Archive for Sessions

Prioritizing UPR Sea Grant goals and strategies

UPR Sea Grant (UPRSG) CRA team is currently asking researchers and experts who have conducted recent studies in the Caribbean region to participate in an online survey to prioritize the research that UPRSG conducts in Puerto Rico, the USVI and, in general, the Caribbean.

As part of a US national program, UPR Sea Grant aligns its research with the focus areas that are defined at the national level. The National Sea Grant Focus Areas consist of:

1. Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

2. Sustainable Coastal Development

3. Safe and Sustainable Seafood Supply

4. Hazard Resilience and Coastal Communities

For more details about these focus areas, please visit the National Sea Grant website at http://seagrant.noaa.gov/.

The survey was designed to help identify the goals and strategies, which are aligned with the National Sea Grant focus areas, that need immediate attention in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (US Caribbean).

The UPR Sea Grant strategic plan for 2010-2014 is currently available at https://www.seagrantpr.org/catalog/publications/reports.html

UPR Sea Grant would like to discover practical solutions to problems of resource management and utilization. Bearing this in mind, the comments obtained from this survey will continue to help us design future request-for-proposals and will contribute to our ongoing assessment of research needs in the Caribbean.

If you would like to participate in our survey (takes only about 10 minutes to complete), please send an e-mail message to:

Kurt Grove (kurtallen.grove@upr.edu)

Jasmine Seda (j_seda@hotmail.com)

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Climate Change – Not only about science, but also public health

In light of the scientific concerns regarding the effects of climate change and what they entail, we conducted two sessions on May 18 and June 14, 2011. These two groups were mainly aimed at obtaining comments or feedback on the research and information needs associated with the topic of climate change, mostly applied to marine and coastal resources in Puerto Rico and the US Caribbean. We interviewed nine (9) representatives from the academic sector (researchers from UPR). In this particular group, we invited a specialist in public health associated with environmental issues to include other possible aspects that may not have been discussed in our previous group sessions.

We asked the following questions:

  • What type of research or information is needed to manage or conserve our marine and coastal resources in light of the pertinent issues concerning climate change? What studies are needed to address possible scenarios of climate change that would affect our marine/coastal resources in Puerto Rico (including the US Caribbean)? Please consider answers on a short-term (5 years or less) and a long-term (at least 10 years) period.
  • What obstacles are presently hindering research or assessments that could help address issues associated with climate change?

The responses to our questions were mostly based on the expertise of each participant, which varied from coastal monitoring, civil engineering, remote sensing, and public health:

  1. Two major themes should be explored: ocean/atmospheric temperature and ocean acidification. These areas have profound impacts on environment and ecosystem.  Short and long term scales would be best defined for about 100 years since this is near the limit of historical temperature and precipitation data available from the National Weather Service.  Climate change is mostly identified as a long term time scale.
  2. Research should define or identify the best refuge areas. Mapping of deep mesophotic reefs is needed. Identify sites with healthy coral and determine the reasons there are temperature-resistant corals. Studies on the sediments and a better understanding of its organic decomposition, its effect on O2 concentrations in coastal areas and on corals ecosystems.
  3. As population increases so do the impacts of urban development, deforestation, and soil erosion. These physical components need consistent monitoring and evaluation with sufficient detail. With regard to climate change, we expect changes in rainfall events, intensity, duration, and contribution to soil erosion and TSS (Total Suspended Solids) in coastal waters. These physical changes are creating harmful algae blooms, but increased TSS will also affect photosynthesis and benthic communities.
  4. Climate change affecting precipitation, salinity, wave climate and photosynthesis on insular shelf is largely unknown. Baseline information (such as bathymetry) is critical for developing physical models. Unfortunately, bathymetric data of most of the insular shelf does not have high resolution. Benthic habitats are also poorly known and delineated. The use of Multibeam Sonar may help up decrease gaps to about 30 meters.

    UPR researchers discuss priority needs for climate change.

  5. Studies that involve analyzing mesophotic reefs. Corals deeper than 100 meters may harbor commercially important fish communities and may consist of keystone species (such as the red snapper). Remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) can be used to investigate these ecosystems.  Large vessels are needed for this type of research.
  6. Coastal erosion is a major risk or hazard that is linked to climate change and global warming, which involves the rise of sea level.  Where are the “hot spots”? New methods to measure sea level with greater precision would be very helpful in understanding physical models and gravitational field GPS geoid surveys needs completion. This includes efforts for high resolution data.  Evaluating the loss of our beaches and showing the local authorities that these are real problems that need to be addressed.
  7. Develop scenarios that help establish conditions to test and determine potential obstacles that affect management and conservation goals.
  8. Studies need to be conducted on ecosystem resilience and identifying their productive capacities (Example: how much can be removed and is recovery possible (quotas) are important questions for fisheries).
  9. Establishing baseline data for various species and identifying trends in populations in both long and short term is critical information that should be collected and analyzed. Studies on phytoplankton population dynamics are needed to understand how these nutrients are used and how O2/CO2 is balanced.
  10. Climate change and human health issues need to be studied. A well-studied example is dengue fever, in which a direct correlation with ambient temperature increase and the number of patients with dengue has been reported. In 2007, 10,000 cases of dengue were reported in our region. These events needs constant monitoring along with other possible develops of human diseases or conditions associated with climate change such as:
  • Skin cancer
  • Asthma (example: increases in Sahara dust clouds)
  • Hypertension
  • Malaria
  • Tuberculosis
  • Population
  • Human health conditions and its effect on the economy

Responses specific to the obstacles that are currently delaying the advancement of research and assessments that could improve marine and coastal management in relation to climate change were:

  1. The apathy or unwillingness of our authorities to take effective action to resolve the management problems that confront us.
  2. Permits to conduct public health-related surveys are complex and difficult to obtain. Much information critical to public health evaluation gets lost in the process.
  3. Institutions need to coordinate resources to support multidisciplinary efforts to resolve resource management problems.  Greater effort needs to be made on how to share research findings, identify new problem areas and communicate the information to stakeholders in a usable form.
  4. Baseline information, all data being collected by the different agencies need to be placed on line and easily available to experts and stakeholders. At the present time, obtaining this information is extremely difficult.
  5. A recent obstacle in outreach and education efforts is obtaining permission to take children or youth to the beach and visit coastal environments. The administrative and bureaucratic process is extensive that teachers are discouraged.

In general, most of the participants agreed that long-term scenarios must be considered when evaluating the impacts of climate change, not only on our marine and coastal resources, but also on public health.

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Cooperative science research network needed! – AMLC

The Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC) celebrated its 35th Scientific Meeting in the Universidad de Costa Rica at San José, Costa Rica on May 23-27, 2011. With more than 30 institutions involved in marine research, education and resource management, the AMLC aims to encourage the production and exchange of information between researchers and resource managers, increase marine and environmental awareness and promote assistance and collaborative efforts among its members. Representatives from several universities, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations participated in the conference.

Dr. Kurt Grove, CRA team member, carried out a scoping session with about 35 participants of the annual meeting in regard to what efforts (research/information) are currently needed to better management and conservation strategies in the Caribbean. In general, the group suggested that a cooperative science research network is urgently needed to disseminate important data that is critical for making decisions in management and that transbounds all sectors (private and public) and political interests (national and international). They emphasized that the transfer of knowledge should be a transdisciplinary and transboundary endeavor made by researchers, resource managers and governance at all levels in order to integrate the efforts of all sectors into conserving our local resources. Most participants voiced their need for more vertical and horizontal communications between research laboratories and agencies/organizations, which should also help to influence policy makers when making decisions that affect local communities. Efforts to convey the results of scientific research to resource managers in layman’s terms so that it is understandable and applicable to management was also considered a main concern. One of the most frequent obstacles mentioned by the group was the lack of participation or representation from important organizations/agencies that could make an impact on science policy. An interesting comment that had not been made in previous discussion sessions is the need for resource managers to use locally-obtained data (which may not be available or doesn’t exist), not necessarily regional, and that can be applied to their area. An area of research that was emphasized as a need was the inventory and population status of important coastal species (e.g., land crab Cardisoma).

AMLC members expressed their interest in continuing efforts to exchange research information and data among the marine laboratories in regard to management and conservation of marine resources. A proposal was made to continue discussing topics that involve questions that are relevant for governance and for local or regional issues.

To address the concern about finding information/data pertinent to marine and coastal studies in the Caribbean by way of a web portal, the UPR-SG currently provides a publication database with more than 700 resources (and growing!) that includes reports, thesis, documents, peer-reviewed articles and websites, regarding management and conservation in the Caribbean. We have over 10 different subjects (categories such as climate change, coral reefs, mangroves, sediments, etc.) for you to review!

AMLC holds its Scientific Meetings every other year, of which peer-reviewed Proceedings are published as Supplemental Editions of the International Journal for Tropical Biology (Revista de Biología Tropical) and publish newsletters (in English and Spanish) twice per year. For more information on AMLC’s contributions to the community of marine researchers and resource managers, please visit their website here!

Contributed by: K. Grove (Thanks to those that helped take notes of the session!)

Edited by: J. Seda

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Academia – Focus on conservation rather than only management

Several researchers from the academic sector have made efforts to understand the complexity of marine ecosystems and have contributed much to our scientific knowledge on the importance of conserving  these resources. However, there are pending issues that need to be addressed in order to efficiently manage and conserve our resources. On November 6 and December 4, 2010, we brought together 13 professors that are conducting (or have conducted) research from various universities in western and eastern Puerto Rico (UPR-Mayagüez, UPR-Aguadilla, Interamerican University-San German, UPR-Humacao, UPR-Bayamon, UPR-Medical Science Campus, University of Turabo, and Universidad del Este) to discuss their major concerns in regard to the studies needed to improve management and/or conservation of marine and coastal resources in Puerto Rico.

In general, more research that focused on the conservation, as opposed to solely management, of marine and coastal resources was highly encouraged. Emphasis was also given to collecting basic physical, chemical and biological data that could be used to develop models that help explain and predict coastal processes. Studies on the effects of anthropogenic activities on or near coastal habitats was considered a high-priority. Conducting scenarios of climate change and assessing their impacts on coastal habitats was also highly stressed. The role of microbes in marine ecosystems and their effect on reefs was another area of interest. As with other experts we have assessed, evaluating the effectiveness of management strategies was found to be particularly important. The participants also showed a large concern for long-term environmental and anthropogenic effects on important coastal organisms (i.e., dinoflagellates, crabs).  They also emphasized the importance of identifying and assessing potential areas of contamination (e.g., fecal contamination) by human activities and its effect on public safety. Another interest was to determine habitat connectivity of coastal vertebrates and invertebrates (e.g., birds) and the flow of essential nutrients (e.g., carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) between adjacent areas.

Regarding short- and long-term research needed for resource management included topics such as:

  • Declines in aerial coverage of coral reefs should be examined (subaerial and submarine) to determine reefs at risk and those that are influenced by coastal land use.
  • Studies that monitor the rates of loss in reef shoreline (coastal erosion), which may be related to changes in land use, and can be used to show trends.
  • Recompilation of historical data and compare with prehistoric data from coral growth bands/cores to detect changes or trends, which can be used to make predictions for the future of the reefs and the coast. Evaluate past and current conditions – what measures can be taken to reverse detrimental trends. This information should be complemented with knowledge from coastal resource users.
  • Characterizing the biological complexity (macro and micro) of coastal habitats and watersheds and identify anthropogenic impacts, which requires long-term monitoring of these areas.
  • Quantifying the impacts that sediments have on coral reefs and other important coastal habitats with the use of physical/transport models as well as consistent measurements (e.g., turbidity, light penetration, stratification, changes in bathymetry/topography, precipitation, runoff). Evaluate and model suspended sediment transport on a short and long term scale in order to determine distribution mechanisms and develop strategies for mitigation.
  • Determine the role of microbial ecology in marine ecosystems and how they may be involved in the transmission of coral reef diseases. Evaluate the effect of microbes/pathogens from wastewaters on coastal habitats and what hydrologic processes may influence its distribution.
  • Quantifying sediment transport, modeling of suspended and bedload processes that can help explain geomorphologic changes occurring in the coastal zone. Identify specific mechanisms (e.g., grain size, sediment composition, contaminants, dynamics of sediment transport).
  • Impacts of climate change, particularly how it will affect storm frequency, sea level, coastal erosion, flooding patterns, global warming, ocean acidification, increasing water temperatures, coral diseases, calcification, reef accretion, and bleaching. Need research that focuses on scenarios of climate change and their effect on coastal habitats (e.g., eutrophication, sedimentation, acidification)  by using models.
  • Studies on processes associated with rivers, watersheds, soil erosion, wetlands, extent of floods, temperatures, precipitation, and evapo-transportation. Develop models that can best describe the mechanisms associated with these processes and can provide effective information for watershed/coastal management.
  • Evaluate effectiveness of habitat mitigation strategies and the public’s perception of such efforts.
  • Studies that assess the development and enforcement of policies regarding environmental management and conservation.
  • Projects that systematically evaluate the impacts of marine debris, including environmental and socio-cultural aspects. Some information has been collected, but has not been used to change public policy with respect to waste management.
  • Species inventory and monitoring of the dinoflagellate population of the bioluminescent bays of Fajardo, Vieques and Parguera. Assess long-term environmental and anthropogenic effects (light contamination, boating, nutrient input, sediment load) on the bioluminescence of these areas.
  • Studies related to habitat connectivity; studies on how coastal vertebrates (birds) and invertebrates co-exist and their behavior.

Obstacles that are currently delaying the advancement of academic research included:

  • Lack of standardized formats for data gathering and collections.
  • Lack of communication between resource users and researchers that could help explain the present environmental and resource conditions, which could help predict future changes.
  • Promote more symposiums and networking among experts and resource users.
  • Lack of interdisciplinary approach for studying the complexity of marine and coastal processes and ecosystems.
  • Lack of efforts to incorporate and empower local communities with coastal resource management.
  • Lack of integration and collaboration between federal agencies.
  • Lack of agreement between federal and state agencies in regard to regulations and permits.
  • Insufficient personnel (faculty), funds, and lack of infrastructure, which is directly related to the lack of time to do full-time research as an academic professor.
  • Lack of projects that address information/data that would be useful for local agencies and that should be considered with equal importance/priority for funding (e.g., data collection).

To read more about the comments made by the eastern group, please download the report here. For comments from the western group, please click here.

More information:

Video – How learning about fossil corals and environmental changes in the past may help us to understand the impacts of more recent climate changes (Dominican Republic Project.org)

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Aquaculture strategic plan & indices needed, say experts

Based on the current needs for sustainable resource use of fisheries, we find that environmentally-friendly practices of aquaculture are important issues that should be addressed in the Caribbean.  With this in mind, we carried out a discussion session on December 9, 2010 with local stakeholders and experts to share their insights on novel research and to identify the type of information that is needed to better current aquaculture methods that promote sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices. The obstacles that are frequently encountered in the development and/or process of aquaculture practices were also discussed.

In general, most participants were extremely displeased with the process of obtaining permits to practice aquaculture from federal agencies. Interagency communication and collaboration was recommended to improve the process of evaluation and approval of aquaculture projects. Re-evaluation of past projects that were unsuccessful was also suggested to identify the problems that were encountered. Emphasis was also made to establish specific parameters, indices and standards for sustainable, environmentally-friendly aquaculture practices.

Some critical areas of research and information needed for establishing aquaculture practices in Puerto Rico were suggested:

  • Identify and optimize local coastal areas for offshore aquaculture (marine spatial planning) that should be pre-designated using information from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
  • Determine oceanographic requisites for installations and environmental characteristics particular for aquaculture practices around the island.
  • Inventory of all the species for aquaculture based on experience or need and stress more research on these species.
  • Research should be conducted on the parasites and diseases affecting commercially important species.
  • Impacts of marine aquaculture on benthic habitats and how to mitigate the effects.
  • Assess why aquaculture projects have been rejected and what research is needed to address the issues.
  • Studies on the socio-economic impacts of aquaculture species on local communities.
  • Studies that evaluate the viability of aquaculture methods, especially on an economic level.
  • Identify/prioritize important molluscan species (conch, oysters, clams, etc.) since these filter and clean coastal waters, shellfish mariculture is environmentally friendly.
  • Develop an information network/portal to share critical data/information among stakeholders
  • Develop an aquaculture strategic plan.

Obstacles that are frequently encountered in aquaculture practices:

  • Industry helps define research needs. Without an active industry, we are limited in our understanding of problems that research could help resolve.
  • The absence of a list for culturing native species.
  • The large amount of effort/funds needed to obtain permits is one of the biggest obstacles.
  • Not identifying past errors in aquaculture projects that were unsuccessful and using that information to improve future projects.
  • Resistance from some stakeholders towards designating potential areas for aquaculture (mostly due to personal interests).
  • Lack of communication between stakeholders about the latest projects.

For more details on the comments made by this group, please download our full report here.

For more information about aquaculture practices, check out the links below:

Status Report on Caribbean Aquaculture (1993) – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Latin America and Caribbean Chapter World Aquaculture Society – an international non-profit organization that aims “to strengthen and facilitate communication and information exchange on high priority topics and emerging issues within the diverse global aquaculture community”.

Hernández-Rodríguez, A., Alceste-Oliviero, C., Sanchez, R., Jory, D., Vidal, L. & Constain-Franco, L.-F. 2001. Aquaculture development trends in Latin America and the Caribbean. In R.P. Subasinghe, P. Bueno, M.J. Phillips, C. Hough, S.E. McGladdery & J.R. Arthur, eds. Aquaculture in the Third Millennium. Technical Proceedings of the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium, Bangkok, Thailand, 20-25 February 2000. pp. 317-340. NACA, Bangkok and FAO, Rome.

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Assess socioeconomic impacts of marine resources – USVI

The US Virgin Islands is known for its richness in marine biodiversity, which is one of the main attractions for visiting tourists. However, conservation of the mangrove coastlines, seagrasses, coral reefs, and fishes are essential to sustaining these ecosystems. To date, we continue to search for more information on the best strategies needed for the management and conservation of our marine resources. On October 14, 2010, we carried out a discussion session with several faculty members of the College of Science and Mathematics at the University of the Virgin Islands, who additionally serve as faculty within the Master of Marine and Environmental Science Program (http://mmes.uvi.edu/), and representatives from The Nature Conservancy (St. Thomas) and USVI Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) with the goal of identifying research and information needs to improve measures for management and conservation of marine and coastal resources in the US Virgin Islands.

Overall, most participants emphasized the need for research that is focused on the connectivity among biological/ecological processes and ecosystem-based management, including assessment and optimization of human interactions with the environment. The group also highly stressed the need to evaluate socioeconomic aspects of communities that depend on marine resources for their livelihood. Also, studies focused on the effects of climate change on local communities and identifying the basis or aspects of their resilience. More efforts on education and outreach were also expressed.

What research is needed to better management and conservation in the USVI?

  • Short-term studies that demonstrate the social importance of rebuilding relationships with the community in order to change their perception on environmental conservation (e.g., coastal cleanups).
  • Projects that deal with socioeconomic aspects of coral reefs, including its role as a essential habitat for fisheries and an attractive habitat for ecotourism.
  • Long-term efforts that focus on effectively communicating with user groups – understanding the language of local users and how resources are used will facilitate the transfer of science-based information and increase trust between users and managers.
  • Evaluations that assess the risks of climate change – Detailed elevation models need to be improved (particularly, accuracy) and combined with recent demographic information for improved public safety and evaluation of community resilience.
  • Focus on studies focused on socioeconomic parameters and their importance on local fisheries – impacts of regulations, stock assessments (obtain independent fisheries data).
  • Evaluate effectiveness of watershed management for improvements in storm water control and water budget modeling (considering the impacts of climate change); studies on pollution brought about by poor watershed management and land-use practices; encourage multidisciplinary research on synergistic conditions (watersheds and climate change).

 

For more details, please download our full report here.

As commented by other experts and resources users, obstacles can hinder the development of better management and conservation strategies. The following list consists of frequently encountered problems by this group:

  • Lack of standard formats for data gathering and collections (quality assurance, credibility and public access to the data are also major concerns).
  • Lack of basin-wide scale studies, which are important for understanding regional processes.
  • Lack of taxonomic experts and very few local expertise on species identification.
  • Unregulated harvest of fisheries and unregistered fishermen.
  • Lack of collaboration and coordination between agencies on neighboring islands (e.g., USVI and BVI), which is needed for effective management and to identify gaps in research.
  • Loss and lack of qualified personnel (chronic problem), which results in increased workload for existing personnel (e.g., DFW).
  • Lack of base (local government) funding (e.g., DFW) – most federal operational funds are distributed for personnel, not to monitoring and interpretation of important data.
  • Lack of studies that are applicable to management; need research that develops management tools rather than solely data
  • Lack of reports from off-island visiting researchers that conduct studies on USVI
  • Limited capacity and infrastructure for research and outreach/education efforts.
  • Limited expertise in marine conservation and management.
  • High cost for obtaining supplies and transportation for materials/equipment; should rely more collaboration between institutions/agencies.
  • General disconnect between applied management and basic research.
  • Lack of financial assistance for graduate students conducting research that is relevant to management or conservation.

We would like to thank this group for their helpful comments.

For more information, visit these websites:

University of the Virgin Islands – Center for Marine and Environmental Studies

US Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources

DPNR USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife

The Nature Conservancy – US Virgin Islands

Video – Buck Island Reef National Monument

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Better models for predicting climate change, hydrologists say

Coastal and marine resources are coupled. Upland precipitation that produces runoff and carries sediment and chemical contaminants often has detrimental effects on coastal marine habitats. Coral reefs, beaches, mangrove forests and seagrass beds are among the most affected and provide essential habitat for important marine species. Therefore, surveying the community of water resource users, including watershed and coastal experts, is essential to an effective assessment of research needs.  With this in mind, we carried out a discussion session on September 16, 2010 with 13 specialists in watershed and coastal hydrology from several governmental agencies (Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Army Corp. of Engineers, US Geological Survey, San Juan Bay Estuary Program, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency), academic and research institutions (University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Campus (Geology Dept., Agricultural Engineering Dept., Marine Sciences Dept.), Water Resources and Environmental Research Institute), and private agencies (RMA Environmental, Corp.). Each participant has over 10 years of experience in their field of expertise.

In regard to studies that are needed for improving watershed management and understanding hydrologic processes in Puerto Rico, most of the participants agreed with the lack of historical and actual data necessary for moderating water quality, developing better models for flooding events and for predicting events due to climate change. The group also highly emphasized the need for an independent water authority that would help manage the implementation and regulation of local water resources. This entity would also be responsible for evaluating data quality and distributing this information via an online data portal, which would be freely available to managers, scientists and experts. UPR-Sea Grant hopes to continue serving as a liaison for establishing collaborations between governmental agencies and private sectors in order to improve water resource management in Puerto Rico.

Several suggestions for short- and long-term research for watershed and coastal/hydrology management included:

  • Indexes for watershed management; current data and indexes on river water quality
  • Development of sustainable management and alternative use of abandoned agricultural lands
  • Studies on the drainage patterns through the karst region of northern Puerto Rico. The areas has experienced increases of flooding events
  • Study and evaluation of “brown” fields, toxic metals and pesticides (over 70 brown fields in 8 municipalities have been identified in Puerto Rico
  • Studies on the implementation and effectiveness of risk management
  • Studies concerning upland and marine sources of sand and how river and marine transport influence this resource
  • Better bathymetric data, particularly coastline and sand sources; Dam and watershed modeling
  • Studies on sediment bedload within the watershed and its transport; characterize coarse and fine sediment transport in watersheds with and without reservoirs; no data available for the tropics
  • Studies on the effects of dredging
  • Studies on groundwater transport to the coast and interaction with the marine environment
  • Develop environmental indicators and environmental/biological standards for public health tailored for the Caribbean
  • Create a data portal for Puerto Rico – a website where all water resource data can be found (however, data must be analyzed for quality prior to submitting)

For more details, please download the full report here.

Efforts for enhancing watershed and coastal management can be difficult when obstacles hinder such improvements. The participants listed the most commonly encountered problems:

  • Need for standard formats when reporting data
  • Lack of communication and unwillingness to share critical information between agencies on projects that are presently being conducted
  • Need for teaching tools that help communicate a deeper understanding watershed and marine processes need to be developed and shared with lawmakers and resource managers
  • Lack of data availability and quality
  • Need for more water quality stations in order to obtain more data
  • Lack of implementation of regulations (mostly due to lack of funds or political will)
  • Lack of clear mandates and continuity of priorities from executive branches to the governmental agencies (mostly due to political influences)
  • Lack of looking for long-term solutions to the water resource crisis, instead of just short-term solutions
  • Difficulties in obtaining freely available information from agencies
  • Missing data (e.g., nutrient levels from water quality data, microbial content)
  • Difficulty in accessing information through websites; most agencies do not have data easily accessible from their websites
  • Few sample stations, unknown detection limits, poor data quality, insufficient sediment data or other important characteristics make many data sets useless

More information:

Puerto Rico Seismic Network

USGS – Water Resources of the Caribbean

Puerto Rico Water Resources and Environmental Research Institute (UPR – Mayaguez)

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Connect communities to conservation – US Fish & Wildlife/NOAA

The richness in biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine, is characteristic of our region. Hence, conservation of our mangrove coastlines, seagrasses, coral reefs, and fishes are essential to sustaining our ecosystems. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries are federal agencies that aim to conserve and provide services to Puerto Rico’s natural reserves and local communities. On August 26, 2010, UPR Sea Grant spoke with representatives of these agencies on the research and information needed for improving marine and coastal management and conservation in Puerto Rico.

In general, most participants agreed that more emphasis should be given to characterizing reserves that are economically and socially important to local communities and developing passive recreational activities that encourage conservation. The group also emphasized the need to assess critical areas that may suffer from climate change and how to deal with the impacts. The need for education and outreach efforts was also expressed and we (UPR-Sea Grant) encouraged the group to maintain communication with us for future activities with the local schools and community.  NOAA Fisheries stressed need to unite Sea Grant efforts with other NOAA efforts through the Coral Reef Conservation Program, for instance, that examined coral reef ecosystem conservation and mapping and monitoring priorities in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Regarding short- and long-term research, the participants suggested various projects:

  • Inventory and habitat mapping (landscape ecology) on endangered species and those being considered for potential listing (terrestrial and marine) to provide better measures for protection.
  • Ecosystem restoration projects – consistent and in-depth monitoring of habitats and their ability to adapt to changes in the environment with focuses on the impact of sediment processes. Providing nesting areas for certain animals (e.g., birds), etc.
  • Studies on strategic conservation planning and its effectiveness.
  • Accurate and up-to-date quantitative modeling of sediment transport by rivers to nearshore marine habitats.
  • Accurate and up-to-date modeling of habitats.
  • Studies on impacts of sea level rise on the hypersaline lagoons of Cabo Rojo and coastal lagoons.
  • Assessments on what is the best approach to change the perceptions and attitudes of local communities regarding environmental conservation and integrating sociologists and psychologists in developing the most effective strategy for educating about conservation.
  • Identifying local species that will be highly impacted by climate change (e.g., turtle nesting beaches). Assessments on whether acquiring more lands for mitigation purposes is necessary in order to deal with these changes.
  • Compilation of historical data from local lagoons, particularly to determine changes in habitat due to coastal erosion and to identify important species in the area – these data would help to make better decisions in prevention/prediction and will make us more aware of the changes that need to be addressed

For more details, please download our full report here.

Notwithstanding, obstacles that delay research and assessments that could improve marine and coastal management are constantly encountered. Here are some listed by this particular group:

  • Lack of studies that are applicable to management
  • Scientific data needs to be translated into layman’s terms in order to transmit the information effectively to policy makers and general public
  • Availability of information to the local community and more emphasis on educating the community and making them more aware of conserving our natural resources.
  • Lack of law enforcement and enforcement by local agencies
  • Lack of unity (particularly with funds) among organization/institutions/agencies to continuously educate the community about conservation of natural resources

More information:

US Fish & Wildlife Service – Caribbean Islands

NOAA Fisheries Service – Southeast Regional Office

Video – US Fish & Wildlife Service: Wildlife without Borders – Connecting People & Nature in the Americas

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PR-DNER emphasizes Adaptive/Ecosystem-Based Management

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PR-DNER) is a well-established governmental agency that regulates and manages the use of terrestrial, marine and coastal environments with the main purpose of protecting and conserving these resources. Presently, DNER consists of several components that promote education, management, scientific research, projects associated with public interests, legal permits and representation, among others. This particular governmental entity has a major influential role in conservation and management in the island of Puerto Rico and adjacent islands (Vieques and Culebra).

On March 31, 2010, UPRSG CRA’s team met with four important members of PR-DNER directly involved in marine and coastal management (these include fisheries, coastal processes and coral reefs). Based on their expertise, we asked them the following crucial questions regarding research and information that is needed to improve conservation and management:

  • What type of research or information is needed by DNER on a short (less than 5 years) or long (more than 5 years) term for effective management and conservation?
  • What obstacles are presently hindering the development of research needed for the effective management and conservation?

Their responses were diverse and covered several areas regarding resource management:

  • Identification and selection of species (particularly fish) that have a critical role in marine, coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Several important species were mentioned by the group; however, a special emphasis was made on the need for an assessment on the populations of these species and the socio-economic impact they may have on local communities.
  • Applied sciences that help to better understand the impact of anthropogenic activities (especially sedimentation processes and coastal development) on coastal ecosystems. Non-point source pollution and sediment excavation are major concerns due to their effects along the Puerto Rican coastline.
  • Identification of essential and critical habitats. No information currently exists on the habitats of important coral reef species, such as Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis, in the surrounding waters of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
  • Research that evaluates the human ecological aspect (social and economical) with regard to the status of certain species, particularly those belonging to recreational fisheries. The resilience capacity or the limit of adaptive change of communities frequently visited by tourists and fishermen also needs to be evaluated.
  • Studies on improving ways of effectively and appropriately disseminating information to the general public in order to encourage conservation of our natural resources. This requires open communications among the local community and resource managers, which also entails a certain level of trust among the parties.
  • Evaluations to determine effective strategies of management. Several measures taken to conserve and manage certain coastal regions should be assessed to ascertain the methods used and address those strategies that did not result in any improvement.

In general, this particular group emphasized research that incorporates an adaptive and ecosystem-based management approach. They also encouraged studies that helped characterize our ecosystems, notwithstanding the human component that directly affect these environments. Effectively disseminating information and learning from good-management skills was also considered essential for successful strategies in management and conservation.

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Carrying Capacity an Interest for Surfrider

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organization that has been helping to protect local beaches nation-wide for over 20 years. The Rincón Chapter  (http://www.surfrider.org/rincon) helps to maintain the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve (TPMR), created in 2004, at Rincón, PR. On March 4, 2010, we met with the executive committee (Chairperson – Wess Merten) to inquire about the type of studies and/or information needed for better management and conservation of TPMR.

Their response was the following:

  • Need more information regarding the age of maturity for fishes, particularly female, in order to effectively manage catches.
  • Provide mandatory educational courses for local fishermen (e.g., needed for licence renewal) to obligate their participation in workshops regarding about overfishing. Use the media (signs, stickers, etc.) to get local fishermen to cooperate in better fisheries management.
  • Consistent monitoring of water quality. Surfrider measured water quality for several months; however, they are currently looking for extra funds to continue this project due to frequent visitors to TPMR. Presently, there is no data from the USGS for this particular area.
  • Studies on the flux of visitors (PR residents and tourists) in order to determine socio-economic impacts (e.g., surf and scuba economics) and carrying capacity of the area. This information would help to establish a baseline of the amount of people visiting TPMR and how many visitors the area is able to accommodate.
  • Studies on the impacts of climate change and how this will affect TPMR. Encourage local communities to take an active role in recycling activities.
  • Develop mechanisms to better enforce laws that protect public beach access.

You can check out the latest activities on the local chapter’s blog at http://rinconsurfrider.blogspot.com/

More information about Tres Palmas, Rincón:

Salva Tres Palmas – The Film (from Vimeo)

Salvemos a Tres Palmas (YouTube)

Photo courtesy: Surfrider – Rincón Chapter

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