Savannas in Trinidad

Paul L. Comeau


The natural savannas of Trinidad were more extensive in the recent past than they are today. In the north, svannas like those at Aripo were also well developed at Piarco, Mausica and O'Meara. Now, most of the savanna at Piarco has been replaced by an airport while those at Mausica and O'Meara have succumbed to industrial and housing development. Beard (1946) mentions two savannas in south Trinidad, one at Erin which is well known and still exists, and the other, St. John, which he briefly mentions but fails to pinpoint. Beard's report also includes photographs of savanna around Longdenville in central Trinidad. As to the whereabouts of St. John Savanna, Graf (1961) states that this savanna is located near Buenos Ayres and is the largest of the Erin Savannas. The only other natural savanna in Trinidad is the St. Joseph which occurs on the mountain flanks just west of Mount SI. Benedict. I believe these slopes were once forested but since early colonial times have been disturbed so frequently by fire and cutting that the forest has never been allowed to recover. Nature doesn't like a vacuum, thus the downgraded drier environment saw the proliferation of savanna-like vegetation. The savannas which I will focus on in this article, therefore, are Aripo which has recently been designated part of a scientific reserve, St. Joseph which is slowly being replaced by pine tree plantation, and that portion of Erin in which no pine trees have been planted.

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