Despite their small size, the French
West Indies are characterised by a large number of environments supporting a
surprisingly high floristic, ecosystem and landscape diversity. From the foundation
of dwelling groups, beginning in the 17th century to the present day, human
activities have resulted in the sharp decline of the forest areas. To some
extent, the Caribbean forest has become “insularized”. Originally, these
forests covered the entire islands from the coast to circa 800 meters of
altitude, where the environmental conditions permitted the development of
forest biocenosis. Survival space for the American Indians and early settlers,
despite its gradual weakening and its spatial regression in the 18th and the
19th century and in the first half of the 20th century, the forest ecosystem
represented a place of high exploitation of the wood resources in principal for
energy, carpentry, cabinetmaking, housing and industry linked to
profit-generating crops (sugar cane). Unlike the pre-colonial period where the
tree was predominant, the present vegetation is dominated by regressive
communities, consisting of shrub and herbaceous communities. Since their
origin, the Lesser Antilles have represented special objects of study for
naturalists, botanists and systematics scholars, especially concerning the
forest ecosystems. They are also true laboratories for the study of vegetation
dynamics and the evolution of the man-environment relationships where the landscape
is a relevant descriptor. This article aims to show the evolution of knowledge
of the structures, functions and spatiotemporal dynamics of the plant
ecosystems of the Lesser Antilles. The biocenotic diversity of the vegetation
of the islands required the knowledge of species, associations they represent
and the bioclimates who influence them. In this context Martinique is a
significant example of the ecosystem complexity under anthropogenic stresses.
Cite this paper
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