In the Caribbean region, landscape change is part of the region's history. The Caribbean exemplifies man-made changes to landscape, beginning with Amerindians, continuing to the importation of exotic species through the colony area, extreme land degradation caused by sugar plantation, forced settlement of millions of enslaved Africans, diverse populations of indentured laborers, and continued mixing of cultures from globalized interactions today, such as tourism. This has led to not only intense environmental degradation and introduction of new species, but the fostering of diverse cultures and communities - creating today's melting pot of environment and community.
Today, the small islands of the Caribbean are often described as vulnerable: with limited resources, growing populations and a dependence on unsustainable economic markets. This perspective often overlooks the adaptability or resilience of these island communities.
However, with climate change and intensifying economic connection, landscape change will only increase, bringing not only changes to the ecology but to the customary practices and traditions that play an integral part in the rural community. How do we address these landscape modifications to build more sustainable and equitable land management techniques?
This research investigates the changing landscape and land use in two case studies of the coastal villages of St. Kitts and the Kalinago Territory of Dominica. By integrating human and ecological aspects of agrarian landscapes, this research analyzes how land degradation or land change impacts cultural ecosystem services, that ultimately disrupts community wellbeing. First, as a primary goal, the research focus is established together with local communities or stakeholders, identifying both direct and indirect causes of landscape change. Second, by using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, but grounded in local participation, the research indicates that landscape change never happens in a vacuum but rather, it is always a part of a larger socio-political context and historical background that must be considered. In both case studies, there remains emphasis on the tangible, as results not only lead to new directions in landscape research but also deliverables used by community stakeholders for continued land sustainability. By investigating the synergies of nature and community within landscape change, this research proposes that local communities assert their own agency. This moves away from how local communities fit into global phenomena of land change, to how communities can assert their diversity within a global process.
Charlotte Eloise Stancioff is a Bulgarian-American GIS and Ecosystem services specialist. Born in Washington, DC but residing in the Netherlands, She holds a a BA in International Relations and Geography at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina and a MSc in Geoinformatics at the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaures/ Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique in Toulouse, France.
Through both her research and professional experiences, she has pursued her goal of developing collaborative mixed methods while leveraging her knowledge of GIS/remote sensing and international relations to achieve sustainable results in the domain of ecosystem services, sustainable development and well-being. As she is well-versed in working with community partners and multiple stakeholder partners, she has conducted numerous on-site trainings and workshops as well as provided impact modeling assessments and technical support in environmental, disaster management, digital heritage and media domains At ease in culturally diverse settings, she has gained experience through similar projects in international setting such as Brazil, Crete and Bulgaria. Throughout her PhD research within the ERC-Synergy NEXUS1492 project at Leiden (2013-2017), she worked directly with different Caribbean island governmental ministries on a variety of environmental and social projects, producing tangible results combining environmental and social data. Her work included providing on-site trainings, environmental impact modeling and technical support to community partners and stakeholders by using mixed methods of community participation, GIS, ethnographic, and environmental data. Such collaborative partnerships produced holistic and sustainable efforts as watershed management plans, GIS database and Land survey for the Kalinago Territory and coastal prediction model and land use/land cover change analysis for St. Kitts. Furthermore, she has also advised and developed digital medias in the cultural domain for the Ministry of Culture St. Kitts and the Museo de Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic since 2014. She presented her work at various conferences throughout Europe, the US and the Carribean. Furthermore, she has published the result of the collaborative efforts made throughout the research in variety of multidisciplinary journals.