Team of scientists suggests nature-based solutions for San Pedro's shoreline erosion; SPTC hosts scoping mission

The island of Ambergris Caye has experienced significant development over the years with minimal input from the science and engineering community, particularly concerning coastal infrastructure. The negative impacts of climate change can be seen in the continuous erosion that is taking a toll on the beaches of Belize's prime tourism destination. A recent visit by a group of scientists indicated that many of the efforts to protect the shoreline are instead causing more harm and aggravating the erosion issue. As a result, local stakeholders discussed nature-based solutions, including Mayor Gualberto 'Wally' Nu�ez, intending to look at the entire shoreline and address the problems for the benefit of the island community.

The scoping mission was facilitated by resident scientist Valentine Rosado and included Dr. Maya Trotz, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of South Florida, USA. Her research connects built and social infrastructure, especially around water resources and water quality; Dr. Christine Prouty, a consultant in environmental engineering who currently works with clients at academic institutions and within United States government agencies; Jamani Balderamos, a Belizean engineer whose expertise includes coastal engineering and port development; and Mercedes Reque�a, a Caye Caulker native with a graduate degree in environmental science who specializes in aquatic ecology for sustainability. The group visited different areas of the island, witnessing, and discussing the grave problem eating away at the shoreline. The visiting scientists are familiar with Ambergris Caye, and while they have worked throughout the country, this visit was to focus on the situation in San Pedro and to recommend appropriate nature-based solutions for the island.

One of the hurdles highlighted is projects implemented to reduce the rapid beach erosion, particularly in downtown San Pedro. Some of these, such as seawalls, groynes, and breakwaters, are causing more erosion to the shoreline. The findings indicate that many of these structures are built without studying the effects of the sea's circulation/currents. Other construction is also affecting these already vulnerable areas and properties. The task is difficult, but not impossible. An education campaign is essential, as it is vital to understand that the rampant development is changing the natural aspect of the island. It has changed from being where there once were long and wide beaches like in other parts of Belize (Placencia). However, the new norm of mass development has taken over that natural image and forced people to accept the new era of development in the name of jobs and other opportunities, while the natural beauty of the island is jeopardized.

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