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GEOSS Support for Decision-Making in the Coastal Zone: Managing and Mitigating the Impacts of Human Activities and Natural Hazards in the Coastal Zone

A workshop series organized by the GEO Coastal Zone Community of Practice

Earth Observation Support for Sustainable Tourism in Small Island States
March 9-11, 2011, Puerto Rico


The Third Regional Workshop in the Workshop Series of the GEO Coastal Zone Community of Practice (CZCP) focused on the Caribbean and was organized in partnership with the Caribbean Regional Association (CaRA) for the Caribbean Integrated Coastal Ocean Observing System (CarICOOS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), the United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

The Third Regional Workshop of the series focused on the specific needs, challenges and capabilities related to sustainable tourism in the small island states of the Caribbean. The workshop brought together stakeholders in island tourism with Earth observation and service providers in order to investigate how Earth observation-based services could support decision making related to all facets of tourism and enable operational and planning practices for sustainable tourism.

Specific objectives of the regional workshop included:

  • Using Earth observations to improve sustainability of tourism:
    • Managing coastal tourism assets
    • Planning for and adapting to coastal change
  • Sustaining tourism under a changing climate:
    • assessing and preparing for climate change and its impact on coastal zones
  • Tourism and ecosystems:
    • Using observations to enhance relationships with the environment
    • Using observations to inform conflict resolution
  • Tourism and economy
    • Using Earth observations to increase and support the economic value of tourism in a sustainable manner
  • Increasing resilience:
    • Observations supporting coastal policy development
    • Using observations to mitigate environmental impacts
    • Contending with coastal hazards

Plenary Session 1

Deirdre Shurland: Earth observation support for tourism: the view from the end user

Resolving Current and Future Conflicts between Tourism and Ecosystems: What are the Information Needs and Gaps?

Sophia A. Rolle
Culinary and Hospitality Management Institute, The College of The Bahamas, Nassau, The Bahamas.

There are increasing concerns and challenges shaping the global landscape regarding the future of tourism, tourism development and that of sustainability of our fragile ecosystems. Several questions must be asked in the context of resolving current and future conflicts between the two. Questions such as what are the major ecosystems presently utilized by tourism? What are the information needs and gaps that are expected to inform policy decisions into the future? What are the results of this Gap Analysis? What are the major concerns for tourism destinations within the Caribbean and what are some key resolutions to these concerns and challenges? This brief presentation will answer these five major questions utilizing The Bahamas as its case model for Tourism and Ecosystems Management.

The Government of The Bahamas (GOB) as long recognized that a healthy and safe environment, reflected in its biological diversity and functioning ecosystems, crystal clear waters, clean air and productive soils are essential ingredients to the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is also critical to sustaining the country’s number one industry of tourism in all of its many forms. To that end, the GOB envisioned a Bahamas in which all people and institutions treasure its unique natural environment and voluntarily choose to act in a manner that contributes to its conservation, protection and enhancement. One of the fundamental objectives being that of a healthy and safe environment that is essential to sustaining the quality of life for present and future generations of its people. (BEST Commission, 2005)

The major Ecosystems of The Bahamas - Coral Reefs, Seashore, Rock Seashore, Whiteland Coppice, Blackland Coppice and the Pine Forrest. Covered in this presentation will be a briefing on the key steps to an Ecological Gap Analysis as proposed by the Convention on Biodiversity's Program of Work through the Nature Conservancy, that involved a comparative analysis of the distribution of biodiversity against the distribution of protected areas and finding where species and ecosystems are left unprotected or under protected. Major concerns through Tourism lens, such as continued support for its major ‘bread basket’ industries like fishing and how this industry will be protected while maintaining the integrity of the island that services both citizen and visitor will be explored. Do the answers lie in education of the masses?

Bill Proenza: Sustainable tourism and natural hazards: information needs for increased safety

Lorna Inniss: Coastal and inland planning in support of sustainable tourism: information needs and gaps

Simon B. Jones-Hendrickson: Increasing the economic perspectives of sustainable tourism: information needs and gaps

Sustainable Tourism: Capacity Building and Educational Needs

Acolla Lewis-Cameron
Department of Management Studies, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

Tourism is the “lifeblood” of the majority of Small Island States (SIS) in the Caribbean. Economically, it sustains these island economies. From a socio-cultural standpoint, the negative consequences of tourism development can cause irreparable damage to the culture and natural environment of these islands. Nowhere is the need for a sustainable approach to tourism development more apparent than in these fragile economies. Education has been identified as a critical element to achieving sustainable tourism development in the region. Accordingly, the role of well-educated, trained and motivated hospitality and tourism professionals becomes crucial to the industry's success. It is against this background that this paper seeks to examine the relationship between education and sustainable tourism development in SIS. More specifically, the paper will analyse the unique context of SIS; examine the role of tourism education in achieving sustainable tourism development; explore specific tourism educational needs; and recommend ways in which tourism education can contribute to sustainable tourism development in SIS.

Plenary Session 2: Introducing the Opportunities and Challenges

Douglas Cripe: GEOSS: a framework for deriving and delivering services for the coastal zone

Doug Wilson: The physical observing system: from monitoring and predicting hazards to long-term changes

LaVerne E. Ragster: The biological observing system: capturing changes in ecosystems and biodiversity

Zdenka Willis: US GEO and US IOOS

Julio Morell The regional observing system: status, challenges, and plans

Cassandra Rogers Coastal risk assessment and management projects

Plenary Session 3: Challenges and Issues

Cesar Toro Summary of Needs, Capabilities, Gaps and Challenges

Breakout Session B1: Natural hazards: Increasing the safety of tourism in the Caribbean through observations and early warning

Breakout Session B2: Ecosystems, and biodiversity: Increasing benefits for sustainable tourism and reducing impacts

Breakout Session B3: Long-term planning: Trends, economic challenges, and climate change

Breakout Session B4: Linking providers and users: decision support systems and organizational aspects

Poster Session


Victor Huérfano-Moreno, Carolina Hincapié-Cárdenas
Puerto Rico Seismic Network – University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez

The danger of a tsunami in Puerto Rico is real. These natural events related as coastal hazard have the potential to affect any of the 44 coastal municipalities of the island. Since 1867, two tsunamis have affected the Puerto Rico coastal region, causing death and destruction in 1867 and 1918. Although the source of the historical tsunamis have been local earthquakes, they could also be generated by regional and distant earthquakes, landslide and much less likely by the impact of a meteorite or a volcanic eruption (in the case of Puerto Rico). Since 1996, the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN), with the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) began the Puerto Rico Tsunami Warning and Mitigation Program which consist of six tasks: 1) preparation of tsunami flood and evacuation maps for the archipelago of Puerto Rico; 2) education about this “forgotten hazard”; 3) local (Puerto Rico) and regional (Caribbean) seismic wave form analysis for rapid determination of earthquake source parameters; 4) development of tsunami warning and advisories protocols; 5) preparation of a Atlantic and Caribbean Historical Tsunami Database; and 6) participation in the meetings of the USA National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. Recently, with funding from NOAA and support from the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency, Municipal Emergency Management Offices and the UPRM, the PRSN is working towards the development of the Tsunami Ready program in Puerto Rico. As of today, eleven coastal municipalities have been recognized as Tsunami Ready by the National Weather Service and 12 are in progress. The Tsunami Ready Program was designed to help coastal communities to reduce the potential for disastrous tsunami-related consequences. The overall goal is to save lives and properties.


Kasey R. Jacobs; Ernesto L. Diaz
DNER Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program

The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Coastal Zone Management Division has partnered with numerous stakeholders to develop a Climate Variability and Change Vulnerability Assessment in conjunction with a Puerto Rico-wide Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. To coordinate this effort NOAA placed a Coastal Management Fellow in the CZM Division from 2010-2012. Employing spatial analysis tools such as satellite remote sensing and GIS the fellow has been working with multiple stakeholders throughout the islands of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to accurately assess vulnerability to life and property and, moreover, to identify and assess feasible adaptation strategies for government and civil society to implement in the near future.

Puerto Rico is comprised of the big island and a series of smaller islands, cays, and islets located in the northern portion of the Caribbean plate between Hispaniola and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is commonly exposed to tropical storms, hurricanes, and winter swells affecting its coastal population and resources. Several coastal areas of Puerto Rico have experienced important coastal geomorphic changes, beach erosion, coral reef system degradation from increased sedimentation, and increased vulnerability of private and public properties from winter and storm generated wave action. During recent decades there has been an increase in the demand for space in coastal lands to construct second homes and tourism related facilities. Many shoreline hardening structures, groins, and breakwaters have affected littoral processes increasing vulnerability and coastal community exposure to coastal hazards. Exacerbating these issues is the looming threat of climate change. Increases in sea surface temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense storms and hurricanes, changes in precipitation, ecosystem changes, and ocean acidification are just some of many impacts Puerto Rico is planning for today, to adapt tomorrow.

This poster will graphically describe the Program design, methods, and partners. The methodologies being used for the vulnerability assessment and island-wide adaptation strategy are: (1) multi-stakeholder collaboration; (2) spatial analyses and a coastal vulnerability index using climate variability projections from the program’s numerous partners and previously published reports to identify coastal communities currently or potentially vulnerable; (3) identifying geomorphologic features and wetlands that provide protection to these vulnerable communities from coastal hazards; (4) developing risk matrices and adaptation strategy feasibility matrices; and finally (5) identifying and prioritizing appropriate adaptation strategies and policies for Puerto Rico’s decision makers.

The goal of the poster is two-fold. To share methods with those states, countries, and island territories that are also in the process of assessing their coastal vulnerabilities and devising adaptation plans and, more importantly, to foster discussion about the PR project in order to receive input from workshop participants. Gaining useful feedback from other climate researchers, climate adaptation and disaster management practitioners will help ensure Phase II of the Puerto Rico project is based on robust methods and results.

Coal Ash Disposal in Puerto Rico

Ruth Santiago and Comité Dialogo Ambiental, Inc.
P.O. Box 518, Salinas, Puerto Rico 00751.

The secondary use of 300,000 tons per year of coal combustion residuals (CCRs) from the AES Coal Combustion plant in Guayama, Puerto Rico as fill material at construction sites above a sole source aquifer in the vicinity of public supply water wells and densely populated, flood prone areas poses risks of imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment. Many CCR disposal sites are located just north of mangrove forest systems such as the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated facility.      

Analytical test results of AES CCRs indicate alpha particles of 9.9 pCi/g, nearly twice the levels of CERCLA applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements (ARARs), in addition to 5.7 pCi/g of beta particles and high levels of arsenic and other metals.  A Texas A&M University study indicates that all coal combustion by-products possess unique properties based on the composition of the coal ash and production processes. The authors indicate the need for further research and that the AES CCRs, “should not be used as a pavement base of structural foundation until the chemical stability potential is satisfactorily addressed.”

A University of Puerto Rico study indicates the need for corrosivity testing, evaluation for expansion due to moisture, leachate composition studies, tests to determine organic impurities and elasticity index, checks for potential impact to groundwater and the possibility of radioactive components, determination of achievable compressive strengths, flowablility tests, corrosion potential in high humidity, detailed feasibility study, examination of the CCRs high abrasion potential, risk of saturation, testing with a field component taking into account potential degradation and strong alkaline characteristics. The authors cited the large variations in CCRs, moisture content, damage to plant transpiration and photosynthesis from CCRs, percolation to groundwater risks, susceptibility to collapse that increases with inundation stress such as rising water tables, elevated sulfur levels and swelling damage. The use of CCRs near water bodies with low flow rates such as swamps or marshes may cause local environmental damages.  EPA has long recognized that unlined disposal sites over shallow ground water with nearby wells pose risks to human health and the environment. Various studies have documented deformities in wildlife due to CCR contamination of habitats.

A fugitive dust screening assessment indicates that CCRs pose risks of exceeding National Ambient Air Quality Standards. CCR dust can be carried over long distances and settle on ground or water. Effects can include alteration by CCRs of nutrient balance of coastal waters, depletion of soil nutrients, damage to ecosystems and farms.

Plenary Session 4: Reports from the Breakout Sessions

nn: Report from Breakout Session 1

nn: Report from Breakout Session 2

nn: Report from Breakout Session 3

nn: Report from Breakout Session 4

Plenary Session 5: The View Forward

nn Summary of observational and modeling challenges: towards user-oriented services

nn Summary of organizational challenges: bridging the gaps between providers and users

nn Funding for pilot activities

nn Working with key users (e.g., insurances) towards sustained services

Plenary Session 6: Utilizing the full benefits of Earth observations for sustainable tourism

nn Overview of Workshop outputs: Draft Declaration, Memorandum of Understanding, Action Plan, Workshop Report

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