The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, has announced that more than 7 million euros has been awarded to two projects within the NWO Caribbean Research programme. In one of these projects, SEALINK, researchers of Wageningen University & Research among others will study how spreading of specific substances influence the Caribbean coral reef ecosystems.
With the funding of two large multidisciplinary research programs, NWO wants to strengthen the knowledge system in the Caribbean region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The studies are carried out and embedded in the region itself. The research programmes focus on issues that are of great societal and scientific importance for the Caribbean region, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge via education and outreach. This is the first time that NWO has funded programmes of this size in the Dutch Caribbean.
Land, Sea, and Society: The SEALINK Program will create the first comprehensive understanding of ocean pollution and coral reef health in the Dutch Caribbean. Led by prof. dr. Mark Vermij of the University of Amsterdam, the research team will follow water and pollutants (including sewage, fertilizer, and human pathogens) from land to sea. They track how water motion and marine organisms move and change these substances and will measure coral reef growth in 3D. This information will be used in computer simulations to create new conservation scenarios with community input. We will also study how community members use scientific information, which will help improve coral reef education and conservation globally.
In collaboration with TU Delft, dr. Victor Bense of the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management group of WUR, will map and quantify onshore groundwater flow conditions on Curacao and St Eustatius. They are hypothesized to control nutrient fluxes via subsurface flow paths towards the marine environment. Novel geophysical measurements, detailed groundwater tracer tests, and hydrogeological monitoring will be carried out to reach these goals, in close collaboration with local stakeholders and knowledge institutes, e.g. CARMABI (Caribbean Marine Biological Institute) in Curacao.
Island(er)s at the Helm
Also funding is awarded to the project Island(er)s at the Helm of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the University of Amsterdam. In this project, researchers and stakeholders work together on new sustainable strategies for current climatic challenges, such as hurricanes and destruction of coastal areas.