Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Assessment of the Northern Range of Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago


The Northern Range of low mountains stretches across the breadth of the island of Trinidad, bounded on three sides by the Caribbean Sea and on one by the capital city, its urban and suburban settlements, and by a flood plain.

Lead institutions

The Cropper Foundation, The University of the West Indies (Trinidad campus), Environment Management Authority of T&T, The Tropical Re-Leaf Foundation, The Trust for Sustainable Livelihoods.

Contact information:

  • Angela Cropper
    The Cropper Foundation
    2, Mt. Anne Drive
    Second Avenue, Cascade
    Port of Spain
    Trinidad and Tobago
    Tel.: 868-625-4071
    Fax: 868-625-2531

Focal issues

Does the continuous removal of forest cover in the Northern Range have a threshold for the provision of ecosystem services such as aquifer recharge, flood control, water purification, biodiversity conservation and recreation?

Is there a policy framework that will allow meaningful civil society participation in sustainable co-management of Northern Range ecosystem services?

Project outputs

This Northern Range assessment will:

  • provide a documented account of the condition, trends and likely scenarios for the Northern Range and its environs based upon existing scientific literature and analysis of present policies, activities and forces which impact on the ecosystem
  • produce a framework for decision-making about policy and management responses based on the analysis of condition, trends and likely scenarios
  • apply these responses as appropriate within selected communities so as to facilitate them in improving their livelihoods, and their social and environmental security, thereby continuing and building upon antecedent local work in this area (Cropper, 1998)
  • document this as a pilot exercise within the MA for moving the results of the MA process into an implementation phase.

Key features of the assessment area

The Northern Range is the most significant geological feature of the island of Trinidad. Its location exacerbates the consequences of its degradation for the coast and the plains. It has been described as the ‘backbone of Trinidad’. It provides a range of provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural ecosystem services to the island and to the nation, but its capacity to sustain these services is under threat. Features include:

  • major water catchment for the island;
  • extensive forest cover;
  • diverse flora and fauna;
  • hillsides and valleys are being extensively used for housing and hillside agriculture, some of which is unauthorized and unregulated;
  • agronomic techniques (slash and burn, high use of fertilizers - due to thin and declining topsoil - and pesticides) lead to widespread fires, forest degradation, and soil erosion; which combine to exacerbate flooding of the city and environs including the flood plain in which most of the cash crops for the domestic market is produced, freshwater contamination, and land-based sources of pollution of coastal waters;
  • a source of stone for building construction;
  • contains many sites of amenity value which are increasingly being used for recreation by nationals and visitors.

Timeframe, budget

Will contribute to the MA a summary of the assessment by December 2003. Full assessment expected to be completed by June 2004. The majority of the professional effort required for conducting this assessment will be made available in kind through representatives of the sponsoring organizations and other colleagues who comprise the Working Groups to carry out the assessment. Funding has to date been made available by the MA, The Cropper Foundation, and the British High Commission to Trinidad & Tobago.