Ecosystem mapping tools in the Caribbean

Ecosystems in the Caribbean act as more than just tourist attractions. Coral reefs and mangrove habitats provide protection from natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes and high sea levels. Natural flooding causes damage to property and endangers people’s lives. The following is a list of six ecosystem mapping tools that contribute as a solution to the 50-80 percent reduction of coral reefs in the region:

6 Ecosystem Mapping Tools in the Caribbean

  1. Real-Time Ocean Forecasting System: The Caribbean and the Cayman Islands have made the management of marine habitats a priority. The Caribbean Restoration Explorer uses NOAA’s Real Time Ocean Forecasting System to monitor coral larval reproduction. Understanding the transfer and expansion of these barrier reefs is essential in determining which habitats to locate and protect.

  2. Reef Rover: As coral reefs wane away in the Caribbean, 70 percent of the region’s beaches are deteriorating. For this reason, it is crucial to identify and nurture growing coral reefs. The “Reef Rover” is a developing ecosystem mapping tool that will capture underwater images. It is a drone positioned on a boat that can reveal the evolution of these reefs through regular tracking.

  3. Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO): Along with the drones, The Nature Conservancy reveals the CAO is another advancement in ecosystem mapping tools. The CAO aircraft has already launched projects in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. The hyperspectral technology is able to distinguish stress levels recognized in chemical fingerprints and habitat composition.

  4. Satellites: What’s more impressive is the collection of over 200 satellites scoping elements, including small-scales of 10 feet. The data collected every day enables the scrutiny of any changes in marine habitats. The images of these ecosystems before and after natural disasters, such as the most recent 2017 hurricanes, will illustrate the essential function of coral reefs along coastlines.

  5. The Mapping Ocean Wealth Explorer: This online data resource helps in the determination of policies that concern natural resources. In the Caribbean, tourism yields more than $25 billion annually, $2 billion of which comes from coral reefs alone. The data provides the worth of coral reefs as shown in the amount of money received through tourists on coastal recreational activities such as diving or snorkeling. This ecosystem draws 60 percent of scuba divers around the world. Fisheries contribute $400 million and provide food security. This entire commercial operation grants around 50 percent of the region’s income by protecting the jobs of six million people.

  6. The Natural Capital Project’s Marine Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST): InVEST computes the capacity marine ecosystems have to mitigate the height and force of waves and weaken the chance of erosion in coastal areas. A healthy coral reef can divert more than 90 percent of wave force before reaching the shore. This is a valuable asset for coastal communities.

Ecosystem mapping tools in the Caribbean output social and economic data so policymakers, conservation professionals and business investors can see which regions require their attention. Coral reefs not only attract tourists, which feed the region’s economy, but they also diminish the impact of wave force. Not only can systems of technology detect environmental calamity, but these tools can prepare coastal communities to withstand rather than react to their environment.

– Crystal Tabares
Photo: Pixabay

Mauritius Poverty RateThe country of Mauritius is an interesting case study economically. An island nation off the coast of Africa, one would assume that the country’s economy is based primarily on low-wage sectors such as agriculture and tourism. Based on that assumption, it would therefore be relatively safe to conclude that the Mauritius poverty rate is high, given that those industries do not tend to produce much in terms of GDP.

This, however, is not necessarily the case. While Mauritius’ GDP is ranked 137th in the world at $25.89 billion, their GDP per capita is ranked 84th at $20,400 per person, according to the CIA World Factbook. This means that Mauritius has one of the highest GDPs per capita throughout the entirety of Africa.

With numbers this good, the Mauritius poverty rate is relatively low, at just 8 percent as of 2006. Keep in mind that the global poverty rate according to the World Bank is just over 10 percent of the population, meaning that, all things considered, Mauritius is doing relatively well in this aspect.

What is interesting is that these figures could also keep improving. Since its independence in 1968, Mauritius has continuously diversified its economy so that the country can grow its industrial, financial and tourism sectors. These are more capital-intensive industries that have reconstructed Mauritius’ economy into one that is upper-middle-income, rather than low-income.

The numbers are there to back this up as well. Over the last five to six years, Mauritius’ GDP grew by about three to four percent each year, and the World Bank projects that this level of growth will continue well into the future. Foreign investment has increased in Mauritius, and as the country’s economy diversifies, its GDP and GDP per capita will also see tangible increases.

This means that, as the country’s general economy improves, the Mauritius poverty rate could also see an improvement. A further decrease would give Mauritius one of the lowest poverty rates in the world. As foreign investors flock to the island nation and as its economy evolves and diversifies, we will see how Mauritius responds to this new international attention.

John Mirandette

Photo: Flickr


There is no doubt that flaws exist within our global food and agriculture systems. However, there are several innovative options for how to improve these systems. Many farmers and communities worldwide have discovered a possible solution through a technique known as agroecological farming.

The idea behind agroecological farming is to link ecology, culture, economics and society to foster a healthy environment for food production. It focuses on food production that maximizes the use of goods and services without harming these resources in return.

Studies show that agroecological farming programs are more efficient than conventional methods. Improving upon efficiency also increases cost efficiency. By using fewer inputs, expenses are reduced, soil fertility is maintained, pests are managed and higher incomes for farmers are possible.

The Muscatine Island LTAR is a long-term agroecological farming site as well as a soil fertility research field where research has shown the benefits of agroecological farming. In a study comparing the yield of fruit quantity of conventional versus organic peppers, no significant difference in yield was found, but organic peppers fetched prices 70 percent higher at market value. Analyzing this study economically, the organic plants cost more to produce, but being able to sell them for more, they far exceeded the conventional plants in profits made. The benefits of the organic method reach beyond profit. In this study, soil fertility in organic plots actually improved over time. The Muscatine Island LTAR allows for long-term cropping systems experiments that have land tenure and advanced management.

Organizations around the globe are investing in agroecological farming practices to improve them and, along with farmers, develop ways to create more efficiency within these programs.

Agroecological farming allows farmers to participate in innovative processes where creativity and skills are encouraged to jump-start agriculture and food production, which forms the basis for life as well as the economy. Agriculture, especially agroecological farming, and food production are centers for addressing challenges like hunger and poverty.

The U.N. confirms that agroecological farming could double global food production within ten years, reduce the effects of climate change and help alleviate poverty. This farming style also conserves biodiversity and improves nutrition by creating a more well-balanced diet. Since production happens locally, it brings families and communities closer together.

Katelynn Kenworthy

Photo: Flickr

Social Ecological ModelPeople do not act in isolation, which is why it is important to understand the ways they interact with their communities and environments, in order to determine why they do what they do.

One way of measuring these networks of interactions is the Social Ecological Model. This model, developed by sociologists in the 1970s, studies how behaviors form based on characteristics of individuals, communities, nations and levels in between. In examining these intervals and how they interact and overlap, public health experts can develop strategies to promote wellbeing in the U.S. and abroad.

The Social Ecological Model is broad in scope. Each level overlaps with other levels. This signifies how the best public health strategies are those that encompass and target a wide range of perspectives. A public health organization may struggle to promote healthy habits in a community if it does not take into account how other factors play into the behavior of the community as a whole.

Different organizations use variations of the Social Ecological Model organizational hierarchies in a given society. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sometimes uses a four-level model, while UNICEF’s model has five levels. Here is the layout of UNICEF’s model and its application in a public health context:

  1. Individual: An individual’s various traits and identities make up this level of the Social Ecological Model. These characteristics have the capacity to influence how a person behaves. Age, education level, sexual orientation and economic status are some of the many attributes noted at this interval. These factors are important to consider when constructing public health strategies, as characteristics such as economic status are linked to an individual’s ability to access healthcare.
  2. Interpersonal: The relationships and social networks that a person takes part in also have great potential to impact behaviors. Families, friends and traditions are key players at the interpersonal stage of the model. Using therapy or intervention, one can promote healthy relationships at this interval. Discouraging violence between individuals also comes into play here.
  3. Community: This level of the Social Ecological Model focuses on the networks between organizations and institutions that make up the greater community. These associations include businesses and functions of the “built environment,” such as parks. Community structures are often important in determining how populations behave and what customs they uphold. It is important to understand the community level to determine where health behaviors originate.
  4. Organizational: Organizations are instrumental in the development of behaviors as they often enforce behavior-determining regulations and restrictions. A school, for example, controls the dissemination of knowledge. This influence is significant when it comes to communicating information about safe health practices.
  5. Policy/Enabling Environment: Policies and laws that are instigated at local, national and global levels make up the broadest level of the Social Ecological Model. These policies have the potential to impact large numbers of people. A policy outlining a U.S. malaria aid budget, for example, will have far-reaching global effects for decades.

The Social Ecological Model is useful in the creation of sustainable solutions for at-risk individuals and societies. One approach to public health that considers many of the model’s levels is the practice of social change communication (SCC). Communities use SCC to facilitate discussions about beneficial and harmful practices in societies and to encourage people to speak about individual and communal problems. A health-based SCC discussion could cover anything from strategies developed to reduce pneumonia rates in babies to changing an outdated and potentially harmful social ritual.

SCC allows individuals and communities to influence shaping fairer, healthier societies. Its use of the Social Ecological Model ensures that the strategies it develops are implemented across a society.

Through SCC and other approaches, public health organizations are creating long-term solutions to the problems that plague individuals, societies and countries today. Only in understanding the numerous factors that influence harmful behavior can experts hope to tackle such problems effectively.

Sabine Poux

Photo: Flickr