News & Blog

It's the Coast, Stupid

Posted on February 8, 2008

THE UNIQUE QUALITY of small islands is a high ratio of coastal length to total land area (i.e., lots of coastline for a relatively small area). Coastal environmental processes are absolutely vital to marine ecosystems, and to the protection of terrestrial systems; they have also been severely impacted by the last four or five centuries of development.  To address these issues, islands need improved concepts and practices for integrated coastal zone management and coastal wetlands protection/restoration.In terms of human impacts on the environment, no areas suffer more alteration or higher human densities than the coastal plains and shorelines of small islands. To cope with all of the most immediate problems that will be faced by islanders (sea level rise, increased storm frequencies, increased climate variability, exhaustion of freshwater sources, exhaustion of coastal and marine fisheries, and loss of terrestrial biodiversity) will require changes in land use and land cover in the coastal zone.To be successful islanders will have to revolutionize concepts of private property rights in the coastal zone, because we need to make land use decisions for both the current conditions, and for dimly foreseen conditions in 50 years or less, when the sea level will be 2 feet higher, and the shorelines will be 50 to 200 feet further inland. For example, the island of San Andres estimates that by 2060, the island will be SIXTEEN PERCENT smaller than now — and that’s on a base of 27 square kilometers and a population of 100,000 people.

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