France designates network of 14 Caribbean ponds

France has designated its 41st Wetland of International Importance, called “Zones humides et marines de Saint-Martin” (2,997 hectares, 18°05’N 063°05’W), a Protected Biotope and Nature Reserve on the Caribbean island of Saint-Martin, shared by France and the Netherlands (as Sint-Maarten). The site, as summarized from the Ramsar Information Sheet by Ramsar’s Kati Wenzel, comprises shallow marine waters, sea grass beds, coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons and a network of 14 ponds dispersed throughout the French side of the island.

The ponds are influenced by the sea and serve as feeding, breedig and wintering areas for as many as 85 bird species, many of them threatened and some endemic. The marine part of the site harbours most of the coral reef areas surrounding the island and is habitat to several endangered and critically endangered sea turtles such as Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea. It constitutes a feeding and spawning area for more than 100 species of fish and is also important as shelter, nursery and migration path.

The site fulfills a diverse set of ecological functions like water flow regulation, oxygenation of water, stabilization and storm protection as well as the reduction of pollutant loads entering the Sea. The marine part of the site is used for recreational activities such as diving, sailing, kayaking and surfing. Threats include poaching, water pollution from sewage, and extreme weather events as well as increasing water temperatures.

A number of photographs are available at http://www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-news-archives-2012-st-martin/main/ramsar/1-26-45-520%5E25717_4000_0__