A recently published report from the Dutch Ministry of Environment assesses the threat that climate change poses for the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba:
Climate change poses a severe threat for the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Dutch BES islands (Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius) and the totality of benefits and services residents derive from these ecosystems.
This according to a report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of EL & I (formerly Agriculture and written by Rob and Dolfi Debrot Bugter).
The report states that key changes in climate expected this century include increases in air and sea surface temperature, an increase in sea level and ocean acidity, an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms and hurricanes, general acidification and greater overall unpredictability in weather.
In terms of the terrestrial impacts of an increase in air and sea surface temperature for the BES islands a decline of mountain vegetation is expected, where the greatest impact can be expected in Saba and St. Eustatius where the elfin forest will be at greatest risk.
The islands will see reductions in soil humus as well as increased air temperatures will negatively impact humus retention capability of soils and can thereby negatively influence both natural vegetations and agriculture.
Potential increases in diseases in animals as a result will upshot from an increase in heat stress impacting reproductive success in plants and animals, which will make them more vulnerable.
Moreover, the terrestrial impacts of an increase in air and sea surface temperature will see a change in timing for interactions between species. Also, seasonal food availability for species may be affected or food plants may decrease or disappear.
A potential increase in invasive species as a result may enhance the opportunity by non-native species to become invasive because the resistance of the original ecosystem against them is weakened while conditions for invasive species improve. Lastly, as a result, changes in ocean currents may change food availability for some shore and sea birds.
In terms of the marine impacts of increased water temperatures of oceans resulting from global warming can have huge effects on reef ecosystems, where there will be immense bleaching of coral reefs. Bleaching reduces coral resistance to diseases, growth and regeneration capabilities.
Additionally, impacts on marine life will see mass moralities resulting from oxygen depletion. With higher temperatures, oxygen depletion in such areas with restricted water flow will exacerbate, leading to even more frequent fish mortality.
The principal area for which coral reef fish mortalities are a concern is the Saba Bank. As ecosystems are destabilised, swarms of predator resistant and undesirable reef species will occur more frequently. Lastly, changing current flow will have an impact on economic and ecological consequences in terms of fish migration and the protection of cetaceans in the southern Caribbean.
Find out more in this article from the Daily Herald.
Previously on Green Antilles: Managing the environment in the Dutch Caribbean.