Litchfield Mountain - Matheson's Run

Year of compilation: 2007

Site description
Litchfield Mountain-Matheson’s Run is located in the southwestern corner of St Ann Parish and eastern Trelawny Parish. The area, which is dominated by polygonal and tower karst limestone, is the eastern flank of the Cockpit Country Conservation Area. At the core of the IBA are two Forest Reserves – Litchfield Matteson’s Run (4,485 ha) and Hyde Hall Mountain (662 ha) managed by the Forestry Department. The area receives 1500-2500 mm of rainfall annually but is noted for its absence of surface water because of vertical percolation through the limestone substrate. However, several major river heads (including Lowe River and Cave River) have their sources along the site’s southern geomorphologic boundary of the volcanically-derived Cretaceous Central Inlier. The geomorphology also defines the patterns of human activities and community settlement: soils accumulate in the glades (or cockpit bottomlands), with a consequence that such areas are cleared of forest and used for agriculture. A ring of communities has developed around the periphery of the well-developed core cockpit karst, in areas that transition to more gently-rolling hills and valleys of doline karst.

Key biodiversity
26 of Jamaica’s 29 endemic bird species have been recorded at the site. Of particular importance is the presence of Nesopsar nigerrimus (Jamaican Blackbird, EN). Large numbers (ca. 50-100) of Patagioenas caribaea (Ring-tailed Pigeon, VU) congregate during the summer in yam fields that are immediately adjacent to closed-canopy forest in order to feed on immature leaves of the yam plants.

Non-bird biodiversity: Reliable data are not available due to a lack of survey effort. The range maps of six endangered amphibians overlap with the site, but the status of each requires assessment. Osteopilus crucialis Jamaican Snoring FrogEN Osteopilus marianae Yellow Bromeliad Frog EN Osteopilus wilderi Green Bromeliad Frog EN Eleutherodactylus grabhami Pallid Eleuth EN Eleutherodactylus jamaicensis Jamaican Bromeliad Eleuth EN Eleutherodactylus junori Rock Pocket Eleuth CR

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Bauxite mining is the single most important threat to the IBA. A special exclusive prospecting license, which covers the entire area, was renewed by Government of Jamaica in November 2006 but subsequently suspended following strong public and community opposition. The license remains suspended, pending the results of a boundary survey to define “Cockpit Country,” which Government of Jamaica maintains it “will not mine the heart of.” Additional threats include the presence of non-native, aggressively invasive plant species (e.g. Nephrolepis fern), which prevent natural succession and forest regeneration in cleared cockpit bottomlands and widescale harvesting of saplings for yam sticks. Further priority is needed to ensure the closed-canopy forest, to minimize the invasion along corridor-gaps of Molothrus bonariensis (Shiny Cowbird). This brood parasite is a major threat to the Jamaican Blackbird.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In part because of the site’s proximity to the larger, well-known Cockpit Country Forest Reserve (CC-FR), Litchfield Mountain – Matheson’s Run has not been surveyed as extensively for flora and fauna. However, because of its geomorphologic similarity to the southern regions of CC-FR, it is likely that the expansive limestone cliffs of the tower karst support site-endemic plant species. Supporting this, systematic surveys of terrestrial mollusks across Jamaica [conducted by Dr. Gary Rosenberg, Academy of Natural Sciences, USA] have discovered that the southeastern corner of this IBA supports some of the highest densities of endemic snails anywhere in the world, with a one-hectare plot supporting more than 100 species.

Protected areas
1. Litchfield – Matterson’s Run Forest Reserve; 4,485 ha; gazetted 1st December 1950. 2. Hyde Hall Mountain Forest Reserve; 662 ha; gazetted 1st December 1950. 3. Brislington Crown Land; 232 ha; date of declaration unpublished. These three areas, and particularly Litchfield – Matterson’s Run Forest Reserve, provide the core forested habitat of the IBA.

Habitat and land use
The predominant forest type is Jamaican Moist Forests (NT0131), which supports a rich and abundant community of terrestrial and arboreal epiphytes (Bromeliaceae and Orchidaceae). Common tree species include Nectandra spp. and Octotea spp. (sweetwoods), Pouteria multiflora (galimenta bullet), Coccoloba sp. (wild grape), Oxandra laurifolia (lancewood) and Thrinax parviflora (thatch palm). The larval food plant of Papilio homerus Fabricius 1793 (Giant Swallowtail Butterfly; EN) Hernandia jamaicensis (water mahoe) occurs in the forest, but systematic surveys to confirm presence / absence of this endangered butterfly have not been conducted. The forest is considered to be moderately disturbed, with a long history of selective logging, plantations of Calophyllum calaba (santa maria), and continued extraction of saplings for support stakes for yam (Dioscorea spp) cultivation. Large trees, with diameter-at-breast-height > 50 cm are rare and restricted to the most difficult to access locations, such as saddle corridors of hills with cliffs. Peripheral land use is dominated by large scale yam cultivation and rural communities. Bauxite mining is encroaching from the east and is a major threat to the site.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Litchfield Mountain - Matheson's Run. Downloaded from on 31/10/2020.