The Northern Range as its name suggests, runs along the northern edge of Trinidad. Geologically it represents an extension of the coastal cordillera of Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula. It reaches 925m at the highest point but the average elevation of the ridge is about 600m. The range is dissected by thirteen major valleys to the south each with access roads and settlements. Valley and foothills to the west are mainly residential while the valleys further east are largely agricultural areas. Extending from Port of Spain eastward, immediately south of the Northern Range is the major residential and commercial area of northern Trinidad. A coastal road runs along the north of the range for most of its length providing access to coastal villages and sandy beaches. The rivers are regularly used for recreation and a network of foot paths cross the forested areas which provide access to hunters. Due to the topography, the eastern end of the northern range experiences the highest rainfall in Trinidad in excess of 3800mm per annum and some of the least disturbed and most luxuriant forest. Six IBAs have been identified within the Northern Range which together comprises over 36000 ha of the eastern half of the Northern Range and all lands above 500m. The sub-divisions reflect different levels of state protection, private ownership and consequent settlements and forest degradation. TT 001a. The Matura National Park covers approximately 9000 ha at the eastern end of the Northern Range and includes the catchments area of three large rivers; the Salybia and Rio Seco rivers which drain to the south and Shark River and Grande Riviere draining to the north. Altitude ranges from sea level to 500m. Most of the land is state-owned but there are a few roads and agricultural activities within the park. Conservation agreements are to be developed with the owners of private lands within the park boundary. TT 001b. The Madamas river is a north flowing river at the eastern Northern Range. The catchment area is approximately 4700 ha and the altitude ranges from sea level to just over 600m. It is essentially unpopulated and there are no paved roads. Hunters and other visitors access to the area via foot paths or by boat. The land is predominantly state-owned. TT 001c. The Quare River is a south-flowing stream just east of the town of Valencia. Its catchment area is approximately 2200 ha. It is one of the primary sources of water in Trinidad and the river has been dammed to create the Hollis Reservoir. Altitude ranges from 100m to the highest peak in Trinidad, El Cerro Del Aripo at 925m. The land included in the IBA is state-owned and apart from the road to and buildings associated with the Hollis Reservoir, there is no habitation. TT 001d. Along the north coast, between the Matura National Park and the Madamas valley lies the village of Matelot. The Matelot river flows to the north and the catchment area is approximately 3700 ha most of which lies within the St. David Forest Reserve and is owned by the state. Altitude ranges from 100m to 600m. The forest and wildlife is similar to that of the adjacent Madamas catchment area but less pristine. TT 001e. On the southern slopes of the Northern Range, between the Matura National Park and the Quare River lies the catchment area for two major rivers the Oropuche and Matura. This area contains a higher proportion of privately-owned land and consequently more roads and habitation than the adjacent valleys. Nevertheless the population density is low and much of the forest is of high quality. The two catchment areas encompass approximately 12500 ha above the 100m contour. Altitude ranges from 100 m to 600m although most of the area lies below 300m. Roughly half of the area lies within the Matura Forest Reserve and its eastern and western extensions. TT 001f. The main ridge of the Northern Range constitutes the final section of the Northern Range selected as an IBA. For this purpose all additional lands above 500m are included and covers an additional 4300 ha most of which is state owned and forested.
The northern range hosts the only known population of the Trinidad Piping Guan, which is widespread throughout the eastern part of the range but with a population limited to an estimated 70-200 birds. The six IBAs of the Northern Range are all suitable habitat for the Trinidad Piping Guans. Recent sightings have been made at Grande Rivierre on the edge of the National Park, at Madamas and along the ridge leading to Morne Bleu (at 690m). There have been no recent records from the Quare, Matelot, Oropuche or Matura watersheds but it is highly likely that the species survives there. A number of species, which represent the Andean component of Trinidad’s avifauna are largely restricted to the Northern Range and are likely to occur at each of the IBAs identified, especially those with higher altitudes. These include Band-tailed Pigeon, Lined Quail-dove, Oilbird, Chestnut-collared Swift, Brown Violetear, Collared Trogon, Scaled Antpitta, Slaty-capped flycatcher, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush, Yellow-legged Thrush, Speckled Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager and Hepatic Tanager. The near- threatened Olive-sided Flycatcher also prefers the higher altitudes of the Northern Range.
Non-bird biodiversity: Golden Tree frog from Phylodytes auratus is endemic to the highest peaks of Trinidad’s Northern Range where it lives in close association with the Tank Bromilliad Glomerulopitcairnia erectifolia. Also thought to be endemic to the Northern Range is the Luminous lizard Proctoporus schrevi, the shake Leptophis stimsoni and an un-described snake Helminthophis sp. known only from a single specimen. The frogs Eleutherodactylus urichi and Mannophryne trinitatis, which are arguably endemic to Trinidad and Tobago are particularly abundant in the Northern Range. Of the 59 endemic plants recorded for Trinidad, 32 species have been collected within the Northern Range and many restricted to the highest altitudes.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Northern Range. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/11/2019.