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Dr. Marianne Karlsson shares research on climate change adaptation efforts of two fisher communities

Dr. Marianne Karlsson, Senior Researcher, Nordland Research Institute

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus in Belize hosted a presentation by Dr. Marianne Karlsson on the results of her PhD thesis “Changing seascapes: local adaptation processes in Belizean fishing communities”, yesterday, March 30.

Belize’s wider vulnerability to climate change constitutes the context for the thesis as adaptation to climate change is considered to be urgent. More specifically, Dr. Karlsson’s research has studied how the coastal communities of Sarteneja and Monkey River perceive and respond to observed environmental changes. Through collaboration with the CCCCC, she visited Belize three times from 2010 to 2012 and stayed for eight months in total. Dr. Karlsson gathered data from interviews, spent time in the villages, participated on two conch fishing trips (one to South Water Caye and one to Glovers Reef) and literature studies.

Photo Credit: Repeating Islands

The thesis analyses what factors have influenced livelihood changes in a historical perspective in Sarteneja and Monkey River, what social consequence coastal erosion has had in Monkey River and how Sartenejan fishermen respond to climatic and non-climatic stressors. The results highlight the role of history and politics, local values and agency in shaping responses to environmental changes such as hurricanes and coastal erosion. Local attachment to the villages and the wish to safeguard or enhance what is seen as a good way of life in these places are central motivations to why people adapt to change. The thesis argues that it is important to consider current strategies to deal with change, local wishes for development and to enable local groups to have a greater say in decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods when considering future climate change adaptation.

The PhD thesis was successfully defended at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in September 2015. Dr. Karlsson now works as a researcher at a regional institute in Northern Norway, Nordland Research Institute.

Peruse Marianne Karlsson PhD thesis

Dr. Karlsson has also written four additional papers that can be viewed here.

Designation as “special areas” in the Caribbean

The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) has the greatest concentration of plant and animal species in the Atlantic Ocean Basin.  Yet these precious, and often irreplaceable, natural resources are disappearing at an astounding rate. The vast majority of all species are threatened by habitat loss or modification in addition to unsustainable practices such as over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution. These same habitats are often the main source of food and income for many coastal communities.

The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) of the Cartagena Convention, is a regional agreement for biodiversity management and conservation in the Wider Caribbean Region, in existence since 1990. It is managed by the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and it became international law in 2000.  It aims to protect critical marine and coastal ecosystems while promoting regional co-operation and sustainable development.

To date, sixteen countries from the region have ratified the Protocol: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France (through its Departments of Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique, Saint-Barthélémy and Saint-Martin), Grenada, Guyana, The Netherlands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint-Eustatius and Sint Maarten), Panama, Saint-Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Venezuela.

Since 2012 SPAW has created a regional network of protected areas (PAs) or key conservation sites listed by the member governments under the Protocol. Under this network these sites benefit from a cooperation programme supported by SPAW, which includes: increased recognition and awareness as places of importance locally, regionally and globally; increased local and national pride resulting in national responsibility to support management; higher visibility with the possible result of increases in employment opportunities and income due to increased tourism marketing of the area; grants and technical assistance provided through SPAW; opportunities for enhancing capacity, management, protection and sustainability; and, opportunities for support  of species conservation, pollution control and sustainable finance.

Countries which are party to the Protocol are invited to apply for their protected areas to be so listed using online forms.  To be selected, sites must satisfy a rigorous set of ecological as well as cultural and socio-economic criteria.  Applications are reviewed by the UN SPAW secretariat as well as by external experts prior to their approval by the Protocol’s scientific committee and it’s biennial Conference of Parties (COP). On 9th December 2014, in Cartagena, Colombia, the Protocol’s Eighth COP approved thirteen new protected areas:

  • The Regional Natural Park of wetlands between the Rivers León and Suriquí, Colombia
  • The Saba National Marine Park, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Saint Eustatius National Marine Park, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Man O War Shoal Marine Park (Sin t Maarten), the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Reserve “Etang des Salines”, Martinique, France
  • The Reserve “Versants Nord de la Montagne Pelée, Martinique, France
  • The Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Belize
  • La Caleta Submarine Park, Dominican Republic
  • National Park Jaragua, Dominican Republic
  • Reserve “Los Haitises”, Dominican Republic
  • National Park “Sierra de Bahoruco”, Dominican Republic
  • Tobago Cays Marine Park, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • “Molinière Beauséjour” Marine Protected Area, Grenada

These protected areas vary greatly in description and characteristics.  However they all meet the criteria for listing under SPAW.  These include ecological value, and cultural and socio-economic benefits.  A quick look at two of the areas listed illustrates this.

The Saint Eustatius National Marine Park, established in 1996 in the Eastern Caribbean, is only 27.5 square kilometres in area and extends around the entire island of Saint Eustatius, from the high water line to 30 metre depth contour. It protects a variety of habitats, including pristine coral reefs and 18th century shipwrecks. It includes two no-take zones (reserves) as well as general use zones and designated anchoring zones for large commercial ships.  There is high biodiversity in its coral reefs and a wide variety of tropical reef creatures resides in and around these reefs as well, including the commercially important lobster and conch, key predators such as sharks and the endangered Sea Horses.  Three species of sea turtles (all of them are endangered or critically endangered species) nest regularly on the island’s Zeelandia Beach – the leatherback, the greenand the hawksbill. Dolphins and large whales regularly visit and can often be heard as they migrate through the Marine Park between January and April.   A number of birds live almost exclusively in the open ocean environment, using St Eustatius as a breeding ground or migratory stop over, such as the Audubon’s Shearwater Puffins and Red Billed Tropicbirds.

St Eustatius is also site of Statia Terminals, an oil transhipment facility, including one of the deepest mooring stations for super tankers in the world, located immediately south of the northern marine reserve on the West coast and which has been in operation since 1982 and expanded in 1993. It employs 10 per cent of the island’s population.  During the 18th century, this was one of the busiest ports in the world, hence the presence of shipwrecks within the marine park up to today.

In contrast, the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR), established in 2000, in Belize is 405 square kilometres in area and has three adjacent and nearby human settlements: Monkey River, Punta Negra and Punta Gorda.  It is unique along the coast of Central America in lagoon system size and the number of in-shore mangrove islands. It is in relatively pristine condition and includes coastal and tidal wetlands, marine lagoons, and mangrove islands with associated shallow banks and fringing coral reefs. Almost all of the coastal and island vegetation, including mangroves, is intact.  Maintaining coastal ecosystem functions and natural resource values, including water quality and nursery habitats of the area, is important in order to protect biodiversity and traditional fishers’ livelihoods.  It is a major breeding and nursery area for juveniles of many species. Threats are expected to increase as the area is attracting more visitors for fly-fishing and sailing.

The SPAW Protocol and the listing of Marine Protected Areas is driven by the need to first recognize sites of great regional and international ecological and socio-economic value and then put measures in place to protect and conserve these areas.  The Caribbean’s rich and beautiful natural heritage deserves our best efforts while also protecting the sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities.

To find out more about the SPAW Protocol and the work of the Caribbean Environment Programme see: www.cep.unep.org and www.car-spaw-rac.org

For further information: 
 Alejandro Laguna - Comunication and Information Officer
 United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
 Clayton, Ciudad del Saber - Alberto Tejada, Building 103; Ancon - Panama City, Panama.
 Phone.: 305 3100
 alex.laguna@unep.org

Credit: UNEP Environment for Development

5Cs explores partnership with universities

CCCCC partnership with Universities

CCCCC Deputy Director and Science Advisor Dr Ulric Troz with the USF delegation

Christy Prouty, a Ph.D. student in Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida, reflects on her recent visit to Belize and the 5Cs offices in Belmopan, Belize. Her area of research includes systems dynamics modeling which is used to understand the behavior of complex systems over time.  She also enjoys internationally-focused research in water and sanitation.

Climate change, sea level rise, community perceptions, drinking water, sanitation, coastal erosion, water quality monitoring, coral reef degradation, nutrient management, STEM education, and community capacity building— these were some of the topics discussed last month (June 6, 2014) during a meeting between the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (5Cs) and a team of researchers affiliated with the University of South Florida’s Partnership for International Research and Education (USF PIRE) grant. During the introductions, the 5Cs shared insights about their field data and the ways it informed climate change models for predicting impacts across Central America and the Caribbean; the USF group gave an overview of the themes, interdisciplinary nature, existing international partners, and plans for future collaborations within the PIRE grant.

Dr Maya Trotz and Dr Rebecca Zarger of USF articulately described the PIRE themes in Belize as they discussed the integrated anthropology and engineering research that is underway throughout the Placencia Peninsula. One activity, in particular, was highlighted because it demonstrated a way for a University of Belize (UB) student to work alongside USF’s team in the field. The UB student studies sustainable tourism whereas the USF students are working in local schools to build capacity around issues of water and sanitation.  Synergies exist as each group seeks to connect with local partners on issues concerning sustainability. In addition, the 5Cs and USF researchers discussed the Monkey River area, a decade-long field site for the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill’s CERMES program. The 5Cs’ own Mr. Earl Green, project officer, and Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy director, actually took some of the USF team there the next day to explore connections with the Placencia research site. Angel Navidad, the 2013 Sagicor Visionaries Challenge winner and his teacher Mrs. Shakira Gonsalez also joined the meeting.

The group brainstormed ideas about potential ways to collaborate (5Cs, USF, and UB) for future proposals so as to leverage the skills of each institution, foster knowledge sharing among partners, and build a holistic/well-rounded research team.  Between the 5Cs’ expertise (an understanding of climate change impacts and modeling), USF’s best attributes (interdisciplinary work between engineering and anthropology), and the skills unique to the UB students and faculty (in-depth expertise of resources management/local contexts and access to research data), a cohesive partnership seems to be on the horizon. Should this combined research happen, all of the university students would benefit from the opportunity to work alongside their peers from different backgrounds, cultural identities, and academic fields, thus building their global and professional competencies. The 2014 Sagicor Visionaries Challenge also provides an opportunity for all of these institutions to connect with secondary school students in Belize as mentors for their innovative projects.

CERMES Field Laboratory Underway in Belize

CERMES Students with 5Cs staff in Belmopan

CERMES Students with 5Cs staff in Belmopan

A group of students, faculty and support staff from the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), which is located at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, arrived in Belize yesterday (April 7 through to April 16) for an extensive field laboratory.

This marks the ninth year that the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre is funding a contingent of CERMES students and faculty to visit Belize, one of the region’s most diverse ecological settings, to put into action the range of tools they are learning, and observe the relationships between scientific theory and the measurement of critical variables and parameters.

(L-R) John Moody (5Cs), Neetha Selliah (CERMES), Dr. Adrian Cashman (CERMES), Renata Goodridge (CERMES), Dr. Nurse (5Cs and CERMES), and Earl Green (5Cs)

(L-R) John Moody (5Cs), Neetha Selliah (CERMES), Dr. Adrian Cashman (CERMES), Renata Goodridge (CERMES), Dr. Nurse (5Cs and CERMES), and Earl Green (5Cs)

The 13 students who hail from across the region were drawn from graduate studies in both climate change and water resources management. Dr. Leonard Nurse, Chairman of the Centre’s Board of Directors and coordinator of the climate change graduate programme, says the students will visit three sites in mixed groups and three according to their area of specialization. Dr. Nurse notes that the inter-disciplinary cohorts mirror the need for and will enable strong team ethic, cross-disciplinary competence and investigative skills.

His colleague Dr. Adrian Cashman, who coordinates the water resources management graduate programme, says the field laboratory is crucial. He notes that it has evolved over the years from being largely observational to an intensive field work exercise that is exposing the students to things rarely taught in the classroom, including critical soft skills such as communication and planning, while enabling a better appreciation for the myriad of possible sources of error and difficulties associated with field work. He says assignments based on the trip will account for a quarter of their respective course grades, adding that in the medium to long-term, there should be a separate field laboratory that spans a longer period and constituting an independent course.

Credit: CGIAR

Credit: CGIAR

Dr. Nurse agrees, noting that the programme’s value is lasting. He says since its inception, CERMES students have compiled nearly a decade of beach profile data showing the rapid rate of erosion at Monkey River, a site they will visit again. He says the students are also slated to investigate the carbon sequestration capacity of forest in the Ya’axche Golden Stream Reserve and visit the Blue Creek rice field site to examine the potential for greenhouse emissions from rice paddy fields. Dr. Cashman added that the water resources group will work on ground water issues in Orange Walk and Corozal to locate wells, with the intention of using GPS to measure the depth to water table. The students will then begin to build ground water maps, which will prove especially useful for planning purposes.

Bookmark this page for daily updates of activities carried out by the CERMES contingent. What to expect? Pictures, short videos and summaries of their beach and offshore profiling in the Monkey River Village area, carbon sequestration measurements in the Ya’axche Golden Stream Reserve, flow gauging and water quality sampling in upper Bladen River, visits to rice fields in Blue Creek and Altun Ha Maya and much more.

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Presentation

Presentation

Members of the CERMES Team

Members of the CERMES Team

Students

Students

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