Current Research / Monitoring Projects

1. The Caribbean Coastal Monitoring Programme (CARICOMP)
CARICOMP is a regional programme whose principal goal is to determine the dominant influences on coastal productivity in the Caribbean Region and to discriminate between human disturbances and long-term natural variation. Caribbean countries including Trinidad and Tobago have all conducted a standardized, synoptic set of measurements of the structure, productivity and associated physical parameters of relatively undisturbed coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The IMA has been monitoring the coral reef, seagrass bed and mangrove swamp in the Bon Accord Lagoon/ Buccoo Reef ecosystem complex since 1991.

2. Monitoring of the seagrass communities around Trinidad and Tobago
The goal of this project is to establish a long-term monitoring programme for seagrass beds around Trinidad and Tobago. An inventory of the seagrass communities around Trinidad and Tobago was completed in 2001 and a monitoring programme was developed and implemented in 2002. Seagrass density, biomass and areal productivity are monitored at four sites along the northwest peninsula of Trinidad and five sites in southwest Tobago, four times per year. In 2006, the monitoring was expanded to include water quality sampling. Water quality parameters including nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, phosphates, and chlorophyll a concentrations are collected twice per year at all nine seagrass sites.

3. Monitoring of the Coastal Wetlands in Trinidad and Tobago
Mangrove forests as well as other coastal wetlands provide site specific functions and values including storm protection, shoreline stabilization, water quality maintenance, provision of habitats and nursery areas for fish and wildlife and carbon sequestration. Projections are available over coming decades for rising sea level and changes in climate and weather (Houghton et al. 2001). These changes are expected to alter the position, area, structure and health of most coastal communities including mangroves. Mangroves migrate landwards as a natural response to rising sea level relative to the mangrove surface. This landward migration can impact freshwater habitats and can be obstructed by seawalls and other development, reducing the area of coastal ecosystem. Establishing mangrove baselines and monitoring gradual changes will enable the separation of site based influence from global climate change, and will provide a better understanding of mangrove responses to sea level rise and global climate changes. The goal of this project is to assess the status, and trends of mangrove forests in Trinidad and Tobago so as to establish a baseline, so that response to sea level rise and climate changes can be determined. To map the location, and current extent of mangrove forests in Trinidad and Tobago. The objectives are i. To describe the forests in terms of forest type, species composition, and hydrological conditions ii. To monitor and assess the change in status and extent of mangrove swamps (change detection analyses) iii. To identify impacts and threats (natural and human) on mangrove forests in Trinidad and Tobago, and iv. To provide recommendations for the managements of these ecosystems

4. Monitoring of Coral Reefs
The study involves a high resolution examination of the stability of the reef fish and coral community structure (fish abundance/coral cover, size distribution and diversity) and recruitment success (recruitment rates, growth, and survivorship) of major coral reef organisms on impacted reef and less impacted reefs in Tobago. In addition, since 2007, as part of the Mainstreaming Adaptation of Climate change (MACC) programme, reefs at Speyside has been monitored. Currently sites within Buccoo Marine Protected Area, Culloden and Speyside are regularly monitored, and other reef sites monitored as needed. A central tenant of the coral reef programme has been the identification of nodes of resilience. As a result, since 2011 we have been investigating the genetic connectivity among reefs, recruitment success and recruitment limitation processes. The goal is to characterize the distribution, cover and abundance of reef organisms within the study areas, understand their population dynamics and detect spatial and temporal changes in reef composition and live cover. All sites are surveyed using photo-quadrat methods. Temperature loggers are deployed and water quality samples collected. Monitoring of these sites occur twice per year (September and March).

5. An Ecosystem Services Approach to Quantifying the Role of Coastal Ecosystems (Coral Reefs and Seagrass Beds) in Maintaining Coastal Protection
The Project for Ecosystem Services (ProEcoserve) is a GEF-funded umbrella project aiming at piloting the bundling of ecosystem services and the integration of ecosystem services approaches into resource management and decision-making. The overall project goal is to better integrate ecosystem assessment and economic valuation of ecosystem services into sustainable national development planning. Trinidad and Tobago has been identified as one of the pilot countries to illustrate this. This project is one of 4 case studies, the results of which will be packaged for use by decision-makers for incorporation into national accounts. The goal of the IMA’s project will be to build on the Millennium Ecosystem Report (2005) and the 2006 WRI coastal Capital Project for Tobago (Burke et al., 2008) by quantifying the supply response equations and linkages between recreation, erosion control/disturbance protection, meat/fish provisioning and carbon sequestration with the view of better understanding how best to optimize coastal resource use. The project will take advantage of the enormous amount of data collected on the Buccoo Reef/Bon Accord complex in the past and the research strength of the IMA on issues of biodiversity, erosion protection, food security and ecosystem services.

6. Development of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Policy Framework, Strategies, and Action Plan for Trinidad and Tobago
In April 2012, Cabinet appointed a Steering Committee develop an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Policy Framework, Strategies and Action Plan for Trinidad and Tobago. The Steering Committee was appointed for two years with the IMA as chair. The terms of reference (TOR) for the committee are:

  • Review and analyze all existing policies, strategies, legislation and institutional arrangement related to ICZM
  • Formulate an ICZM Policy based on the review of the policy, legislative and institutional arrangement for coastal zone management
  • To solicit oral and written comments from all stakeholders and the general public on the ICZM Policy
  • To co-ordinate, manage and implement a public consultation process for the formulation of the ICZM Policy
  • To ensure that the ICZM Policy addresses the concerns of the stakeholders and the general public as indicated at the public consultations
  • To establish ICZM working groups for the thematic areas and develop work plan and co-opt any relevant expert representation on an as needed basis

The goal of the Steering Committee is to develop an ICZM Policy that would-

  1. Reduce and control pollution in the coastal and marine environment
  2. Establish ecosystem based approaches to curb biodiversity loss and rehabilitate/restore degraded environments
  3. Continuous meaningful engagement of the public in the ICZM process
  4. Apply adaptive management and spatial planning approaches to address land and water use conflicts
  5. Encourage viable socio-economic activities within the coastal zone that do not compromise environmental integrity
  6. Incorporate climate change considerations into developmental planning

7. Piloting the Integration of Coastal Zone Management and Climate Change Adaptation in Tobago (TT-T1034)

This project is a Technical Cooperation (TC) with the Inter-American Development Bank and is directly linked to the Policy Based Loan, under the programmatic approach “Program to Support the Climate Change Agenda.” IMA is the executing agency for this project. The TC attempts to improve the capacity to integrate climate change adaptation into development planningThe lessons learned under this TC will directly inform the development of a broader national Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Policy Framework, Strategies and Action Plan, which is the mandate of the Cabinet appointed ICZM committee. Activities under this programme include:-

  • Gap analysis - review of the legislative, policy and institutional, information and capacity arrangements related to coastal zone management and climate change.
  • Vulnerability and Risk Assessment. –the development of climate-related hazard vulnerability and risk assessments of the coastal zone area of Southwest Tobago based on climate variability (existing climatic events) and climate change scenarios.
  • Design and implementation of an adaptation response plan for coastal ecosystems in Southwest Tobago which includes deployment of a coral reef early warning system (CREWS) on Buccoo Reef and enhancement of a long-term water quality monitoring program. The monitoring data is to be integrated into the Geographic Information System (GIS) hosted at the IMA
  • Development of a multi-media public communication program on best practices and lessons learnt from the pilot to stakeholders involved in coastal zone management (public and private sector, NGOs, CBOs, etc).

In addition to the research projects highlighted above, the Biodiversity Research Programme is leading the effort to manage the lionfish invasion in Trinidad and Tobago. Seminars have been held to inform key stakeholder on how to treat with and capture the lionfish.