The island nation of Dominica is located within the Caribbean and is officially referred to as "Commonwealth of Dominica". The nation's capital is called Roseau and is situated at the south western part of the country as seen in figure 1(U.S. Department of state, 2011). It has the size of about 750 sq. km or about 209 sq. miles, with the population estimated to be 72,500 (U.S. Department of state, 2011). Dominica has been highly praised all around the world for it's pristine and untouched natural beauty and it has subsequently earned the nickname "the nature isle of the Caribbean"(Kongit, 2011).The Dominican island is a relatively young island that is still undergoing development and is being formed as evidenced by the volcanic activity of "the boiling lake", which is also the world's second largest in its category. Dominica had the World Heritage Convention ratified in 1995, and has only one heritage site listed in 1997 to date; the "Morne Trois Pitons National Park" (UNESCO, 2011).
The island has beautiful mountainous terrain of volcanic islands together with a lush rainforest cover (Kongit, 2011). About 60 % of Dominica's total surface area, which translates to 45,000 ha, is forested as reported by FAO (Mongbay, 2011). The forests in the island are huge sinks of carbon containing millions of carbon in metric tons in biomass within the living forest. The forests play a great role in the existing tropical climate and weather patterns of the region, in addition to providing an important habitat to many species of plants and animals. The island has about 202 species that are known of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles as indicated by figures released by the world conservation monitoring centre (Mongbay, 2011). 3.5% of the species are endemic, and 5.4 % are threatened as a result of human activities. The island is home to not less than 1228 known species of plants, with about 1% of these being endemic. The IUCN has placed 13.3 % of the island under protection (Earthtrend, 2003).
"The nature isle of the Caribbean sea" has a vast and rich collection of biodiversity in both the marine and terrestrial life. The deep and warm shores are filled with coral, all the way from Portsmouth in the northern part to Berekua and La Plaine in the south, together with the beautiful array of the present tropical ecosystems, combine to make Dominica, an island flourishing with a rich diversity in the animal and plant life. The fishing industry has greatly benefited by the wide array of fish species within the coral ecosystem around the coastal shore line of the island. The nature of the country's natural diversity is exemplified by the protected "Morne Trois Pitons National Park", with its diverse plant and animal life, which has made ecotourism among the highest foreign exchange income earner for the country.
Human activities have resulted in many changes to the island since the late 15th century, when first explorers arrived there from Europe. These anthropogenic intrusions were accelerated in the 20th century as result of development and many of the earlier un foreseen consequences of the actions can be clearly seen today especially in regard to the pre-existing ecosystems, the natural environmental state and biodiversity of the island. The forest cover in Dominica changed between 1990 and 2010, with the island losing about 5000 ha or 10% of the total forest cover (Mongbay, 2011). This averaged around 250 ha that were lost annually and turned into farmlands for agriculture, residential areas and a majority of the forest trees being harvested for timber.
The trend in the growth of primary forest cover indicates a negative growth since the 1990 to date with much of these cover being exploited for timber production at rates that are slightly higher than their growth rates. They have also been affected by wildfires (such as the one in 2005), insects, and diseases among other biotic factors, in addition to human activities. Pollution from hazardous wastes and poorly managed solid waste from the urban towns have further led to damaging of the existing environment especially the littoral and marine ecosystems. Much of the coral reefs around Roseau and Portsmouth are increasingly facing destruction from chemical pollution (as a result of chemical emissions from industries and manufacturers) together with solid and sediment depositions from terrestrial land (Earthtrend, 2003).
Human activities have led to habitat modification and destruction leading to the threatening of the existing species especially those endemic to the island. Many of these suffer from the challenges in adapting to their changing ecological environment and as a result, they have negative population growth with some facing the dangers of annihilation in some parts of the island as their natural habitats are destroyed for agricultural expansion.
In measures to ensure protection of its natural biodiversity, the Dominican is party to many important international environmental agreements dealing with many areas including environmental modification, climate change, biodiversity, hazardous waste, pollution and endangered species among others (Kongit, 2011). The formal commitment to national preservation and conservation of the natural resources of the island and their sustainable use for development, led to the "inception of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) together with the National Environmental Coordinating Unit located at Roseau" and formulation of relevant national environmental laws (Kongit, 2011). A key strategy in the conservation plans by the NBSAP included consultations with the important stakeholders from various sectors such as the fishermen, farmers, indigenous people and tribes, manufacturers, engineers, NGOs and bankers among other groups, in formulation of legislation relevant to preservation of the biodiversity (Kongit, 2011).
Ensuring that environmental education is adequately provided to all the people through convenient mediums will further the advances towards the concerted efforts in conservation and preservation of the pristine ecological systems and biodiversity of the island, by the inclusion of the masses in addition to the stakeholder groups. This will also ensure that the importance and relevance of doing this is known and the equipment with the relevant and critical skills and knowledge on preservation. Incorporating essential sections of preservation education within the education system from early stages will ensure that the younger generation will in future espouse the values of preserving their environment.
In addition to these, actively involving all groups in ongoing and upcoming issues in regard to environment and conservation of biodiversity, from regional to national and even international levels, would further instill environmental preservation values in line with national goals. International organizations have also helped in conservation efforts including CITES (convention on international trade in endangered species) which has aided the categorization n of endangered and threatened species and providing relevant support in their preservation. CITES has helped in the banning of international trade of the threatened species of the island including live snakes, parrots, primates and the skins of lizards, crocodiles and wild cats among others. IUCN (International union for conservation of nature)is another organization that has helped the Dominican authorities in protecting important portions of the land (Earthtrend, 2003).
Without protection and preservation of the natural environment from all threats, especially human intrusion, Dominica would in essence lose its most treasured possession, its natural beauty. The loss of many important species of plants and animals would be an imminent ecological disaster with continued wanton exploitation of natural forest. IUCN studies carried out on the island in 2003 showed that already some species were being threatened by the adverse effects of human activities as shown in figure two. Destruction of the vital natural forest would further exacerbate effects of natural disasters that occur such as the annual flash floods (Earthtrend, 2003). Dominica would also increase its vulnerability to changes in the climate and weather patterns, one phenomenon that is greatly affecting other regions in the world especially sub-Saharan Africa.
Dominica is a uniquely rich island in terms of natural beauty, with which it is renowned for all over the world. The natural systems and biodiversity within the island are increasingly facing the challenges and threats of extinction from human activities. These have resulted in government intervention together with some outside help in curbing the worrying trend. Involvement of the stakeholders in consultations has further helped in coming up with effective measures and strategies to ensure the protection and preservation of the environment. The protection of the natural diversity of the island is of great essence to the stability of the life of people and other species, together with the important ecosystems.