Human Impacts to Coastal Ecosystems in Puerto Rico (HICE-PR): A Long-Term Remote Sensing, Hydrologic, Ecologic, and Socio-Economic Assessment with Management Implications

Monday, 15 December 2014
Juan L. Torres-Perez1, Maritza Barreto-Orta2, Jorge Ortiz2, Luis Santiago2, Shimelis Gebriye Setegn3, Liane S Guild4, Carlos E Ramos-Scharron5, Roy Armstrong6 and Yasmin Detres6, (1)Bay Area Environmental Research Institute Moffett Field, Moffett Field, CA, United States, (2)University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, Cidra, PR, United States, (3)Florida International University, Miami, FL, United States, (4)NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States, (5)Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX, United States, (6)University of Puerto Rico, Lajas, PR, United States
For several decades Puerto Rico’s coastal and marine ecosystems (CMEs) have suffered the effects of anthropogenic stresses associated to population growth and varying land use. Coral reefs, for instance, have been impacted by sedimentation, increased eutrophication, and coastal water contamination. Here we present an overview of a new NASA project to study human impacts in two priority watersheds (Manatí and Guánica). The project uses an interdisciplinary approach that includes historic and recent remote sensing analysis and hydrological, ecological and socio-economic modeling to provide a multi-decadal assessment of change in coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and sandy beaches. The project’s main goal is to evaluate the impacts of land use/land cover changes on the quality and extent of CMEs in priority watersheds in the north and south coasts of Puerto Rico. Methods include assessments of coral reefs benthic communities cover, monitoring of short- and long-term beach geomorphological changes associated with riverine and sediment input, calculation of the economical value of selected CMEs, establish permanent monitoring transects in never before studied coral reef areas, provide recommendations to enhance current coastal policy management practices, and disseminate the results to local stakeholders. This project will include imagery from the Operational Land Imager of Landsat 8 to assess coastal ecosystems extent. Habitat and species distribution maps will be created by incorporating field and remotely-sensed data into an Ecological Niche Factor Analysis. The social component will allow us to study the valuation of specific CMEs attributes from the stakeholder’s point of view. Our results and the generality of the methodology will provide for its application to other similar tropical locations.