An Implementation Plan for Bio-Indicator Monitoring in support of Integrated Coastal Management in the U.S. Virgin Islands
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Regulation and management of coastal systems is often compartmentalized into three broad categories: resource extraction (e.g. fisheries), coastal development, and pollution control. In the US Virgin Islands, the existing monitoring and research regimes dealing with coastal water quality, coral reef assessment, and fisheries management all have convergent goals of assessing and protecting coastal habitats. The methodologies and data analysis provided by these existing monitoring and research regimes are often incompatible as they are inherently designed to answer individual resource management or research questions associated with the regulatory program of interest. Environmental indicators are selected key statistics that represent or summarize a significant aspect of the state of the environment, natural resource suitability and related human activities (Vendermeulen, 1998). The application of biological indicators or bioindicators, as a tool for monitoring and assessing ecological integrity within key coastal systems is an emerging trend in natural resources management in the Caribbean. Bioindicators offer a signal of the biological condition within an ecosystem. Their application as an early indication of pollution or degradation in an ecosystem can help sustain critical resources (Dulcie and Warner, 2003). The most common bio-indicator programs found throughout the Caribbean are most often associated with coral reef monitoring programs. Coral reef monitoring programs are inherently bio-indicator monitoring programs as they principally measure a range of biological conditions and their changes over time. The US Virgin Islands has no overall coastal habitat and protection strategy that integrates the individual coastal monitoring and assessment programs historically or currently existing in the territory. The territorys environmental assessment and regulatory authority, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, has recently undergone significant growth and expansion with its monitoring and assessment capabilities with support from various federal agencies and directives from new federal mandates. The opportunity now exists and warrants the creation of a comprehensive coastal and marine habitat monitoring and assessment program with a common goal of the preservation of ecological integrity. This would increase departmental efficiency and provide a solid mechanism for achieving a key component in the Departments overall mission and Five Year Strategic Plan (DPNR, 2000) along with addressing goals of the Departments Multi-Year Monitoring Strategy (DPNR, 2001). This approach would ultimately provide quantitative assessment tools allowing policy makers and program managers to more accurately track the preservation efforts and, over time, tailor their actions for the greatest effect. The integration of coastal management will be further enhanced by identifying common programmatic goals and streamlining field methodologies and monitoring station distribution where practicable.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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