An ecosystems perspective for food security in the Caribbean: Seagrass meadows in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Susan Baker*, Jessica R Paddock, Alastair M. Smith, Richard K.F. Unsworth, Leanne C. Cullen-Unsworth, Heidi Hertler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
245 Downloads (Pure)


Drawing attention to interactions between processes affecting biodiversity loss in marine environments and effects on food security, we draw on research in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), a UK Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. Seagrass meadows provide ecosystem supporting services critical for human wellbeing. They are declining globally due to coastal development, poor land management, and destructive fishing practices. These systems are linked to traditional ways of life with multiple intangible values representing an important cultural resource for coastal communities. Using the lens of food security, we undertake interdisciplinary social-ecological research, to better understand the governance of ecosystem services and the food system in TCI. Research draws on mixed qualitative methods and data gathered via SeagrassWatch, fish surveys and meta-analysis of fish assemblages, revealing anthropogenic stressors exposing TCI to economic and environmental shocks characteristic of small island Caribbean states. We find growing concern regarding the islands' high dependence on food imports, coupled with declining availability of local fish and seafood across socio-economic groups. Weak governance structures put TCI's marine resources under increasing threat, with consequences for food security. We argue for the application of the precautionary principle, suggesting conservation actions through societal participation and stakeholder engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalEcosystem Services
Early online date26 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Culture
  • Ecosystem services
  • Food security
  • Governance
  • Seagrass meadows
  • Socio-economic development


Dive into the research topics of 'An ecosystems perspective for food security in the Caribbean: Seagrass meadows in the Turks and Caicos Islands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this