Climate Change Predictions for St-Eustatius and its possible impacts on the island

This report was created to highlight the most important climate change predictions for St. Eustatius and to highlight possible impacts on the island.

St. Eustatius (Statia) is a Caribbean island near St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Maarten and Saba. St. Eustatius has a surface of 21 square kilometres and forms part of the Dutch Caribbean. On 10-10-10 it became a special municipality of The Netherlands, together with Saba and Bonaire (together they form the BES-islands).

St. Eustatius is important for its marine and terrestrial species, some of which are endemic and/or endangered. Some examples of this include Iguana delicatissima and the newly-described endemic, Gonolobus aloiensis. However, because of the island’s small size, it is likely that climate change will threaten these species. Climate change will have different impacts on St. Eustatius.

Since 2010, the population on St. Eustatius has increased. On 01-01-2010 there were 3583 people living on St. Eustatius, but on 01-01-2014 this number grew to 4020. That is an increase of 437 people (12% compared to 01-01-2010) in just four years. Also 36% (714 persons) of the working population on St. Eustatius is working in the trade, transport or catering industry. And 31% (609 persons) is working in the government branch.

If we look at the coastal protection of St. Eustatius, than it is clear that this s predominantly natural, except for the protection near NuStar, the harbour and in Oranjestad Bay, which are man-made. This is also one of the reasons why most of the island is vulnerable to erosion, because there is no protection.

The nature on St. Eustatius has many strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).The most important strengths are good maintenance of the national parks, high biodiversity and the presence of marine and terrestrial protected areas. There are also opportunities for nature on the island. The most important one is scientific research, on many different kinds of species. Unfortunately, however, island’s nature also faces some threats and weaknesses. The greatest threats are non-native and invasive species (cows, goats, etc.), climate change and pollution. The most important weaknesses are a lack of environmental awareness, limited area of the island and small research populations (amount of species present on the island).

Climate change will affect St. Eustatius. IPCC predictions predict that temperatures will rise by approximately a minimum of 0.7 ˚C to a maximum of 2.4 ˚C by the end of the century, according to RCP 4.5 Precipitation rates will, according to RCP 4.5, vary by a maximum of -29% to a maximum of +14%. Sea levels will rise by approximately 0.5-0.6 meters by the end of the century (IPCC, 2013). This is all compared to the mean of the period 1986-2005.

These predictions will have some impacts on St. Eustatius. Climate change will especially have an impact on six different areas. These include: erosion, extreme events, coral reefs, human health, nature and tourism. The erosion rate is likely to increase in the future because of climate change. This will have a huge impact on the island. Also extreme events, like storms/hurricanes, are likely to happen more often in the future, with more extreme strengths. This will affect the corals around the different reefs that surround St. Eustatius. Not only will storms affect corals, but also rising sea temperatures will have a negative impact. Human health will also suffer under the effects of climate change. Mosquito density is likely to increase in the future, because of a more wet climate (IPCC, 2013). These mosquitos can spread diseases like dengue fever and the West Nile Virus. Terrestrial species will also experience the negative impacts of climate change. The main impact will be a shift in ecological zones. Finally, tourism can also suffer the negative impacts of climate change.

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