Madre de las Aguas extends east from the Haitian border. This mountainous region shelters the headwaters of 17 rivers that provide energy, irrigation and drinking water for more than 50 percent of the Dominican Republic’s population.
This region ranges in elevation from 3,280 to 10,128 feet (1,000 to 3,087 meters), making for a high degree of habitat diversity and endemic species.
About 90 percent of the area's amphibian and reptile species, 43 percent of the butterfly species, 10 percent of the bird species and 94 percent of the bat species are unique to this area. Found 30 million years ago in North America, the now endangered solenodon is a small shrew-like mammal found only on the island of Hispaniola. A member of the rodent family, the rare hutia, can also be found in these forests. Of the 300 birds found in the Dominican Republic, 27 can be found nowhere else in the world, including the Hispaniolan Woodpecker and the Narrow-billed Tody.
Some 5,600 plant species - including more than 300 orchids - grow in the Dominican Republic. About 40 percent of plant species here are found nowhere else in the world. Hispaniolan pine forest covers a vast part of this region. Another type, manacla forest, is named for an endemic palm tree that is critical in maintaining amphibian, reptile and bird populations. Cloud forests play an important role in the origin of fresh water for much of the country's river systems while montane broadleaf forests provide protection to these waterways at lower elevations.
Unsustainable logging, uncontrolled fires, slash and burn agriculture, expansion of sun-grown coffee fields and hillside farming are causing soil erosion and significant species loss.
The Conservancy is working with partners to expand and link the network of protected areas. This includes hiring and training park rangers, reforesting abandoned farmland and training local agricultural collectives in methods of low-impact farming and sustainable forest harvesting.
The Conservancy and other local partners are working to protect forested, intact watersheds on private lands. This complex effort includes resolving land tenure issues, applying conservation easements and creating groups made up of representatives of everyone who benefits from the watershed. A water analysis will determine the full range of ecological services watersheds provide.