The anthropogenic processes are changing ecosystems and reorganizing the interaction between humans and nature. These processes have a dramatic impact on coasts and oceans globally, complicating the landscape for scientists and researchers alike. Given the complexity of these ecological processes and the urgent need to address these imminent problems, an innovative research program is required. Recognizing the intricate interconnection between humans, organisms, and the environment, both the scientific community and environmental groups, at both national and international levels, have emphasized the importance of developing an approach that enables the management and understanding of the scope of human activities on ecosystems. Hence, the need arises to use an ecosystem-based approach when developing research projects.
This approach provides a framework for decision-making related to maintaining the health, productivity, and resilience of coasts and oceans. It considers a broad range of ecological, human, and environmental impacts and factors, rather than approaching a single species, habitat, or issue independently (S.A. Murawski and G.C. Matlock, Eds. Ecosystem Science Capabilities Required to Support NOAA’s Mission in the Year 2020. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-F/SPO-74, July 2006.). Additionally, we recognize that studying the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere, as well as climate change is essential to foster understanding about our planet. in addition, studying these subjects brings about more comprehension regarding the numerous impacts that affect local climate and the necessary decisions to address hazards and extreme events.
Funded Research in the Caribbean
The work carried out in our investigations is an essential element in fulfilling the Sea Grant Program’s mission. For this reason, the Sea Grant Program funds various research projects. These projects, in turn, generate valuable information for the development of management plans for marine resources and decision-making in the archipelago of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
The research focuses on the development of theoretical and applied research that aims to increase the understanding of marine and coastal ecosystems, coastal communities and their economy. As well as the role of factors such as coastal risks, urban coasts, and the application of digital technologies. Finally, through the development of integrated approaches, the results of these research projects are organized and disseminated through workshops and activities coordinated by the Marine Extension Program and the educational component of our Program.
In addition, every two years, the Sea Grant Program issues a call for proposals in which researchers from Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and locations in the continental United States with research interest centered in the Caribbean submit their proposals and compete for research funding through a peer review process.
Needs for the Conservation and Management of Marine and Coastal Resources
In the context of our focus areas, our program has also identified the following high-priority projects for innovative research on practitioners of the conservation and management of marine and coastal resources:
- Inventory and population studies of important coastal species and biological resources (e.g., fish, coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves, microbes).
- Studies promoting the rehabilitation and reforestation of habitats (e.g., saltwater ponds, coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, watersheds).
- Impacts of climate change (e.g., sea-level rise, flooding, increased rainfall, storms and hurricanes, seawater temperature, erosion, species migration) on coastal areas.
- Connectivity and habitat use (e.g., adjacent ecosystems, land use planning).
- Development of environmental indicators and environmental/public health standards (e.g., water quality, nutrients, sediments).
- Establishing resilience capacity or a limit of change adaptation in communities frequently visited by tourists and resource users, and their ability to adapt to climate change.
- Assessment of the socio-economic impact of commercially and recreationally important marine species on local communities.
- Studies on the impact of invasive/exotic species and pathogens (e.g., natural stressors, lionfish, microbes).
- Establishing reference points for commercial and recreational marine organisms (e.g., fish, marine snails) to obtain reliable estimates of size and trends in their capture.
- Mapping habitats and identifying critical areas (e.g., spawning aggregation sites, coral reefs).
- Physical models that relate coastal and watershed processes to address and examine a wide variety of issues (climate change, habitat migration, ecosystem management, hazards, and anthropogenic influences).