Nature & Science

photograph of a green sea turtle hatchling
Green sea turtle hatchlings, Buck Island.

NPS photo

Buck Island Reef National Monument is most notable for its coral reef ecosystem and the small tropical island that it encircles. The Monument supports a large variety of terrestrial and marine plants and animals, including endangered and threatened species. Its biological diversity and complexity affords outstanding opportunities for approved recreational activities, public education, and scientific research. Buck Island’s elkhorn-coral barrier reef is unique within U.S. waters. The Monument is host to several treatened and endangered species of plants and animals, and contains significant evidence of human use on land and in the water over thousands of years.

underwater photograph of corals at Buck Island
Corals and fish at Buck Island Reef National Monument.

Susanna Pershern, NPS

Buck Island Reef National Monument is one of the most pristine barrier coral reef systems in the Caribbean. While not well suited for agricultural endeavors, the natural resources, especially marine and coastal fauna, have proven an irresistible attraction to people since ancient times. Buck Island draws tens of thousands of tourists a year who wish to experience first-hand the wonders of a coral reef, or just to relax and escape the noise and stresses of everyday life.

The biotic communities that currently exist on Buck Island and St. Croix have been significantly altered by humans since their arrival in the area some 6000 years ago. These changes began with the entry of the islands' first human inhabitants, who cut down trees to build huts and villages, cleared forested areas to grow food crops, and brought non-native animals to the island. Environmental impacts resulting from human activity were greatly accelerated following the arrival of the first Europeans in the sixteenth century. As a result, between a.d. 1600 and 1973, over 50 species of animals became extinct in the West Indies. These include six species of birds, thirty-four mammals, and ten reptiles, all victims to the destruction of natural habitat and the introduction of new predatory species such dogs, cats, rats, and the mongoose (Herpertes javanicus auropunctatus).

Last updated: June 7, 2017

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2100 Church St. #100
Christiansted, St. Croix, VI 00820


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