Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Dominica
Inscribed in
1997
Criteria
(viii)
(x)

Luxuriant natural tropical forest blends with scenic volcanic features of great scientific interest in this national park centred on the 1,342-m-high volcano known as Morne Trois Pitons. With its precipitous slopes and deeply incised valleys, 50 fumaroles, hot springs, three freshwater lakes, a 'boiling lake' and five volcanoes, located on the park's nearly 7,000 ha, together with the richest biodiversity in the Lesser Antilles, Morne Trois Pitons National Park presents a rare combination of natural features of World Heritage value. © UNESCO

© IUCN / Thierry Lefebvre

Summary

2017 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
09 Nov 2017
Good with some concerns
Though there have been serious human and financial resource limitations on management, immediate threats that can be dealt with on-site are relatively small, and the values of the site have been relatively well conserved. However, while the site’s geological values are not threatened, there is concern regarding the effects of increasingly severe weather events, shifting agriculture, and tourism activities in and around the site that cause habitat loss and fragmentation and disturb threatened and vulnerable wildlife. Future threats from climate change, potential geothermal exploration and development outside the park, or eventual renewed volcanic activity, are significant concerns.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Low Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While the site’s geological values are not threatened, there is concern regarding the effects of increasingly severe weather events, shifting agriculture, and tourism activities in and around the Park that cause habitat loss and fragmentation and disturb threatened and vulnerable wildlife. Though not currently foreseen, there is always the future possibility of renewed volcanic activity which would have devastating effects on the site’s biota.

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
Current threats from shifting agriculture and commercial activities impact relatively small areas of the site, while severe weather events, the severity of which is projected to increase because of climate change, will have major impacts on the site’s flora and fauna. Potential threats range from the very high threats of climate change, and geothermal exploration and development outside the Park, to the more remote threat of a volcanic eruption, which according to some scientists is long overdue. Geothermal exploration and development would have severe effects on the site’s values. Renewed volcanic activity would be a natural part of the geological processes of the site, but would devastate local biota.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
Despite international cooperation support, protection and management of the site are handicapped by limited human and financial resources. The revised management plan (2002-2012) was never ratified by the government and is only partially implemented due to institutional, manpower and budgetary limitations. Fortunately, however, the threats are few, and even with a relatively low management input, the site’s values have been relatively well protected.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
09 Nov 2017

Description of values

Scenic volcanic features of great scientific interest

Criterion
(viii)
The Park presents a rare combination of scenic volcanic features of great scientific interest centered on the 1,342-m-high Morne Trois Pitons volcano, characterized by volcanic piles with precipitous slopes and deeply incised valleys. Key features include 50 fumaroles, hot springs, sulphur vents, mudpots, three freshwater lakes, a 'boiling lake' (the second largest of its kind in the world) and five volcanoes. (World Heritage Center website, 2013)

Rich biodiversity with endemic plant and animal species

Criterion
(x)
Luxuriant natural tropical forest, which mantles the Park’s mountainous terrain, is the largest and most pristine remaining in the Lesser Antilles, and is characterized by a diverse flora with many endemic vascular plants. Five natural vegetation zones are recognized within the area, including elfin woodlands (or cloud forest), montane thicket, montane rainforest, mature rainforest, and secondary rainforest.. Some of the more notable threatened fauna species are the endemic imperial Amazon parrot, which was formerly common but is now threatened , and the red-necked Amazon parrot, which was once a commonly seen species, but now is rarely observed in only a few small areas of the park. (World Heritage Center website, 2013; Edwards, 2011)
Other International designations.
The Park lies within a Conservation International-designated Conservation Hotspot, a WWF/IUCN Centre of Plant
Diversity, a BirdLife-designated Endemic Bird Area and a Key Biodiversity Area. The park has been ranked for irreplaceability (IUCN, 2013).

Assessment information

Low Threat
While current threats from shifting agriculture and commercial activities impact relatively small areas of the site, severe weather events, such as hurricanes, have major impacts on the Park’s flora and fauna.
Mining/ Quarrying
Low Threat
Outside site
Quarrying near the Park boundary is contributing sediments to the Emerald Pool, one of Dominica’s premiere tourism destinations (Edwards, 2011; TNC, n.d.).
Logging/ Wood Harvesting
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Trees are felled in small areas for agriculture and to plant bay trees, used in the production of bay rum, a scent used in perfume manufacture. (Edwards, 2011; TNC, n.d.)
Storms/Flooding
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Dominica lies in the path of the Eastern Caribbean hurricane belt and as a result is vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. Since 1979, ten tropical storms have impacted the island, and two of them (David, 1979, Erika, 2015) have caused significant damages to the forest resources, by impacting feeding grounds, nesting sites and roosting areas. In addition, climate change is beginning to impact the Park with higher temperatures, greater intensity of droughts in the dry season and increased severity of tropical storms and hurricanes in the wet season. (BirdLife, 2012; Edwards, 2011)
Crops
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Squatters undertake shifting agricultural in isolated areas of the Park. This involves the clearing of trees and other vegetation that can lead to erosion, silting of waterways and disturbance of wildlife. Some of these areas were cultivated prior to Park establishment (Edwards, 2011).
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Despite a significant decrease between 2000 and 2009, there is high level of visitors in some specific places (Emerald Pool received 63558 visitors in 2009) that could have effect on species with low tolerance to human disturbance (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017). Tourism has had minor impacts on the site because of the construction of infrastructure, such as roads, trails, and car parks; wildlife disturbance, and increased fire risk (Edwards, 2011; TNC, n.d.).
Dams/ Water Management or Use
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
At the time of its inscription, the MTPNP had been affected by hydropower infrastructures and transmission lines near Freshwater lake (through the central area), that feed the hydroelectric power station at Laudat and Trafalgar sites (DOMLEC powerplant). Construction of a hydropower dam and diversion of water courses have impacted the flow of streams coming out of the Park and contributed to habitat loss and fragmentation, landslides, and soil erosion through road and power line construction. Erosion along roads increases siltation of water courses. (Edwards, 2011; TNC, n.d., Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017).
High Threat
Potential threats range from the very high threats of climate change, and geothermal and development exploration outside the Park, to the more remote threat of a volcanic eruption, which according to some scientists is long overdue. While a volcanic eruption would be a natural part of the Park’s geological processes, it would be devastating for the Park’s biota.
Temperature extremes
Very High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
The Park is one of the 16 World Heritage sites considered most at risk from climate change (Perry, 2011). It is projected that temperatures will increase 2.5 Cº, and that the dry season will be 10-20% drier. Droughts are associated with increased fire threat, and increases in disease and invasive species, and threaten watershed resources, while flooding increase soil erosion, silting of rivers and streams. Hurricane intensity is likely to increase, causing stronger peak winds and more rainfall, but not necessarily hurricane frequency. High winds negatively impact wildlife through destruction of feeding grounds, nesting sites and roosting areas. When feeding grounds are destroyed by hurricanes or storms, parrots in particular tend to feed on fruits from agricultural lands adjacent to the site and are then considered as pests, because they threaten the livelihoods of some farmers. The Park’s vegetation exhibits a pronounced altitudinal zonation, and any changes in climate are likely to affect these zones. For example, assuming a lapse rate of 1ᴼ C per 500 ft, the low scenario of 1.7ᴼC would elevate vegetative zones by 850 ft and the high scenario (3.5ᴼC) by 1750 ft. Under high temperature scenarios, cloud forests could disappear completely, and some endemics could be lost. An indirect effect of tropical weather systems is the conversion of wildlife habitat to agriculture. In accessible areas, toppled trees provide an opportunity to more easily clear land for farming, thus resulting in a further reduction and fragmentation of wildlife habitat. (Edwards, 2011)
Other
High Threat
Outside site
Studies have been undertaken in Wotten Waven near the Park boundary to explore the geothermal potential for power production in Dominica, and the study area included a part of the Park, especially the Valley of Desolation and the Boiling Lake. Exploratory phases have been concluded in 2014 on two platforms located downstream and outside the boundaries of the park and its proposed buffer zone, but in close proximity (400 m at its nearest point). Potential impacts of construction and dismantling phases in production and reinjection sites will be mainly due to power plant and pipeline installation (in Laudat site) and road widening to access to the platforms. Removal of vegetation to enable power plant construction and pipeline installation could negatively impact critical habitat for the Red-necked Parrot (Amazona arausiaca), known to frequent the Laudat area. (Lefebvre, 2017)
Volcanoes
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
The Park encompasses one of the more active volcanic centers on Dominica, which in turn is the most active of all the Caribbean volcanic areas. It gives rise to high future volcanic eruption that will impact on the plants and animal species. However, several scientists have suggested that the island
is long overdue for an eruption. (BirdLife, 2012; De Roche, 2010)
Current threats from shifting agriculture and commercial activities impact relatively small areas of the site, while severe weather events, the severity of which is projected to increase because of climate change, will have major impacts on the site’s flora and fauna. Potential threats range from the very high threats of climate change, and geothermal exploration and development outside the Park, to the more remote threat of a volcanic eruption, which according to some scientists is long overdue. Geothermal exploration and development would have severe effects on the site’s values. Renewed volcanic activity would be a natural part of the geological processes of the site, but would devastate local biota.
Relationships with local people
Effective
Major conflicts regarding Park use have been in areas zoned for Special Use, where incompatible activities have been legally sanctioned. These include a shooting range; a quarry close to the Emerald Pool tourist attraction; and hydropower infrastructure and transmission lines. The legislative act for the Park makes provisions for a National Parks Advisory Council, and for public review and approval of the Park management plan, but these provisions have never been implemented. (Edwards, 2011).
Legal framework
Highly Effective
The National Park was legally established in 1975 by legislative act and is currently managed by the Division of Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks. Given the rough topography, relative lack of threats, and government ownership of Park lands, law enforcement has never been a major problem. (Edwards, 2011)
Enforcement
Serious Concern
The revised management plan (2002-2012) was never ratified by the government and is only partially implemented due to institutional, manpower and budgetary limitations.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Highly Effective
The Park is well integrated into government planning systems at the national level.
Management system
Some Concern
Institutional arrangements for management of the National Parks are shifting. There is a project underway to develop an autonomous National Park Service, provided by the National parks legislation, but to date, no one has been appointed as Director of National Parks and the Director of Forestry continues to cover the responsibilities of Director of National Parks. (Edwards, 2011). Improved management plan (2011) states that “the current organizational structure within the Forestry and National Parks Service is inadequate to manage and develop the National Parks.” There is also a need to enhance institutional coordination with other administrations, such as the Ministry of Tourism and Legal Affairs, in charge of the Visitor Centres. (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017)
Management effectiveness
Serious Concern
At the time of its inscription, the MTPNP had a management plan but it was not officially adopted. An enhanced management plan for the period 2002 to 2012 never underwent public review or was ratified by government. A recent review indicated that none of the activities outlined in the plan have been implemented over the last 8 years due to manpower and budgetary limitations (Edwards, 2011).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Some Concern
Committee decisions on the property have been taken in 2015 and 2016, asking to assess potential impacts of a geothermal project on the Outstanding Universal Value. A joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission has been finally carried out in 2017 to assess the status of the project (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017).
Boundaries
Some Concern
A boundaries marking system is in place but need to be fully completed on the ground. Given the close proximity of villages to the boundaries, land tenure issues in some areas and importance of agricultural activity around the park, a buffer zone is necessary to mitigate existing and potential impacts of anthropogenic activities. A 5-year project funded by GEF plans to define a specific management plan for Morne Trois Pitons National Park and to ensure the legal establishment of a buffer zone for the Park. The assessment will also help with zonation within the core zone (special zone, intensive use, extensive use, environmental study, research, wildland management) as proposed in the 2011 management plan.(Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017).
Sustainable finance
Serious Concern
Financial resources for management are inadequate to completely support the basic required structures for effective management. A proposal put forward for development of a national parks trust fund has not yet been implemented (Edwards, 2011).
Staff training and development
Some Concern
The main difficulties in establishing a National Park Service have been the shortage of trained personnel as well as limited financial resources for management. Advanced degree and certificate training is required in areas of park management, site planning, freshwater fisheries management, wildlife management, general ecology and environmental education (interpretation, awareness). There is a need for both degree and short-term on-the-job training. (Edwards, 2011) At the time of inscription, IUCN recommended possible twining arrangement with a similar World Heritage island forest park. This proposal has not been implemented but could be of interest for the managers. (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017)
Sustainable use
Effective
Use of the site for conservation and tourism, is being done on a sustainable basis.
Education and interpretation programs
Some Concern
Though there have been many isolated attempts at developing environmental education through the National Park, no long-term program has been achieved. (Edwards, 2011)
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
The site has three visitor centres located at the Freshwater Lake, the Emerald Pool and the Middleham Falls, and administered by a concessionaire. But there are few other interpretive facilities or much signage. It is particularly noticeable that there is no interpretation of the geologic features that represent the site’s Outstanding Universal Value. (Edwards, 2011) These centers are effectively managed and interpretation circuits well maintained. Facilities are globally in good conditions, with controlled access and built-up paths to contain visitors. However, an interpretation programme for the World Heritage site needs to be developed. (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017)
Monitoring
Some Concern
There is no established overall monitoring program for the National Park resources nor for detection of climate change, though there has been monitoring of frog (Edwards, 2011) and parrots populations (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017).
Research
Effective
Though there is no overall integrated research program, there are several on-going research activities. There has been some research on forest dynamics by the Forestry Division, on hummingbirds by the Smithsonian, and on frog populations. (Edwards, 2011) Other on-going research focuses on Dominica’s two parrot species (in collaboration with the Rare Species Foundation), and on tink frogs within the area of Freshwater Lake and along the Boeri Lake Trail and the Morne Trois Pitons Trail by Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division in collaboration with MoAFE and Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Various forms of short-term research on wild flora, fauna and geology are conducted in the park by overseas-based institutions. The Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies/Trinidad is also conducting ongoing research on volcanic and seismic activity in the park. (BirdLife, 2012)
Despite international cooperation support, protection and management of the site are handicapped by limited human and financial resources. The revised management plan (2002-2012) was never ratified by the government and is only partially implemented due to institutional, manpower and budgetary limitations. Fortunately, however, the threats are few, and even with a relatively low management input, the site’s values have been relatively well protected.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
Climate change, agricultural encroachment, geothermal activities and tourism are the major threats originating outside the site. Climate change mitigation activities are being studied, but have not been implemented. Agricultural encroachment and tourism impacts are small, and the Forestry Division attempts to address these threats as they occur, but are hampered by limited personnel and budgets. Management plan exists but needs to be officially adopted and implemented.
World Heritage values

Scenic volcanic features of great scientific interest

Good
Trend
Stable
The geological features of the site are not threatened though it should be noted that there is no research on, or interpretation of, these values. (Edwards, 2011)

Rich biodiversity with endemic plant and animal species

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
There is concern regarding habitat loss and fragmentation caused by shifting cultivation in small areas in and around the site, as well as for threatened and vulnerable parrot and forest thrush populations that are in decline, and for several species of endemic bats, butterlies, reptiles, orchids and trees. There is growing awareness of the potential future negative effects from climate change. (BirdLife, 2012, Edwards, 2011; TNC, n.d.).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Low Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
While the site’s geological values are not threatened, there is concern regarding the effects of increasingly severe weather events, shifting agriculture, and tourism activities in and around the Park that cause habitat loss and fragmentation and disturb threatened and vulnerable wildlife. Though not currently foreseen, there is always the future possibility of renewed volcanic activity which would have devastating effects on the site’s biota.
Assessment of the current state and trend of other important biodiversity values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating

Additional information

Access to drinking water,
Commercial wells
The site protects the upper watersheds for all the rivers of southern Dominica, the waters of which drive the turbines that generate much of the island's electricity and provides drinking water for the capital city of Rousseau and the cruise ships that dock there (TNC, n.d.)
Importance for research
The site is used for scientific research by national and international entities, and is an important resource for the generation of knowledge on biodiversity, geology, and climate change. (BirdLife, 2012; Edwards, 2011)
Outdoor recreation and tourism
Major tourism activities inside the MTPNP are hiking, bird watching and mountain climbing, and most of the popular trails developed within the park start from or near the village of Laudat. (Lefebvre and Rosi, 2017). The site provides tourism (about 70,000 visitors/year) and recreation services that are economically important and also important for local quality of life. (Edwards, 2011; TNC, n.d.)
Conservation of the site’s OUV, and the development of knowledge through research and analysis are the most important benefits at the global level, while water resources, tourism, recreation, and the generation of hydropower are the benefits most valued at the national level.
Organization/ individuals Project duration Brief description of Active Projects
1 GEF-World Bank The Special Program for Adaptation to Climate Change (SPACC) project is currently undertaking a project to establish buffer zones for the Park. Project development in communities adjacent to the Park aims at reducing negative impacts on Park. .
2 Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica (COD) with support from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Project aimed at establishing and operationalizing a National Parks Service (NPS). The project comprises two phases with Phase I focusing on a review of the legal framework for the management of national parks and protected areas as well as the conduct of amendments to existing legislation to address identified deficiencies. Phase II focuses on the institutional framework including the establishment and operationalization of a NPS.
3 Yale University DOMEX Project: Emplacement of automated weather stations, data collection and analysis. The objective is to: ➢ To understand the physics of mountain triggered convection and precipitation in the tropics, using Dominica as a natural laboratory ➢ To develop data sets that can be used to test and improve numerical models of convection and precipitation in the tropics ➢ To better understand and predict the weather and climate of the Lesser Antilles including Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique.

References

References
1 BirdLife International. 2012. Important Bird Areas factsheet: Morne Trois Pitons National Park.. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sitefactsheet.php?id=20863
2 De Roche, Thesser. 2010. Environmental Factors to be Considered in Geothermal Exploration/Production in Dominica. United National University Geothermal Training Program, Iceland.
3 Edwards, Marie-Jose. 2011. Morne Trois Pitons National Park World Heritage Site – Improved Management Plan. Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre/SPACC Project.
4 Edwards, Marie-José. 2011. Design of buffer zones for the Morne Diablotin National and Morne Trois Pitons National Park World Heritage. Technical report. Caribbean community climate change centre/ SPACC. 123 pp.
5 GEF, UNDP. 2012. Supporting Sustainable Ecosystem by strengthening the Effectiveness of Dominica’s Protected Area System. Project document.104 pp.
6 Homer, Floyd. 2009. Developing Pilot Projects for Climate Change Adaptation in Dominica. Report on the Technical Forum on Climate Change - Special Programme for Adaptation to Climate Change Project (SPACC).
7 IUCN, 1999. World Heritage Technical Evaluation, Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica.
8 Lefebvre and Rossi. 2017. Report of the joint WHC/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, 24 - 31 March 2017
9 Perry, J. 2011. World Heritage hot spots: A global model identifies the 16 natural heritage properties on the World Heritage List most at risk from climate change. International Journal of Heritage Studies 17 (5), 426-441.
10 The Nature Conservancy, n.d. Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica. Parks in Peril Project.
11 WDPA, 2011. Morne Trois Pitons National Park Data Sheet.