UVI Research and Technology Park

Inventory of USVI Wetlands and Riparian Areas - Phase II

Inventory of USVI Wetlands and Riparian Areas - Phase II

Start Date: June 1, 2009. End Date: May 2, 2010

Project Proponent: Division of Environmental Protection, Department of Planning and Natural Resources

Implementing Agency: University of the Virgin Islands, Conservation Data Center

Principal Investigator: Stevie Henry
Email: shenry@uvi.edu.
Phone: (340) 693-1033
Fax: (340) 693-1025

The quality of life in the Virgin Islands and the strength of the Virgin Islands economy depend heavily on maintaining and restoring the health of the nearshore coastal environment; including wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds; communities that form a tightly linked ecosystem connected through hydrology and runoff. For the past several decades, population growth has compounded the effects of poor land use practices. This is manifested in catastrophic runoff, sedimentation, nutrient enrichment from failed septic systems and pollutant contamination of coastal wetlands, waters, and bays. Various studies have associated land use in upland areas of watersheds are adversely affecting low-lying terrestrial and marine resources. Nevertheless, the extent of the impacts across the Territory is unknown, and a comprehensive assessment of the watersheds and wetlands of the VI is not presently complete. Additionally, the existing datasets maintained by public institutions have not been made available in published documents or placed into a web-accessible database for resource managers and public use.

An initial effort to address this shortcoming, "The Virgin Islands Wetlands and Riparian Areas Inventory: A Pilot Study to Characterize Watersheds and Wetland Systems, Phase I", was completed in 2004 by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, in partnership with Island Resources Foundation (IRF) and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). The pilot study focused on an: inventory and limited assessment of watershed/wetland ecosystems. Geographic Information System (GIS) technology was used to produce an inventory of watersheds and wetlands (type and location) throughout the Territory, and produce GIS map products as well as data for statistical and spatial analyses. Eighteen (18) priority watersheds (of the 50 throughout the Territory) were assessed and characterized, based on a matrix of undisturbed-moderately disturbed-highly disturbed watersheds. Vegetation characterization, water chemistry sampling, sedimentation history, and an Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) assessment were completed within each selected watershed-wetland complex.

The goal of this Phase II proposal is to complete the preparation of GIS map product visuals of the remaining 32 watersheds (and their corresponding wetland systems and data) for analyses and continued monitoring by resource managers for input in the development and implementation public policies. In addition, total maximum daily load (TMDL) data layers will be combined with watershed characterizations to gain a better understanding of the interplay of multiple stressors.

The information and data gathered from the pilot study of Phase I, the recommendations of the Phase I Final Report (2004), the substance and recommendations of the "Virgin Islands Wetlands Conservation Plan" (2006), and the teleconference by project partners were used to determine the proposed Scope of Work for the Phase II project. This project, "Virgin Islands Wetlands and Watersheds Characterization Phase II: Inventory, Monitoring, Assessment, Management, and Education in the U.S. Virgin Islands", is designed to complete the watershed/wetlands assessment for the Virgin Islands by compiling existing data from multiple projects and sources, filling data gaps, developing appropriate management strategies, and educating the public about the importance of wetlands and watersheds.

Project Objectives
The objectives broadly listed here are meant to be given specific detail by the Wetlands Working Group (WWG) after consideration of existing data ad new related efforts underway. Staff of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Environmental Protection staff will provide website access, guidance, and assistance with obtaining DPNR and other governmental agency limited distribution datasets for planning purposes, as well as other assistance as possible.

The objectives of the Phase II project are:
Form a Wetlands Working Group (WWG) of appropriate persons, and convene meetings for discussion of program directions. Prepare a Final Plan.
  1. Complete the territory-wide wetlands/watershed assessment according to the plan.
  2. Complete a wetland/watershed monitoring and assessment component by plan.
  3. Establish a web-accessible relational database of all gathered data and maps.
  4. Develop specific wetland/watershed management strategies and priorities.
  5. Evaluate specific threat/risk non-point pollution sources and best management practices to address these.
  6. Supply all hard data, analyses, digital files, metadata, and recommendations in the form of a Final Report.
  7. Publish an educational "Resource Management Guide to the Wetlands and Watersheds of the Virgin Islands" for distribution to resource managers and the public.

Contact Information:
Persons and institutions wishing to contribute materials to be reviewed for the project should contact the Principal Investigator. Materials such as photographs and maps can also be submitted, and where such materials are used in the final report, credit will be given to the person or institution that submitted the materials.

The project team will identify priority wetlands for detailed examination during field assessments and related scientific and technical studies. The field study activities will include testing protocols and procedures for carrying out these assessments that are reliable and cost effective in the context of Virgin Islands' wetland conditions.
The project team is seeking your assistance with identifying wetlands we should consider surveying. Three maps featuring subwatersheds with ghut networks and wetlands are provided in Adobe GeoPDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat version 8 or above to view and comment on these maps. To take full advantage of the document mapping functionality and capabilities you must download the TerraGo -- Geo PDF tool bar.
You can download these documents to your local drive by doing the following:
Right click on the link below and select "Save Link As" if you are using Firefox as your browser or "Save Target As" if you are using Internet Explorer as browser and browse to a folder on your local drive.

Based on your knowledge and experience select up to 5 wetland areas per map by marking and explaining briefly why you would focus on these areas. The figure below is a screen shot from the St. Thomas map. Use the following steps to markup and comment on the map:

  1. Zoom to your area of interest.
  2. Select the Polygon Tool from the Comment & Markup Tools option on the [Review & Comment].
  3. Click (left button on mouse) to mark your area of interest and double click to complete your marking.
  4. Place your rationale in the comment box.

You will save your marking and comments by selecting Export Comments to Data File" option on the [Comment] menu. Attach the data file to an email and send it to shenry@uvi.edu. Contact Stevie Henry 340-693-1033 with any technical question.