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 Comparative Analysis of Reef Resilience Under Stress (CARRUS)

Project Title

2.2. Geographic Information System-based Predictive Interdisciplinary Modeling and Expert Systems (GIS-PRIMES)

Key Investigator Phil Kramer, Liana Talaue-McManus, Maria Villanueva
Project Duration December 15, 1999 – December 14, 2003

As an integral component of the CARRUS Program, GIS-PRIMES focuses on reef systems as anthropogenically impacted natural systems where man-nature interactions need to be critically examined to better predict reef resilience and to more adequately provide scientific guidance for resource use and management. The project aims to develop a GIS-based spatial simulation that will serve to (1) integrate biophysical and socioeconomic data on selected reef systems; (2) dynamically link these data through models; and (3) allow for easier visualization of biological and socioeconomic results for ongoing model evaluation and planning use.

  1. To develop a Geographic Information System (GIS) of spatially explicit data from the Bahamas pertinent to the development of an improved system of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for that country.

  2. To make the GIS available online across the Internet (and via CD-ROM as needed) and thus assist the Bahamas in decision-making. This format also serves as a data repository and tool for model-development among project components, making it possible to improve the general scientific support from international and local scientists for resource management planning in the Bahamas. In addition, web-based access can help improve public education about the Bahamas for Bahamians and for the general public internationally.

  3. To use this GIS as the basis for integrating simulation models developed by the project components into decision-making processes.

  4. To publish the results and findings internationally periodically so as to contribute to global research efforts on MPAs and coral reefs.


Habitat studies

Benthic Marine Habitats: Development of habitat data layers that can be used within the GIS and for simulation modeling is being done at several spatial scales within the Bahamas. At the largest scale, Landsat 7 ETM images with 30-m pixel resolution were acquired and some are being processed to distinguish the principal benthic marine habitats down to a depth of 20-30 meters (depending on the depth of penetration). A total of 12 images were acquired which cover about 75% of the Bahamas shelf areas.  We are also evaluating an independent mapping effort by K. Sullivan as a possible add-on at the scale of the entire Bahamas. At finer scales, IKONOS images with 4-m pixel resolution were acquired for specific sites across the Bahamas that coincide with locations of field groundtruthing. At the moment, these include Andros Island and Bimini, Bahamas. The higher resolution of the IKONOS imagery allows finer discrimination of bottom types based spectrally unique areas. Approximately 1000 ground control points were collected from Andros and 200 from Bimini. Preliminary maps have been generated for Andros and are being evaluated for accuracy using ground control points and by comparing between the two scales of mapping. Landsat TM are complete and in GIS format will be incorporated into the on-line GIS. Preliminary IKONS maps of Andros were published as part of a manuscript evaluating the use of IKONOS to map benthic habitats.

Nursery habitats: A separate effort is being undertaken to identify juvenile nursery areas in the Bahamas which often occur in inshore areas with poor water visibility. To determine the feasibility of mapping these habitats with imagery, ground-truthing was undertaken at both Andros and Bimini to rank nursery habitat quality and make qualitative counts of juveniles. Descriptions of the nursery habitat quality was based on a number of factors including dominant macroalgae, relief, structure, sediment depth, water depth, and circulation. Preliminary results indicate that nursery habitat quality cannot be distinguished from IKONOS imagery alone, but that using imagery combined with contextual editing which identify areas of high water movement, shallow water depth, and proximity to emergent structures does allow discriminating high value inshore nursery areas from low value areas. A manuscript which describes the process of mapping nursery areas in the Bahamas is currently in progress.

Socioeconomic studies

Major stakeholders. As a young independent state, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas relies heavily on its natural resources to generate wealth. Tourism provides 60% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at US$ 4.8 B in 1999, and employs 40% of the total labor force of 160,000 in 1995. Fisheries only accounts for at most 4% of the GDP, employing about 10% of the country’s manpower. Because of its proximity to the United States, the Bahamas provides offshore financial services serving as a conduit in the movement of capital across the Caribbean, and generating 20% of the GDP and mobilizing 40% of those employed. Within the context of marine environmental protection in general, and of marine protected areas in particular, the biggest source of pressure as well as that which provides the highest incentive for maintaining a healthy and aesthetically pleasing marine environment is the mass tourism industry. The Ministry of Tourism as one which oversees the growth of the industry is among the major stakeholders that can determine the trajectory of environmental regulation in the country. Preliminary institutional analyses indicate that the Ministry is focused on investment generation and lacks mechanisms for strategic planning, including the option to develop ecotourism in the Family Islands.

Prominent in environmental regulation are the Department of Fisheries and the quasi-governmental organization vested with the mandate to regulate national parks, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT). The former is initiating the establishment of fishery reserves to safeguard stocks of major fisheries including the lobster, conch and grouper fisheries. The BNT oversees national parks that includes a functional marine park, and is pursuing the management of newly established marine parks. Both envision sizeable no-take areas within the reserves or parks they hope to establish to ensure a sustainable marine environment.

Local groups including their representatives that make up the local government are potentially major partners in marine environmental protection. Because very little powers have been devolved and given very little experience in management and enforcement, the local government machinery will need some experience in interacting with the major players in effecting settlement- or island-scale resource management. Increasingly, both the BNT and the Department of Fisheries are engaged in community consultations as part of the process in setting up marine protected areas to facilitate acceptance, support and eventual enforcement. Local environmental groups are promoting environmental education, as well as advocacy and participation of local citizens groups in resource management, all of which augur well for broad-based support of environmental protection.

Patterns of consumption and waste generation. Preliminary analyses of fisheries data indicate annual per capita fish food supply at about 45 lbs of which about less than 30% is from imports (Fig. 1). The contribution of fish to animal protein is less than 1/6. This pattern seems appropriate for urban areas like Nassau and Grand Bahamas, but may not reflect the informal fish food sector that dominates the Family Islands. The relatively low fish food consumption may indicate a preponderance to consume only traditional marine food including conch and grouper, both of which are beginning to show signs of effort saturation, and perhaps declining stocks. More focused studies to indicate how tourist consumption and export allocations compare with domestic consumption are needed to elucidate this consumption pattern.

In terms of waste generation, the pressure from tourism at about 4 M visitors a year compared to about 300,000 residents can be significant. About 2.5 people visit as cruise tourists, and the other 40% as stopover visitors. Future work will attempt to quantify waste generation as management of this is critical to marine environmental protection. While New Providence and Grand Bahama account for most of tourist destinations, there are tourist activities including yachting and adventure sports that spread out tourism to the less inhabited Family Islands. The need for regulation is necessary.

Fig. 1. Population and annual per capita fish supply for the Bahamas (based on data from FAO 1996).

Hypothesis testing and simulation modeling

  1. A basic GIS system has been developed and is available online at NCORE website. It is available in both Java and HTM forms, the former having enhanced capabilities and the latter being quicker and more practical for weak Internet connections. Basic functions include zooming, panning and user-friendly selection of data layers. Initial data layers include a Bahamas base map, roads, human settlements, hotels (Fig.2), airports and broad ocean depth contours. Several other data layers are currently being processed, including some from the Habitat and Socialite Working Groups. These will be added as processing is completed in quarterly updates of the website.

Fig. 2. Number of hotel rooms by islands in the Bahamas (based on data from the Ministry of Tourism 2001).

  1. Traditional efforts to combine environmental and socioeconomic models have usually involved either the use of a “common currency” (generally, conversions of carbon or energy to dollars, often with poor success), or  “loose coupling”, in which the outputs of an environmental model are deposited into a file, which is read for the parameterization of an economic model. Our Working Group is developing a prototype of a tightly coupled environmental – socioeconomic model, which eliminates the need for a  “common currency” and permits modeling across disciplines in a fine-scale, step-wise manner. For this purpose, we are using a multi-level agent-based approach. The final models will be integrated with the GIS system, linked to other models produced by various working groups, and used for scenario-testing in support of decision-making. The general aim will be not to “predict” in the deterministic sense, but rather to assist decision-makers in narrowing down the range of potential outcomes of a given management action for the environment and for the people dependent on the local environment for livelihoods and quality of life.  The software components developed in this work will be designed to supplement the RePast Agent-Based Modeling Toolkit ( and distributed under a version of the GNU open-source software agreement.

  2. A review paper is being developed on aspects of the “phase shift” in which many coral reefs are shifting from dominance by coral to dominance by frondose, fleshy macroalgae (“seaweed”).


PUBLICATION(S) Andréfouët S., Kramer P.A., Torres-Pulliza D., Joyce K., Hochberg E., Garza-Pérez R., Mumby P., Riegl B., Yamano H., White, W., Zubia, M, Brock, J., Phinn, S., Naseer A., Hatcher, B., and Muller-Karger, F. (in press) Multi-site evaluation of IKONOS data for classification of tropical coral reef environments. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing.

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