Small island states such as the British Virgin Islands are most susceptible to the effects of habitat degradation and the consequent loss of biodiversity. The loss of habitat is caused by two major factors, the degradation and destruction of habitats, and the introduction of invasive species.

The coastal zone of the BVI consists of varied features and habitats that are inevitably linked to each other in a network of systems. These are Sandy beaches. Mangroves/ ponds, Coral reefs and Seagrass beds. Growth in the tourism sector, particularly in the development of coastal properties such as marinas and hotels have annihilated several mangrove forests and the habitats they provide for both sea and terrestrial birds, and young marine life.

his has resulted in a reduction in fish yield for fishermen, and general loss of diversity in coastal areas. Destruction and degradation of these shoreline habitats has increased the vulnerability of coastal areas to floods and erosion.

Impacted Mangrove Habitats

Pockwood Pond

 The area had been selected for high prority conservation in the Parks and Protected Areas System Plan 1986, because of its dense mangrove forests. This area has been impacted by reclamation, dredging and a major fuel leakage in 1992-1993. The mangroves have been totally destroyed.

The area had been selected for high prority conservation in the Parks and Protected Areas System Plan 1986, because of its dense mangrove forests. This area has been impacted by reclamation, dredging and a major fuel leakage in 1992-1993. The mangroves have been totally destroyed.

Cane Garden Bay
Proposed for watershed namagement in the system plan, the area has been impacted by development. The freshwater ponds and its mangrove forests are gradually being reclaimed.

Sea Cows Bay

A designated hurricane shelter, this area has been impacted by reclamation both legal and illegal, and the cutting of mangroves. In addition, construction of a major road up the hillside to the west has resulted in the deposition of volumes of earth among the mangrove roots.

Paraquita Bay and Lagoon
A designated hurricane shelter, this is being impacted by illegal dumping of garbage, emptying of septic tanks, uapproved reclamation, cutting of roadside mangroves and clearing and illegal development.

Chapel Hill
This area has been impacted by development and the illegal cutting of a large section of mangroves.

Slaney Point
This area has been impacted by the clearing of mangroves to allow for the repositioning of the road in order to accommodate ongoing development in the area.


Erosion causes hazardous conditions for landslides, road collapse, and utilities being disconnected.  The breakdown of the natural environment through unsustainable and ignorant practice, damages not only the aesthetic and health of the environment, but destroys the products that important economic sectors (tourism) depend upon. 
These are all the effects from bad development of land in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).  From research in Colorado State University and elsewhere, it has been shown that unique condition on small drier islands; intense localized showers, steep topography and highly friable soils, means that above average sediment loads are produced during rain events.  Without giving consideration to site hydrodynamics, massive quantities of soil can be eroded from construction sites and find their way through watercourses to the sea.  The impacts can be devastating through the whole Island System environment, costly to governments to put right, and to the local landowner, who in extreme cases could be putting their households’ lives at risk. 
Particularly, the largely hidden effect of sediment on reef and other marine resources can be devastating to the islands’ economies, which depend on it for their tourist product.  Along with point and non-point source pollution, erosion and sediment are the largest environmental threats in SIDS.
There are simple techniques, designed for the unique island conditions that can improve the environmental management of the site and the downstream/down site effects.  In some cases these can save money and long term maintenance of the site.  The techniques are not widely known, there is a lack of legislation and guidance in many states, and little effective enforcement, and the access to the expertise, supplies and assistance to deal with these issues is not there.  With the spread of Internet access in the islands, the opportunity has come to provide a portal for information and resources to solve this bottleneck and make people more aware of the problems and the simple solutions.
Island Erosion has been formed to promote better practice and sustainable development, through public awareness of the problems, education of the professionals in methods and technologies, and action with government to create legislation.  It was established out of the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK) and a coalition of local and regional development experts following from observations at the expansion of Beef Island Airport in BVI.  The lack of knowledge of principles and technologies available to control erosion and sediment generation and transport has caused both small and large scale events to occur during heavy showers.
Storm surge can be described as a temporary rise in mean sea level along a coast due to the atmospheric and wind effects of hurricanes. The lowering of atmospheric pressure between the eye of the hurricane and the outer regions affects the position of mean sea level through the inverse barometric effect. The adjustment in mean sea level to changes in barometric pressure is slow, varying from 2-12 hours.

While the pressure component of storm surge is significant the main component for hurricanes is the wind effect. The wind stress component, which can be up to 10 times greater than the pressure component, is created by the wind stresses generated by the high velocity converging winds of the hurricane. Sea water is pushed forward by the wind field  over the continental shelf and piles up along the coast of landmasses affected by the hurricane force winds. Waves generated by the hurricane winds cause a further increase in mean sea level at the coast known as wave-setup. The overall storm surge at the coast is the sum of the pressure component, wind stress  component, and the wave set-up.

The Saffir-Simpson scale provides a general relationship between wind speed, atmospheric pressure,  and the range of storm surge to be expected. The actual storm surge at any given site is determined by a number of factors including the radius of maximum wind velocities, the forward speed of the system, the configuration of the foreshore bathymetry, the shape of the coastline, and the elevation of land near the coastline. Other factors which can cause localised increases in mean sea level if they coincide with hurricane storm surge conditions are high tides and outflow of storm runoff through drainage channels into the sea.
The effects of storm surge results from flooding associated with higher sea levels and the increased penetration of sea water inland, as well as the increased coastal erosion from wave action occurring closer to the coast. Due to the salinity of sea water, flooding by storm surge can be more damaging than riverine floods.

Because of the increased water depth closer to the coast associated with storm surges, large wind generated waves can approach the coast more closely before breaking. Damage is caused by the direct impact of waves and the wetting of objects in the splash zone. In addition the increased turbulence undermines foundations exposed to the sea and causes significant beach erosion.  There is no extensive continental shelf associated with the islands of the BVI. While the water depth between the islands is relatively shallow, the depth increases very sharply around the Virgin Island Platform. This decreases the ability of the wind to push water over the ocean floor and limits the ‘pile up’ of water along the coast. In addition the presence of fringing reefs around the islands of the BVI tends to further decreases the storm surge effects at the coast. 

Figure 2:  Environmentally Sensitive Areas for Storm Surges in the BVI