Samford University: Mapping project helps preserve environment and empower communities
September 15, 2021
The stakes are high for the communities in the region. “The livelihoods of over 2 million people are directly or indirectly linked to the mangrove, seagrass and coral reef ecosystems of the MAR,” Cissell explained. “These ecosystems provide habitat for commercial and subsistence fishing such as lobster, conch and shrimp. They also support activities such as snorkeling, diving, bird watching and sport fishing which attract more 12 million tourists and millions of tourism dollars each year. ”He said mangroves also help protect coastal communities from destructive storms and mitigate climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon.
Previous efforts to map the ecoregion lacked the consistent methodology and high level of detail required to determine the rates and locations of losses, so Cissell and colleagues – Michael Steinberg (University of Alabama), Steven Canty (Smithsonian) and Lorae ‘Simpson (Florida Oceanographic Society) – created a Google Earth Engine algorithm that generates high-resolution maps based on data collected over many seasons of fieldwork.
The group used the new system to complete the mangrove maps for each of the MAR countries this spring and summer. It will map reefs and seagrass beds later, and could expand to Costa Rica, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador. First, it will develop workshops to help people in the region use the mapping system. “.
Cissell will discuss the project for a Special Research Conference – Mapping the Past, Present and Future of Caribbean Mangrove Forests with GIS and Remote Sensing – Oct. 6 to 3 p.m. at Samford’s Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall. It will also introduce students to the importance of such work via a new course in spring 2022. “Human-environment relations in the 21st century” will bring together information on geography, environmental sciences, conservation, political science , economics, public policy, sociology, and other disciplines to discuss pressing human-environmental issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and explore possible solutions.
This press release was produced by the University of Samford. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.