On May 30 and 31st, a workshop was held at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry in the Botanical Garden of Río Piedras, Puerto Rico on the topic of drought in the U.S. Caribbean. The purpose of the workshop was to synthesize the State of the Science on drought impacts by sector in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Co-hosted by the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub, in collaboration with the USGS National Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCASC) and the regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), the two-day workshop welcomed around 50 representatives from agriculture, natural resources, water supply sectors and multiple levels of government.
To synthesize the State of the Science on drought impacts by sector in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, workshop participants collaborated to:
- Identify lessons learned from past drought effects (e.g. 2015);
- Highlight key similarities and differences in terms of impacts between the agricultural, ecosystem and water supply sectors;
- Identify available data and information for drought monitoring and information gaps to support drought management; and
- Discuss future drought scenarios and thresholds, and what projected future conditions will mean for managers.
The U.S. Caribbean Drought Workshop was a product of a network-wide initiative by the NCASC and CASCs that aimed to identify what we know about the impacts of drought on ecosystems across the U.S. and how managers can plan for these impacts and adapt to changing conditions. During the first workshops in the series, it became clear that islands such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands experience unique challenges related to drought.
To delve further into this topic, NCASC developed two workshops on island drought in 2018, one in Puerto Rico and one in Hawai’i. The scope of these workshops covered the ecological impacts of drought and its impacts to agriculture, water supply and distribution, and other key sectors. The workshop brought together regional drought experts to identify key threats, challenges, and management solutions related to drought.
An important outcome of the U.S. Caribbean drought workshop will be a series of drought-related factsheets specially tailored to the U.S. Caribbean region. The factsheets, currently in development, will summarize the regional impacts of drought on the agricultural, ecological and water supply sectors.
Another important outcome of the drought workshop series is that further steps were taken towards the inclusion of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the drought monitoring that is carried out by the United States Drought Monitor (USDM). The USDM currently produces weekly drought maps for the continental United States, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Photos by Tania Diaz Camacho, USDA Caribbean Climate Hub