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1 . Dominican Republic     Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic acknowledges that its coral reef resources are important, and their basic value lies in the natural protection they offer and the maintenance of Dominican beaches, which are the basis for the tourism industry. The island of Hispaniola is the second largest island in the Caribbean (78,000 km2). It is located at 17º 40’ and 19º 56’ N latitude and 68º 20’ and 70.01º W longitude, in the north central boundary of the Caribbean Sea. It is separated from Cuba to the north-northwest by the Windward Passage (4,000 m), from Jamaica to the west-southwest by the Jamaica Passage, (3,000 m), and from Puerto Rico to the east by the shallow Mona Passage (350-400 m). Oceanic currents and winds are governed primarily by the easterly trade winds.

Hispaniola is politically divided into two countries: Haiti to the west and the Dominican Republic to the east (Map 1). The Dominican Republic has a land area of 48,484 km2, and a varied coastline of 1,389 km., 27% (376.7 km) of which are mangroves, and 11% (166 km) coral reefs. The main coastal features found along the coast are emerged reef terraces and cliffs, especially on the southeastern portion of the island. The continental shelf has a mean width of 7.5 km, and covers an area of 8,130 km2. There are two submerged offshore banks: La Navidad and La Plata, 70 and 150 km2 respectively, located north of Cabo Samaná, in the Atlantic Ocean (North Coast). These banks are important winter breeding and mating territories for humpback whales. Many wrecks from colonial times (1500’s) can also be found here.

The Dominican Republic occupies a fairly large land mass. There are large rivers and streams washing extensive watersheds, and usually there are no coral formations directly downstream from them. The Caribbean coast is basically made up of carbonate reef terraces allowing shallow fringing reefs to develop. On the northeastern region there are usually mountainous terraines close to shore, associated with higher pluviometry which in turn cause short torrential streams that drain into the adjacent sea, loading it with sediments, and limiting reef growth. This occurs for approximately 1/3 of the coastline. Along the rest of the coast reef growth is of the fringing or barrier type. These usually occur in association with the dry regions of the country where waters are clear. Nevertheless, even in these dry regions there are three places that have natural sediment inputs and restrict reef settlement (Punta Martín García in Barahona, Punta Salinas in Peravia, and El Morro in Montecristi).

On the southern coast, on its sheltered portions where land projects into the sea, fringing and patch reefs can be found, becoming adequate and important breeding grounds for conch (Strombus spp), lobster (Panulirus spp) and a myriad of other species. Much of these breeding grounds are located in protected areas, such as Parque Nacional del Este (Eastern), Parque Nacional Submarino La Caleta (Central), and Parque Nacional Jaragua (Western). These protected areas are being exploited for its tourism and fisheries resources in varying degrees. The rest of the southern coastline is basically composed of uplifted Pleistocene to Recent reef terraces, where mayor cities are established (Geraldes, 1980). All along this coast one finds low relief, highly eroded reef growth, basically due to high-energy conditions. In places where the marine platform widens (average width is less than 700 m), and the depth is below 40 m a well-developed reef structure with breaker zone is found. A beach is usually found in these places, and as a result the tourism industry has occupied the beachfront. In the southwestern region, depositional processes basically form the coastline, where basaltic and inorganic sands and stones configure the coastline. In these areas, reef formation is reduced to small patches due to the increased turbidity (highly mobile substrata) since rivers and stream mouths are common features. The rest of the coast is composed of high escarpments and nearby deep seas.

Important reefs tracks can also be found on the north coast -Montecristi barrier reef-, and on the eastern coast -Macao-B varo-Punta Cana barrier reef. This last reef system is located at the Mona Passage, and these reefs are therefore bathed by two mayor oceanic conditions: the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, creating unique conditions that represent in one locality these two biogeographical provinces.

All in all, wherever reefs are found, there are beautiful beaches as well, and the tourism industry is well established on or near them (in the case of protected areas). This tourism industry can be quantified as approximately 45,000 rooms in the coasts of the Dominican Republic. The fact that reefs are important ecosystems for the maintenance of beach conditions and the rise in the economical importance of tourism for the country has given rise to an interest in conserving them. Today, reefs are recognized as very important, strategic, economical, social and political resources, and thus the recent attitude of the country in benefit for their protection.
Source: Geraldes, F. X. and M. B. Vega , 2002 , Status of the Coral Reefs of the Dominican Republic . Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (See Document)

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