River Lower Morass"
wetland has been designated by Jamaica for inclusion in the List of
International Importance. The largest freshwater wetland ecosystem in
Jamaica, the Black River Lower
Morass is a complex of shallow brackish lagoons, limestone islands,
mudflats and mangroves near the coast, and extensive freshwater marshes
formations. It is owned by the Government of Jamaica and the Petroleum
Covering about 14,085 acres, the Lower Morass supports a
flora, and fauna,
|with several of the
species being endemic to Jamaica. These include, Grias cauliflora, the
only native representative of the Brazil nut family
swamp palm (Roystonea princeps), the thatch palm (Sabal jamaicensis),
and the naseberry bullet (Manilkara sideroxylon). The thatch palm is
used used extensively by local people in the making of baskets, and as
a roofing material. The southern section of the lower morass contains
relatively large stands of red mangrove (R. mangle) which supports
various species of birds, crabs, fish, shrimps, and the American
wetland habitat serves as a
hatchery for many species of fish in their juvenile stages, provides a
nesting area for various birds and generates an abundance of nutrients
for bottom feeders like crabs and lobsters as well as fish such as
mangrove snapper, snook and mullet. Swamplands are also helpful in
absorbing the shock of tidal waves caused by hurricanes and protect the
Described as the
best area in Jamaica for all water birds,
it is known to be the only area where the flamingo still nests
Commercially important species using the wetland as a breeding and
nursery area include snapper, snook, tarpon, jack, and several species
of fresh and brackish water shrimps.
Saltwater crocodiles are among the larger predators in swamps and were
once plentiful here but the population has been greatly reduced due
mainly to loss of habitat. Their nesting places are being destroyed by
heavy draining of the swamps for agriculture and the relentless
development of beach areas.
Unlike their aggressive
cousins, the species of salt water crocodiles found in the Great Morass
and on the banks of the Black River are relatively non-aggressive.
Local tour guides are known to reach out and touch these crocs in
demonstration of their non-agression.
Birds are numerous, especially
herons and ospreys. But most intriguing are the mangrove trees
themselves because they send out aerial roots like spiders' legs,
sometimes dropping 40 feet into the river!
Black River Lower Morass has been the subject of much previous study
which was aimed at exploiting this resource base on a large scale for
agriculture, and peat mining. Other current issues affecting the lower
morass are as follows:
- The pollution of the lower morass as a result of
industrial/agricultural activity in the upper morass;
operation of recreational
(guided) tours in the wetland (mainly
on the Broad River), an activity which may have a disruptive effect on
- The destruction of wetland vegetation by spontaneous as well as
multiple species of
birds including herons and egrets, and salt water crocodiles, the Great
Morass exhibits the greatest biodiversity in the entire Caribbean.