Jamaica is part of the tertiary mountain system that runs through the Antilles, and lies on the undersea ridge connecting Honduras with southern Hispaniola. The area has been submerged, and the older crystalline rocks are covered by thick limestone deposits, which now make up over half the area. Subsequent uplift, cracking and faults have left several parallel mountain chains west-east. The dominant chain is the Blue Mountains furthest east. The average height is approx. 1000 m, and the highest point is Blue Mountain Peak (2256 m asl).
A narrow coastal plain, which is widest to the south and west, strikes the island. Most beaches are on the north and west coasts. The interior consists of a limestone plateau, 300-500 meters above sea level, interrupted by faults and with many karst phenomena. A particularly complicated karst landscape, Cockpit Country, is found in the northwest, at Montego Bay. The west coast and parts of the south coast are surrounded by coral reefs.
Climate in Jamaica
Jamaica has a tropical climate along the coast and in the lowlands, more temperate in elevation. The annual average temperature in the lowlands is 26-27 ° C with little annual variation. In the higher-lying areas inland, temperatures and humidity are lower. Kingston has 25 ° C on average for the coldest month (Jan-Feb) and 29 ° C for the warmest month (Aug). The rainfall distribution is characterized by the topographic conditions. The lowland in the south lies in the rain shadow of the mountains, and receives 750-1500 mm a year, mainly in the summer. North- and east-facing mountain slopes receive up to 5000 mm of rainfall per year in connection with the winter and spring northeast winds. From August, eastern and southeast winds dominate, and tropical storms can cause major devastation during this period.
Plant life in Jamaica
As in other humid-tropical regions, the natural flora of Jamaica consists mainly of shrubs and trees. In the lower parts there is little left of the original vegetation. On the coastal plain in the south, there grew a glistening forest with deciduous shrubs and low trees. acacia species and a number of other thorny species of the pea flower family, and with an undergrowth of cactus species and plants in the pineapple family. Further up there have been forests with eg. West Indian cedar, Cedrela odorata, and mahogany. On the north side of the island there are rainforests, but in the lower areas the forest is largely replaced by banana plantations. The mountain rain forest is very rich in ferns, both epiphytes (especially in the family of rhizome and seashell family) and tree fern, i.a. Cyathea. There are over 3000 species of seedlings in Jamaica. Many are single-seeded epiphytes, especially in the genus Brassavola, Oncidium and Broughtonia in the orchid family and in the pineapple family. A highlight plant is the brightly colored Heliconia plant, Heliconia caribaea. Over 800 species are endemic.
Wildlife in Jamaica
Besides bats and a recently extinct pointed species, the Jamaica hutia is the only native land mammal in Jamaica. The hutia, a large rodent in the beaver family, was sought after by the meat and also fell victim to introduced predators. The mungo was introduced from India in 1872 as part of the fight against rats (which had followed humans before) and snakes. Jamaica has 25 bat species, including the bulldog bat, which feed on fish.
At least 300 bird species have been observed, and more than 25 are endemic, including several pigeons, parrots, cuckoos, hummingbirds and tyrants. In the coastal waters live dugong (a sea cow) and sea turtles.
More than 700 species of fish occur in association with the coral reefs.