The site is a wetland complex including a range of wetland and some linked dry-land ecosystems with important natural transitions between them. The site stretches along the wetland (mainly SW) side of North Caicos, Middle Caicos and part of East Caicos. Ideally, the statutory Nature Reserve should extend to ecologically linked dry-land and ponds in Middle Caicos, more fully to East Caicos, and reef areas on N and E (see IBAs TC002, TC004 & TC005).
Important throughout the year for the globally threatened West Indian Whistling Duck and Kirtland's Warbler during the non-breeding season. The area is important too for restricted-range species: Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Mockingbird, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, and Thick-billed Vireo, an endemic subspecies. The real numbers of breedingGull-billed Terns is rather higher than in the table but only a small proportion of the area concerned could be accessed. Also other biome-restricted species: Greater Antillean Bullfinch, endemic subspecies, Stripe-headed Tanager, Cuban Crow (endemic to Cuba and Caicos Islands), as well as holding the largest colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds, in the islands. It is thought to hold on a regular basis more than 20,000 waterbirds therefore the site qualifies for A4iii status. Species greater than 1% of the bioregional population and thus qualifying for A4i status are listed below. Also present are Caribbean important populations of: Brown Pelican (150 individuals); White-cheeked Pintail(1,000 individuals); Sandhill Crane (3 individuals); American Oystercatcher (100 individuals); Wilson's plover(100 individuals); Laughing Gull (900 individuals); Royal Tern (150 individuals); Sandwich Tern (150 individuals); and, Least Tern (100 individuals).
Non-bird biodiversity: The wetlands are thought to play a major role in providing a nursery and feeding grounds for numerous fauna. They act also as land-protection against hurricane damage. The shallow flats where the seagrasses grow serve as major nursery areas of the inshore marine environment. They are the immediate recipients of nutrients produced from the mangrove areas themselves. The areas often do not contain many species, but some exist in high numbers. Thus the economic value of these areas, particularly with regard to edible species such as mullets and shrimp and sport species such as bonefish, is high.
The area comprises Statutory Nature Reserve 17, and within this includes the overlapping Vine Point (Man O'War Bush and Ocean Hole) Statutory Nature Reserve 22. Its boundaries coincide with those of the Ramsar site, designated in June 1990. It is included in the TCNT Biodiversity Management Plan. Working with the local community, the Turks & Caicos National Trust, the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum and CAB International, with the support of UK Government's Darwin Initiative, have produced a Plan for Biodiversity Management and Sustainable Development around Turks & Caicos Ramsar Site (available at www.ukotcf.org). The main implementation of this by the Trust and its partners awaits some governmental procedures.
Habitat and land use
The North, Middle and East Caicos wetlands comprise interrelated ecosystems complete with submerged mangroves, algal flats and seagrass beds. It is a wetland site of international importance containing a variety of marine and coastal habitat types, and complex natural transitions. Noteworthy are mangrove swamps, diverse bird life, numerous Arawak sites and several inlet cays. The whole area is a particularly good example of coastal wetland habitat in the Caribbean, providing shelter and nursery locations for various species of waterfowl, turtles and commercial fish species.Additionally, submerged mangroves and algal flats are important in contributing suspended material to nearby sand banks and by virtue of circulation to and from the cuts and creeks, the mangroves also contribute materials to the coral reefs.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North, Middle and East Caicos Ramsar Site. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2020.