Odériz, I.; Gómez, I.; Ventura, Y.; Díaz, V.; Escalante, A.; Gómez, D.T.; Bouma, T.J., and Silva, R., 2020. Understanding drivers of connectivity and resilience in coastal ecosystems experiencing tropical cyclones. In: Malvárez, G. and Navas, F. (eds.), Global Coastal Issues of 2020. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 95, pp. 128–132. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
A better understanding of ecosystem connectivity and resilience is needed to establish efficient conservation strategies for coastal ecosystems. Physical maritime processes are key drivers for ecosystem connectivity in the Caribbean, where there is low wind and wave energy for most of the year but also short, extreme meteorological events. The energy peaks induced by tropical cyclones and the long calms are important for biodiversity. Climate change projections suggest that while there may be fewer tropical cyclones here, their intensity will increase. This paper analyses the effect of tropical cyclones on ecosystem resilience, studying both the potential connectivity and damage of mangrove, vegetated dune, seagrass and coral reef ecosystems at Puerto Morelos, Mexico. A numerical modelling approach was used to evaluate the spatial-temporal ecosystem connectivity and damage induced by hydrodynamic processes between 2005 and 2018, taking into account, wave, storm surge patterns and modifications in the vegetation cover following tropical cyclones. From our results, it was found that the balance of connectivity-damage to the intensity of the tropical cyclones depends on healthy ecosystems and the characteristics of geomorphology, with coral reef-seagrass-mangrove being more resilient to the increase in wave height but less resilient to the sea level rise. Open beaches with dune-mangrove was less resilient to the increases of both.