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Climate Change in the Caribbean Area

Photos of hayfields, local Caribbean fruit and farmers on horseback

2015 Drought Info:

Caribbean Area NRCS is helping to combat Climate Change by adopting and implementing several initiatives to improve farm energy efficiency and increase carbon sequestration. Converting land to forest, grassland or other perennial vegetation helps remove carbon from the atmosphere. Likewise, reducing on-farm energy use reduces greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. NRCS is an active member of the Caribbean Climate Subhub.

ADAPTA - Caribbean Climate Change Adaptation Project

Video Description: Cattle & Dairy Farming in the Tropics focuses on adaptation practices for tropical dairy producers. Drought and heat have hit Caribbean producers hard and have had particularly damaging effects on the livestock and dairy industries. As grasses died over the summer due to lack of rain, producers in the US Virgin Islands were forced to take measures ranging from collecting tree limbs and branches for fodder, to relying on imported feed and even culling herds. Pastures were so barren that many will have to be re-sown completely at great cost to farmers. In Puerto Rico, producers saw their costs rise as they relied ever more heavily on imported feed. Many also saw their production decline as heat stress and lack of nutrients took their tolls on local herds. Unfortunately, climate models are predicting more of these boom- bust rainfall cycles, in which prolonged periods of drought are periodically interrupted by intense rainfall events, with more extreme droughts expected. However, there are measures that farmers can take to reduce the impacts of drought and increased temperatures! Watch as Dr. Guillermo Ortiz of the University of Puerto Rico and rancher Neftali Lluch from Puerto Rico's Lajas Valley discuss various practical steps to combat rising temperatures and prolonged drought.

The USDA has established a Southeast Regional Caribbean Climate Sub Hub located in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, to help Caribbean Area producers manage risk in a variable climate. This multi-agency effort is led by Dr. William A. Gould, Research Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry. The Caribbean Climate Sub Hub is one of seven regional hubs and three subsidiary hubs nationwide. The network of Climate Change Hubs will work with USDA to deliver science-based knowledge and practical information to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners that will help them to adapt to climate change and weather variability by coordinating with local and regional partners in federal and state agencies, universities, NGO’s, and the public.

The Hub will provide:

  • Outreach and education for land managers on ways to mitigate risks and thrive despite change.
  • Technical support for land managers to respond to drought, heat stress, floods, pests, and changes in growing season

How are climate change and weather variability affecting Caribbean producers?

Climate change directly affects agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, but climate change in other regions can also impact agriculture. Global and local factors influence land owner decisions and farming success. Climate change in diverse regions affects supply and demand, value, agricultural economics, the state of agriculture and forestry, food security and the culture of rural life.

  • Climate change represents a threat to vulnerable food security in the Caribbean. We may find new vulnerabilities to pests and introduced species affecting people, livestock, wildlife and plants.
  • Prime agricultural lands and the most populous areas are predominantly coastal. Sea level rise and alteration of coastal hydrology are critical issues requiring engagement of many agencies and organizations.
  • Population densities in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are among the highest in the US. Space for agriculture is limited and the need to expand capacity is high. Unemployment and poverty levels are among the highest in the US and climate change represents an additional threat to rural economies.
  • Working lands are a contributor to the ecosystem services provided by open space, including clean water, habitat and biodiversity.

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