Floral and Faunal Composition, Phenology, and Fire in the Aripo Savannas Scientific Reserve, Trinidad, West Indies
Schwab, Sharon I.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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This study was designed to update and expand our knowledge of the proposed Aripo Savannas Scientific Reserve. The information provided by this study is requisite for any management plan which encourages preservation of the area's native plant and animal communities. The thesis itself is divided into five parts: four chapters and appendices. The first two chapters are entitled: "Composition and phenology of open savanna vegetation in the Aripo Savannas Scientific Reserve, Trinidad, W.I." and "Vegetation response to arson fires in the Aripo Savannas Scientific Reserve, Trinidad, W.I." Chapters three and four are area floral and faunal checklists respectively. The Aripo Savanna's importance as a unique natural place in Trinidad was recognized well over 100 years ago. Its beauty and intrigue for botanists, naturalists, zoologists, and others has been referred to in the classic literature and yet, ten years since its recommendation for legal protection, it remains unprotected and abused by an encroaching population. Parcels in the Aripo Savannas have been burned, logged, planted, grazed, poached, cleared, and even used as a site for military exercises. Fortunately, the area has demonstrated its resilience; poor soils have deterred farming, drought-adapted plants recover from moderate burning, and some animals even hide in the mud for months of the year to avoid changes caused by seasonal fluctuations. Yet despite its resilience, portions of Aripo Savannas are showing signs of community instability and change. Unless the area is officially protected and the laws that are designated to protect it are enforced, the Aripo Savannas will be destroyed like the O'Meara, Piarco, and other savannas which once shared a similar biota. This area offers the public an opportunity to protect a natural heritage, to conduct research related to its natural history, and encourage environmental and natural science education centering on a unique ecosystem; one whose biological attributes has intrigued naturalists for so long, and whose very existence offers the people of Trinidad so much.