Figure 1. Location of study sites in the wider Caribbean region: 1, Everglades, Florida; 2, Puerto Rico (wet); 3, Puerto Rico (dry); 4, San Juan, Venezuela; 5, Morrocoy National Park, Venezuela; 6, Los Roques, Venezuela; 7, Ciénaga Grande, Colom- bia; 8, Bocas del Toro, Panama; 9, Twin Cays, Belize; 10, northern Belize wetland complex; 11, Sian Ka’an, Mexico; 12, Celestun Lagoon, Mexico; 13, Terminos lagoon, Mexico.
(Solow 1995), species extinction (Brooks and Smith 2001), mass mortality of organisms (Lessios 1988, Harvell et al. 1999), and reduction of marine resource productivity (Jack- son et al. 2001). Furthermore, watersheds of the Caribbean Sea are one of the top five hotspots of marine and terrestrial biodiversity identified around the world, representing an area with an exceptional concentration of endemic species. Caribbean watersheds are undergoing an exceptional loss of habitat; only about 10% of their primary terrestrial vegeta- tion remains (Myers et al. 2000, Brooks and Smith 2001).
The Caribbean Sea consists of fragile coastal ecosystems that are susceptible to environmental impacts, in part because of their oligotrophic conditions (Richards and Bohnsack 1990, Lapointe 1997) and their critical support of economic de- velopment. The wider Caribbean region includes 36 to 40 countries, with a total population of 38 million (figure 1; CIA 2003). Travel and tourism are major sources of income in the Caribbean, making the region one of the most ecotourism
dependent in the world. The Caribbean travel industry had gross earnings of $17 billion in 1999, which provided about 900,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributed about a quarter of the region’s foreign exchange profits. Travel and tourism were expected to generate $34.6 billion of economic activity in 2003, and this amount will grow to $78.4 billion by 2013 (WTTC 2003). Employment in the travel industry in 2003 was estimated at 1,857,000 jobs, or 12% of total em- ployment (1 in every 8 jobs) in the region.Approximately 100 million tourists visit the Caribbean annually, contributing about 43% of the combined gross national product and one- third of the export earnings for the region (including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Cuba, Barbados,Aruba, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, and Curaçao; WTTC 2003). In addition to supporting intense tourism activities, the Caribbean Sea is one of the most heav- ily traversed seas worldwide. Shipping activities in the region include the transport of oil, which generates pollution in the