In May 2018, a workshop was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico to discuss the impacts of drought on ecosystems, agriculture, and the water supply in the U.S. Caribbean, as well as data needs and potential future research directions.
The U.S. Caribbean includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The region includes seven inhabited islands in addition to nearly 800 smaller islands and cays. Since the 1950s, the region has experienced at least seven major droughts. A severe drought that occurred from 2014–2016 resulted in water rationing for 1.2 million people and over $14 million in agricultural losses. It’s clear that temperatures and seasonal rainfall patterns in the U.S. Caribbean are changing, and conditions are projected to become more variable in the future. Since 1950, temperatures have increased by about 2.5°F in Puerto Rico, and climate models project about a 1.5°F to 4°F increase in average temperatures for the U.S. Caribbean by 2050. Studies also indicate that some locations may experience longer dry seasons, and shorter, wetter wet seasons.
The U.S. Caribbean Drought Workshop was held at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The workshop was hosted by the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub, in collaboration with the Southeast and National CASCs. The two-day workshop brought together around 50 scientists and managers from the agriculture, natural resources, water supply sectors in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the mainland U.S.
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. Participants worked together to identify lessons learned from past drought experiences, such as the severe 2015 drought; similarities and differences in terms of the impacts on agriculture, ecosystems, and water supply sectors; available data and information that can be used for drought monitoring; information gaps; and potential future drought scenarios in the region, and what those conditions could mean for managers. Read the workshop report here.
A key outcome of the U.S. Caribbean drought workshop was the development of a series of drought-related factsheets specially tailored to the U.S. Caribbean region. The factsheets summarize the regional impacts of drought on ecosystems and agriculture, based on workshop discussions and the current state of the science on drought impacts in the region. Fact sheets on the following five topics and be found below:
- Drought Impacts on Tropical Forest Ecosystems
- Drought Impacts on Coastal Estuary Ecosystems
- Drought Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems
- Drought Impacts on Crops
- Drought Impacts on Livestock
- Full Workshop Report
During the workshop, the Southeast CASC and North Carolina State University collected oral testimonies from nine workshop participants on their experiences with drought and other extreme weather events in the U.S. Caribbean. Video interviews and transcripts can be accessed here.