Epicrates subflavus), the Common Snake (Typhlops jamaicencis), the Grass Snake (Arrhyton calillaemums), the Jamaican Coney (Geocapromys brownii) and 11 endemic subspecies of birds. The last Jamaican populations of the skink Mabuya mabouya are believed to be in the Hellshire Hills.


  1. ^ Vogel P., Nelson R. and Kerr R. 1995. Conservation strategy for the Jamaican iguana, Cyclura collie. Contributions to West Indian Herpetology: a Tribute to Albert Schwartz. In:Powell R. and Henderson R.W. (eds), Contributions to Herpetology, Vol. 12. Society for the Study of Amphibiansand Reptiles, Ithaca, New York, pp. 1–12.
  2. ^ Gentry, A.H. (1995) Diversity and floristic composition of neotropical dry forests. Pp. 146-194 in S.H. Bullock, H.A. Mooney and E. Medina (editors) Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  3. ^ Espeut P (1999) Portland Bight–Jamaica’s newest protected area. Memorandum Caribbean Coastal Area (CCAM) Foundation.
  4. ^ Adams, C.D. and M.C. Du Quesnay. 1970. Vegetation. Pp. 49-119 in J.D. Woodley (ed.) Hellshire Hills scientific survey. University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
  5. ^ McLaren, K.P., M.A. McDonald, J.B. Hall and J.R. Healey. 2005. Predicting species response to disturbance from size class distributions of adults and saplings in a Jamaican tropical dry forest. Plant Ecology 181:69–84
  6. ^ Portland Bight Protected Area website