Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 1654–1667 | Cite as

Sustainable management of tropical small island ecosystems for the optimization of soil natural capital and ecosystem services: a case of a Caribbean soil ecosystem—Aripo savannas Trinidad

  • Melissa A. Atwell
  • Mark N. Wuddivira
  • Matthew Wilson
Soils, Sec 5 • Soil and Landscape Ecology • Research Article



The unsustainable use of soil natural capital and ecosystem services is of global concern due to damage and losses on a worldwide scale. This situation is further compounded in small island developing states (SIDS), such as the Caribbean, where rapid population growth coupled with limited land space accelerates the rate of degradation of soil natural capital. The Aripo savanna is the largest surviving natural savanna in Trinidad with economic and scientific importance. Presently, there are many different land uses and land covers competing for space to the detriment of soil ecosystem services in this savanna. An ecosystem framework approach is needed to guide the development of adaptation strategies to improve the resilience of soil ecosystem for the provisioning of services, especially in the face of climate change.

Materials and methods

We reviewed the existing literature on soil ecosystem management in SIDS with particular emphasis on Aripo savanna and attempted to provide a better understanding of soil processes by developing frameworks for assessing tropical small island soil ecosystem services and soil health.

Results and discussion

In tropical island states, poor soil quality has been associated with indiscriminant land use, creating short-term economic viability. Short-term economic viability is characterized by poor practices, negatively impacting on soil and thus limiting its ability to perform ecosystem services. To improve the resilience of a society, an ecosystem-framework approach becomes necessary. Soil ecosystem health, however, cannot be represented solely by specific land use(s)/land cover(s) (LULC) but by critical descriptors that influence soil quality.


This review highlights the importance of an ecosystem framework approach for the sustainable management and optimization of soil natural capital and ecosystem services in the Caribbean SIDS.


Ecosystem services Small island developing states Soil natural capital Sustainability 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography, Faculty of Food and AgricultureUniversity of the West IndiesSt. AugustineTrinidad and Tobago
  2. 2.Department of Food Production, Faculty of Food and AgricultureUniversity of the West IndiesSt. AugustineTrinidad and Tobago
  3. 3.College of Science, Geospatial Research InstituteUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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