Benefits of Parks
Parks Caribbean highlights the multiple benefits derived from protected areas development, including the support provided by protected areas to key economic sectors. In supporting Caribbean development priorities, Parks Caribbean will establish mechanisms for capacity strengthening, sustainable financing, and enhancement of community livelihoods associated with protected areas management.
Protected areas protect critical natural areas that provide a range of goods and services, and similarly, protect historical and cultural resources considered to be of national or global importance. The range of benefits provided by protected areas includes:
• Maintaining Supply of Clean Water – The first forest reserves in the Caribbean were established primarily to ensure the availability of water supplies. Although water supply management practices now utilize a watershed approach, protected areas are still established to protect critical or threatened water sources (e.g. Basseterre Valley National Park, St. Kitts and Nevis).
• Providing Food – Hunting for food is still practiced in many countries, and one objective of some protected areas is replenishment of food species. The establishment of fish sanctuaries/reserves is the best known application of the concept, in that the nursery areas for juvenile fish are protected in order to sustain local fisheries.
• Supporting Community Livelihoods – Natural areas provide a range of goods that support livelihoods for residents of adjacent communities, and often far beyond. Barks and roots for natural drinks, materials for craft, fuel, dyes, skins, and a long list of other products are routinely harvested from protected areas. Sustainable use practices are increasingly being informed by the application of science (e.g. mangrove harvesting for coal production in the Mankote Mangrove Marine Reserve, St. Lucia).
• Biodiversity Conservation – Biodiversity resources support a range of livelihood activities; form the basis of medicines, neutraceuticals, and beauty products; and interaction with many of the species enrich our lives. However, harvesting and development activities degrade the biological resources. Protected areas play a key role in biodiversity conservation, balancing the needs of people with the need to maintain the integrity of the ecological systems on which we depend.
• Research and Education – Protected areas serve as living laboratories for research, providing insights to human-natural systems dynamics, and contributing to the design of best practices for incorporating human dimensions into natural resource management strategies. More broadly, protected areas enhance the learning opportunities for children and adults, particularly in the context of human health and wellbeing.
• Support to the Tourism Sector – Tourism is one of the key economic sectors in the Caribbean, where, for most countries, the sector is the largest foreign exchange earner and employs a large percentage of the labour force. Yet, tourism in the Caribbean is primarily nature-based, and therefore significantly dependent on good environmental quality and the availability of natural attractions. Protected areas, primarily national parks and historical/cultural sites, function as key components of the tourism product in most Caribbean countries.
• Protection of Life and Property – Few people understand the scope of the protection services provided by ecosystems; reducing surface runoff and flooding, reducing the impact of storms, and reducing the wave energy impacting on coastlines. In that context, it is widely recognized that protected areas will play a major role in mitigating the adverse impacts of climate change.
• Other Benefits – Protected areas provide a range of other benefits, such as; protecting sacred sites, improving health by providing spaces for recreation and relaxation, maintaining value of adjacent lands and property, and re-stocking adjacent areas with fish/game animals