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

Kathleen Sullivan Sealey, Ellery Lennon, Jacob Patus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1284-1297
Number of pages14
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Volume43
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

Keywords

  • Coastal communities
  • Coastal vegetation
  • Flooding
  • Hurricanes
  • Rapid ecological assessments
  • The Bahamas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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