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HOW SHOULD THE FOREST TYPES OF THE LESSER ANTILLES BE DESCRIBED IN THE INTERTROPICAL AREA?

Philippe Joseph

Abstract - Because of the diversity of factorial limitations, potential tropical forest type bioclimates, like those of other bioclimates on the planet, are extremely varied. They refer to complex architectural, structural, phytocenotic and functional parameters which often do not allow comparative analysis. To characterise woods and their habitats within different biomes, a general nomenclature is essential. Often, the latter lacks precision in the lower levels. The UNESCO universal nomenclature for tropical forests is a relevant example of this difficulty. This classification, based primarily on ecological and climate criteria, is effective when it comes to describing the major forest types of the Lesser Antilles. It is nonetheless insufficient to characterise their various eco-units which are a function of topographical variations, phases of temporal evolution and more rarely edaphic parameters. In the Lesser Antilles, the development of conservation strategies for multiple forms of woodland plant diversity is of primary importance. Consequently, the planning tools must be based on georeferenced floristic databases constructed from reference station surveys. For a more explicit description of the different ecosystem levels (from the survey station to regional sylvatic units) we have, in this review, considered the ecosystem potential of different geographical areas, the current dynamic phase, topographical profiles, singular phenomena such as vegetation inversions and ranges of dominant species.

Keywords - Lesser Antilles, Ecology, Bio-climate, Ecosystem, Forest, Biodiversity.

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