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A Hurricane Rapid Ecological Assessment (H-REA) Method for Small Island Developing States in 2017 and Beyond

  • Kathleen Sullivan SealeyEmail author
  • Ellery Lennon
  • Jacob Patus
Special Issue: Impact of 2017 Hurricanes

Abstract

Hurricanes can pose a greater threat for small islands if larger and more frequent storms are the future reality due to climate change. Apart from property damage, hurricanes can damage natural coastal communities and wash solid waste into coastal waters and wetlands. Our goal was to develop a rapid, synoptic survey method to evaluate what happens to the coasts of small islands after hurricanes. This study reports on the development of a hurricane rapid ecological assessment method (H-REA) that was carried out on small islands in collaboration with local communities. The H-REA focused on property damage, vegetation damage, flooding, coastal erosion, and solid waste accumulation in the coastal environment. The H-REA method was developed to evaluate the hurricane damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and then applied to assess Hurricane Irma’s damage to both the built and natural environments in 2017. The H-REA proved to be an important tool for the rapid assessment of 2017 hurricane impacts on the southern Bahamian islands; results are shown for Great Exuma. The H-REA results highlighted the variability of damage across the islands as well as the value of coastal set-backs and protected coastal wetlands in reducing both property damage and the amount of solid waste, including plastics, entering the coastal oceans. A spatial database was established to visualize the patterns of building damage, flooding, and vegetation loss; the spatial database allows for the assessment of damage from successive hurricanes.

Keywords

Coastal vegetation Hurricanes The Bahamas Flooding Rapid ecological assessments Coastal communities 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge the field support of Caitlin Camarena. The Young Marine Explorers assisted, and received stipends to help with field surveys, under the direction of Nikita Shiel-Rolle.

Funding Information

Funding for this project was provided by the Waitt Foundation under a Rapid Ocean Response Grant to K. Sullivan Sealey.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Coastal Ecology Laboratory, Department of BiologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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