Caves are unique habitats for several species of flora and fauna, with bats being the most iconic of them all. Some species of bats are recognized as keystone species for the terrestrial ecosystems of our region.
Many of the bat species that live in the Caribbean rely on caves for diurnal and maternity roosts. Cave dwelling species tend to be gregarious, meaning that they congregate during the day in colonies that can reach several thousands. One cave can be used simultaneously by different species.
In most cases, the caves used by these bats are not included in the existing systems of protected areas. This represents a considerable hazard for the bat colonies present in them, because large colonies of bats can easily attract the attention of people that disturb the caves during visits. This type of disturbance is particularly harmful during those months of the year when bats are giving birth and nursing their offspring. Uncontrolled visits can result in high mortality of young and adults.
Fish and crustaceans also dwell in caves. Due the isolated nature of these environments and their unique conditions, some of these species can not be found anywhere else and therefore are very vulnerable. Even subtle changes of habitat conditions can negatively impact the fragile ecosystem of a cave.