Teleconnected SARgassum risks across the Atlantic: building capacity for TRansformational Adaptation in the Caribbean and West Africa (SARTRAC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of Geography & Environmental Sci

Abstract

In most small islands and many coastal developing countries, the majority of settlements, government, transport and communications infrastructure are located in the coastal zone. Access to the coast allows access to natural resources (e.g. fisheries), transport, recreation, as well as supporting tourism - on which many low and middle income countries depend for employment and income. In the Caribbean, climate change is bringing sea level rise (affecting coastal erosion), warmer seas (associated with coral bleaching), decreased rainfall (affecting agriculture) and the risk of stronger tropical cyclones, for which islands are preparing. These are the known risks and disaster risk reduction measures are often quite advanced e.g. tropical cyclone early warning systems and coastal erosion management. New risks, which have the potential to create significant economic and social damage are only now starting to be documented. These risks are far less well understood, and include large ocean waves from distant sources, transcontinental dust clouds, invasive species moving across boundaries, and the spread of aquatic pathogens. In this latter group is the emergence of very large quantities of Sargassum seaweed inundating beaches of the Caribbean, Central America, and West of Africa since 2011. Such massive and recurrent inundation events are known as golden seaweed tides, with seaweed piling up to 3m high on beaches. The Sargassum decays shortly after reaching the shallow areas and beaches. In the decay process Sargassum consumes oxygen out of the surrounding water, killing fish and other marine creatures, and releasing hydrogen sulphide gas - causing human skin irritation and respiratory problems, and an unpleasant smell. The Sargassum stranding events are unpredictable, but can have major social, economic and environmental impacts.
In the SARTRAC project, UK researchers are teaming up with partners in the Caribbean and West Africa to build capacity within the Caribbean and West Africa to answer a number of questions: why did the Sargassum start to mass produce in 2011? Are the large quantities of Sargassum in Spring/Summer, the new 'normal' for the Caribbean and West Africa? What are the trend projections for the Caribbean and West Africa? Can Sargassum stranding predictions be delivered at the local scale and in the short-term? What are the long-term economic and social impacts of the Sargassum strandings? What are the best methods for managing the strandings and are there opportunities for equitable resilience from re-use of the seaweed? Why are communities not already re-using the seaweed - what barriers exist? What are the success stories about re-use, how did they occur, and how transferable are the lessons learned? What are the opportunities for and barriers to regional governance of the Sargassum issue?
SARTRAC will address these questions using a multi-disciplinary capacity-building approach to research on: drivers of the growth of the seaweed; risk communications; monitoring and early warning systems; opportunities for re-use of the seaweed; and the opportunities for affected nations to work together to develop regional responses and trans-regional support. By combining knowledge and skills from a range of disciplines and organisations, we can approach these questions from multiple perspectives to gain a more complete understanding. Our approach also encourages the view that opportunities exist from seeing Sargassum as a newly available economic resource. All research will be delivered through a transformational adaptation lens driven by the project PI, i.e. all researchers will be tasked with ensuring that all outputs contribute to the equitable resilience of the poorest groups affected by the Sargassum stranding events.

Planned Impact

We identify six groups of beneficiaries:
1) Local and national government agencies involved in managing the impacts Sargassum strandings can improve the wellbeing and development opportunities for coastal residents. In Jamaica these agencies are: National Environment Planning Agency, Jamaica; the Planning Institute of Jamaica; government agencies in each of the other English-speaking Caribbean DAC countries. In Ghana: the Ghanaian Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MOFAD); the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) in Ghana.
2) Marginalized and poor coastal communities affected by Sargassum strandings throughout DAC countries of the Caribbean, Central America and West Africa currently struggle to deal with the Sargassum events, suffering health, livelihood and access impacts.
3) National and regional agencies in Caribbean DAC countries and engaged in monitoring and early warning schemes (MEWS) for Sargassum beaching, such as those established in Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico. SARTRAC will share with MEWS agencies in selected Caribbean DAC countries best practice and work with them to establish operational real-time prediction of events through skill development, training and knowledge sharing.
4) Researchers in UWI and Uni of Ghana will have the opportunity to share knowledge, to attend sabbaticals in the UK, and to bid for additional funds within SARTRAC (the Flexible Innovation Fund) to undertake additional research or capacity building as needed. Each annual consortium meetings will include scheduled training to build capacity in areas identified by partners during the inception phase.
5) Regional organisations who may become the hub for regional Sargassum governance, such as Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS), Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize; the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, (CIMH), Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM)
6) International organisations with responsibilities for the oceans/food security, e.g. UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, and NGOs concerned with the conservation of coastal ecosystems in the region, e.g. Waitt Institute.

Benefits will arise:
WP1. Through a deeper understanding of the drivers that determine the seasonal and interannual variability in Sargassum beaching, and a bespoke system for predicting when and where beaching events will happen, we can build capacity at local and national level to prepare for such events.
WP2. Through development of an operational, near real-time Sargassummonitoring system, coupled to a dissemination system, we will provide communities and agencies with information needed to develop risk management strategies and adaptation to the "new normal" of seasonal Sargassum strandings. We will document the nature of the impacts and adaptations, and identify the worst affected communities, and communicate best practice management approaches.
WP3. Through evaluation of the potential for Sargassum re-use as texturing agents for the food industry, biofuels, fertilizers, animal feed, biomaterials, nutraceuticals, and cosmeceuticals, we will identify transformational adaptation options for Sargassum-receiving communities, providing new knowledge that may create opportunities for communities throughout the region and in West Africa. We will engage with communities to identify the barriers to uptake of alternative uses of Sargassum, and to share success stories of Sargasssum re-use.
WP4. Through deliberative workshops we bring together stakeholders, facilitate the development of an integrated inter-state governance network to co-ordinate policy, administrative, technical and legal aspects of the response to Sargassum beachings, seeking outcomes to the Sargassum crisis that generate equitable resilience for the poorest.
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Bethia Thomas 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/ms-bethia-thomas-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Dr Nikolaos Skliris 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/dr-nikolaos-skliris-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Dr Philip-Neri Jayson-Quashigah 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/dr-philip-neri-jayson-quashigah/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Dr Sien van der Plank 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/dr-sien-van-der-plank-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Prof Jadu Dash 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/prof-jadu-dash-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Prof Kwasi Appeaning Addo 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/prof-jadu-dash-podcast-2/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Professor Bob Marsh 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/first-sartrac-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Professor Jack Corbett 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/jack-corbett-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Thierry Tonon 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/dr-thierry-tonon-podcast/
 
Title SARTRAC Podcast - Yanna Fidai 
Description A 2 minute podcast detailing the researcher's key sargassum findings and their plans for the next 2 years. This has been added to the project website. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact None at present, but we will track viewers over the life of the project, and ask future partners if these podcasts were useful in helping them engage with our research. 
URL https://www.sartrac.org/podcast/yanna-fidai-podcast/
 
Description At the end of year 1, several key findings emerge from our research:
1. sargassum is at the whim of wind and currents in the tropical Atlantic, which has made us more aware of the need to effectively integrate wind and currents into our ocean models
2. some countries with more familiarity and experience of sargassum (e.g. Bermuda) do not see it as a hazard, but as an important element of the island ecosystem
3. Transformational adaptation requires action in three areas: addressing underlying issues of poverty, managing the recurrent / predictable risk context, and seizing economic opportunities that arise from hazards. We are not clear yet whether all three are needed to create transformational change.
4. There is significantly less research on sargassum events and impacts in West Africa, this is partly due to cloud cover issues - whereby satellite imagery is difficult to use due to high levels of cloud cover in the Gulf of Guinea.
Exploitation Route - improved prediction of sargassum in the open oceans around West Africa is important to improve nearshore prediction and to develop early warning systems for sargassum.
- framework for transformational adaptation may be a useful tool for other mass algal blooms
- co-developed a theory of change (TOC) with our partners - this is a template for how others can create research projects to identify transformational adaptation from sargassum impacts in other locations.
- undertook a skills inventory to identify opportunities for capacity building within the consortium.
- External capacity building has not yet been possible due to delays related to COVID
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL https://twitter.com/SARTRAC1
 
Description UK/Australia Season 2021-22l: Managing Seaweed through More than Maps
Amount £24,944 (GBP)
Funding ID Univ of Ghana, Mona Geoinformatix Jamaica, Univ of Sydney, Univ of W. Australia 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2021 
End 03/2022
 
Description University of Southampton 20/21 Public Engagement with Research Development Fund (PERu)
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Southampton 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2020 
End 10/2021
 
Title WORKING STAKEHOLDER LIST FOR SARTRAC PROJECT (SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND PHYSICAL ASPECTS) 
Description WORKING STAKEHOLDER LIST FOR SARTRAC PROJECT (SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND PHYSICAL ASPECTS) 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Identifying stakeholders will assist in guiding social data collection and policy development for the project. Additionally stakeholder analysis with help in the development of a risk management strategy 
 
Description Giles Foody Uni of Nottingham 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Department School of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have agreed to share our Jamaican stakeholder user needs assessments for the Jamaican early warning system.
Collaborator Contribution Giles and his team are looking at developing a sargassum early warning system specifically for Mexico. Giles and his team have agreed to share their stakeholder user needs assessment for an early warning system. By comparing stakeholder needs across countries, we may be able to identify additional needs that may not have been recognised in each individual user needs assessment.
Impact This collaboration is multi-disciplinary and is just beginning
Start Year 2021
 
Description UNEP Mahesh Pradhan Ghana UoS 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Environment Programme
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Engagement with UNEP Nutrients Division in preparation for the biannual UNEP Conference of minsters in Feb 2021 (UNEA)
Collaborator Contribution We have discussed the opportunities for SARTRAC to feed into the Feb 2021 UNEP Conference of ministers (UNEA, 2021)
Impact Attendance at meetings - nothing significant yet
Start Year 2020
 
Description More than Maps school outreach 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact November 2020, three workshops, 4.5 hours, 30 A level students, at a workshop on "Managing Seaweed through More than Maps" covering #climatechange #remotesensing, #Sargassum, #EarthEngine, #mapping, sharing social science methods and work from @SARTRAC1 and @UoSGeogEnv. The workshops covered: developing coding skills using remotely sensed data, and the role for social science methods in climate adaptation. Using seaweed management as a unique example, the researchers aim to learn from the students what skills are useful in ground-level climate change adaptation and how skills are best transferred. The students gain coding in basic Java script and data analysis skills, with possible future support for their EPQ.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/more-than-maps-developing-social-science-skills-for-climate-change-is...