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