Monitoring the environment through remote-sensing in Caribbean SIDS

Small Island Developing States are experiencing some of the earliest and most severe impacts of climate change. Through a series of case studies illustrated with compelling satellite imagery, a new publication documents environmental changes in estuaries, mangroves, corals, coastlines and forests; as well as different approaches to land use and conservation; urbanization, tourism infrastructure and industrialization and finally disasters from pre-event hazard maps to impacts such as flooding and landslides and finally reconstruction efforts. It is a demonstration of how effective a tool remote sensing can be to assess natural or human induced processes, developed and published within the framework of an environmental management project in collaboration with the University of Ghent (Belgium).

In Kingston on 3−5 December 2013, UNESCO and the University of Ghent ran a workshop on remote sensing for government officials and academics from Barbados, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. This was the first phase of a new project designed to establish collaboration between Caribbean governments and universities with space agencies to promote remote-sensing for environmental management. The project benefits from the support of the Belgian Science Policy Office and is being implemented in partnership with the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and French Space Agency (CNES) donated high-resolution imagery for the participants’ use. The University of Ghent has processed this imagery to illustrate the ravages in these island nations due to climate change, sea-level rise, coral bleaching, uncontrolled urban and tourism development, severe deforestation and selected natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and landslides. Particular attention was placed on obtaining pairs of multi-temporal images in order to show changes to the landscape over time. Twenty one case studies discussed during the workshop are presented in this publication, Changing Small Island Developing States: A space perspective on environmental change in the Caribbean. The publication is a contribution to the International Year of Small Island Developing States 2014.

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