Eco-systems/ EPAs

What is an EPA?

An Environmental Protection Area is an area composed of diverse natural and cultural resources that are threatened with destruction or degradation and that require special protection and conservation measures for their sustainable use. It is an area of complex and mixed land uses under a system governed by multi-jurisdictional agencies and institutions that require co-operative agreements and partnerships for its proper management and continued existence.

The Environmental Protection Plan                               

The environmental Protection Plan was developed by the NRCA and a local management entity (NEPT) in consultation with government agencies and community organizations and submitted to the Minister Responsible for the environment for approval.

This plan establishes long term environmental goals, sets priorities and outlines a strategy of objectives, programmes and projects. This plan will guide environmental planning and decision making in the Environmental Protection Area.

Selected Areas:


Negril Hills

This dry limestone hill forest contains numerous non-documented and rare species of plants and animals including endangered snakes and birds, such as rare Jamaican parrots, doves and ducks. The forests of Negril Hill are apart of the lowland and seasonal limestone forests. Its is dominated by large native forest tress such like, Silk Cotton, and Red Birch and introduced  species like Guango, with Subordinated species including the endemic red Mountain Pride and numerous orchids and bromeliads.

The highly faulted limestone characters of these rocks have resulted in the formation of numerous sinkholes and caves, with the water table deep beneath the ground except at the very margins. Freshwater flows into the morass through springs along the north side of Negril Hills, and into the sea along the west End via the faults which run east west. These faults probably drain much of the ground water that would  otherwise flow into the sea to the south. As a result there are fewer caves and submarine springs along the south side of the hill.

Another unique feature of Negril Hills is Duck Pond, a lake in the hills between Mount Airy and Orange Hill. This small isolated wetland is the result of the blockage of a sinkhole by debris following a hurricane. Duck pond is regarded as a local beauty spot in need of protection. It attracts a large number of waterfowl such as egrets, heron, coots, doves and the endangered West Indian Whistling Tree Duck.

 The South East

Boughton and old hope road are known for the rare and beautiful Yellow lotus found in the ponds of that area. For years the Southeast was brimming with wildlife…snakes, crocodile, nesting turtle sand crabs galore. Development and the habitation of humans have now changed that. Crab populations have dwindled drastically, snakes are often killed upon sighting and the nesting turtles are being killed for their eggs, meat and shells. A few dedicated environmentalists are helping to protect our wildlife, but without the enforcement of environmental laws their efforts are largely unrewarding.

 The Great Morass

The Great Morass of Negril is the second largest wetland in Jamaica. It formed a tactless flooded wilderness that completely isolated Negril beach from the rest of Jamaica until 1960.Only a single road skirted its eastern edge from Logwood to Sheffield, but this road was frequently impassable because of flooding.

Approximately 80% of this wetland is dominated by saw grass. The two most common species are Cladium  jamaicenis  and Typha  domingensis. Other plants found in the Royal Palm Reserve include the Royal Swamp Palm, Long Thatch, Thatch Palm, Creeping Oxeye, African Tulip Tree and Climbing Fern.A total of 28 species of fish have been recorded in the Great Morass. Some types include snook, African perch, schoolmaster snapper, grey snapper, and yellow fin damselfish. Bird and fish populations along the North Negril River are superior to the South Negril River. An occasional crocodile may also be seen in the Morass.

Wetland and dry land forests occur around the margins and on slight rocky elevations within the Great Morass. At least six to ten distinct vegetation communities can be seen from the air. The Great Morass from the air. The Great Morass has particular found only in a few places on the island. The Royal Palm is one such plant, found only in the western parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover and St. Elizabeth .The Great Morass acts as a filter that absorbs the soils and nutrients washed into the area by rivers entering it from the Northeast and Southeast. By Trapping these soils and nutrients, the Great Morass improves water clarity in the sea allowing the coral reef, which need clear, clean water to thrive, and to form and produce sand for the beach.

 Fish River Hills

The Fish River Hills are north-south trending mountains rising in height to approximately 900 feet above sea level. The Hills run parallel to the eastern length of the Great Morass. They are composed of white limestone generally similar to the rocks of the Negril Hill, but higher and considerably wetter. The Fish River Hills has many springs, the largest found in the wetter northern end.

The vegetation is quite varied, including many more shrubs and small flowering plants than what is found in the Negril Hills. The Hills were once occupied by a multitude of large trees including Logwood, Guango and Lignum Vitae but large areas have been deforested for the cultivation of ganja and Yam .In some cases, certain areas have been replanted with fast growing pine trees. These forests are thought  to contain numerous endemic species, and are in need of further botanical studies.

The entire range of Hills acts like a giant sponge, soaking up most of the rain falling on it, allowing it to drip down tree roots into the crevices leading to the underground caves which feed the numerous springs that lie all around its circumference. The largest spring is found in Logwood and provides water for the majority of the EPA. The entire area is thought to contain numerous endemic species.

 Cave Valley

The Cave Valley area is composed of white limestone very similar to the rocks of the Fish River Hills. The name Cave Valley was derived because of the community’s location  between two hills-Fish River Hills on the west  and Orange Bay Mountains on the east-and for the numerous caves found in the area.

Almost all of the original forests have been cleared for farming and most of the remaining trees are introduced species. Many food producing trees grow in the cave valley area because of the abundance of the abundance of birds that used to dwell there. Because of laws and regulations that are now in place to protect the remaining birds, bird hunting has now become minimal.

In general Cave Valley is one of the most beautiful areas of the EPA, with some of the cleanest air, water and soil despite the present pollutants. The numerous caves in the area also make it unique. One cave in particular, called the Moonie Hole, is reported to be about two miles deep, to have sand as white as the sand found on the beaches in Negril, and that seven rivers meet here and go on to the sea.

 Green Island and Davis Cove

The Green Island and Davis Cove areas, like Rock Spring district, are largely made up of marine sedimentary clay rocks weathering of volcanic ash of mid-Cretaceous age. The clay rocks have thin interspersed limestone layers probably made up of deep ocean plankton sediments from when the areas were above sea level.

The landscapes of these areas are made up of gently rounded hills, most of which have been cleared of the original vegetation for sugarcane  cultivation since the 1600’s.Abandoned sugarcane lands are largely overgrown by introduced Bamboo. Lands have been cleared for cattle grazing as well as sugarcane cultivation. Crocodiles are occasionally seen in these areas.

Green Island once was the location of the islands best oyster growth, and several local  Mariculturists produced oysters from staked lines in the Bay. The oyster seeds were tucked in St. Thomas, the nearest natural oyster nursery.

 Orange Bay and Samuel’s Bay

The Orange Bay area consists of the sheltered bay, low laying wetlands, swamps and mangroves on either side of an east-west trending set of limestone hills.

Samuels Bay, lying North of Orange Bay, is backed up on the south by the wetlands and on the Northeast side by low laying forested limestone hills, probably of Pliocene and Miocene ages. These hills have been left with very large trees, apparently not because of lack of soil.

A belt of mangroves marks the shore along most of the bay, except for the northeast; where fossil coral limestone formations mixed with the localized limestone formed in mineral springs, create a cliff shore ranging form five to ten feet high.

Except for the wetland areas, there is little natural vegetation left in this area. Lush sea grass beds and a double wall of coral reefs with narrow winding channel shelters the mangroves in the marine environment, protecting Orange Bay from the direct force of Northerns. Samuels Bay is backed up on the Northeast by low forested limestone hills. These have been left with very large trees, apparently not cleared because of lack of soil. A belt of Mangroves marks the shore along most of the way.

Orange Bay was once one of the Islands major fish nurseries, a result of the highly protected and productive reef ecosystems. Lush sea grass and a double wall of coral reefs sheltered mangroves with a narrow winding channel protecting the bay from the direct force of Northerners or any other wind.



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Marine Park Building, P.O Box 2599 Negril, Westmoreland Jamaica W.I.
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Web Editor : Stewart Smith
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