National Ecosystem Assessment of Montserrat

We recently undertook a National Ecosystem Assessment of Montserrat on behalf of the JNCC. This involved a data acquisition exercise, including interviews with various governmental departments on Montserrat, liaising with NGOs and community groups, literature reviews and searching international databases for relevant datasets. We then created natural capital categories, mapped out assets and modelled the provision of ecosystem services.

The island of Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory, located in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. This broad habitat map was developed by combining Environmental Systems’ Earth Observation data for terrestrial areas, with Waitt Institute data for marine areas. The map helps identify the key provisioning and cultural services from the island’s ecosystems.

We first collated all the data and analysed it for usability and reliability including formats, verification, ownership/curation, update frequency, age, duplications, omissions, inter-relation of data and general management issues. The data was often ‘dirty’, so where problems could not be resolved through background research alone – such as a complete lack of metadata making it impossible to date datasets – we projected the data within GIS to compare and contrast features, and so understand which were most appropriate to the project. We then combined the relevant datasets into categories and created a natural capital baseline for Montserrat. This in turn allowed its economic contribution to the island’s GDP to be calculated. We advised the government on data management and created a template for the forward use of the data, including how to update and add to the datasets in the future to track changes in natural capital and improve on the economic calculations. Finally, we ensured the Montserrat government were able to continue with the data management protocols and GIS manipulation of the project outputs.

An interesting part of our involvement was to model how rainfall would flow across the island to understand how the landscape is currently functioning to mitigate storm water impacts. The Viridian model was robust enough to produce useful outputs, even though there was extremely limited input data. The calculations of current land function would allow the next phase of modelling, looking at how to manage the land more effectively to reduce erosion, minimise storm water damage to infrastructure and protect the populace from flooding.

Whilst river network data was present for the island of Montserrat, it was found that it hadn’t been well maintained, with data versioning causing confusion and the river network data itself being disjointed. For proper evaluation of the islands flooding profile, Viridian calculation the flow accumulation across the whole island from first principles, so that a coherent picture of land and river flow could be established.

This map shows the amount of flood mitigation service that each land unit within Montserrat provides relative to every other part of the island. Where data for the island was coarse (or even non-present!), the Viridian platform capitalises on its statistical ranking methodology to deliver GIS data and mapping. By appropriately leveraging the data, decision making can still proceed based on the best interpretation of all presently available information, with further insight into the geographic data/survey needs of the region.