Caribbean Studies Notes

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Caribbean Studies Notes

Topic: The Impact of Geographical Phenomenon on Caribbean Society and Culture

  1. Soil Erosion

Erosion is the displacement of soils (soil, mud, rock and other particles) usually by the agents of currents such as, wind, water or ice by downward or down-slope movement in response to gravity or by living organisms. The term ‘accelerated soil erosion’ is used to describe the rapid loss of soil over a shorter period of time as a result of human activity.

Causes of Soil Erosion

The rate of erosion depends on many factors, including the amount and intensity of precipitation, the texture of the soil and the gradient of the slope:


  • Rain

  • High wind

  • Lack of vegetation

  • Steep slopes

Social Practices

  • Removal of vegetation from slopes (deforestation)

  • Overgrazing by animals

  • Slash and burn (removing undergrowth)

  • Bulldozing hillsides and clearing lands

  • The making of charcoal

Farming Practices

B. Effects of Soil Erosion

  • Lower crop yield as soil nutrients are depleted

  • Loss of productive land due to gulleying, ravines etc

  • Flooding in lowland areas as the soil that is removed builds up in rivers and streams thus reducing their capacity

  • Eroded hillsides are more prone to mudslides and landslides that can destruction of lives and property

C. Conservation Methods

  • Re-afforestation of hills and slopes

  • Terracing hillsides

  • Contour Ploughing

  • Crop rotation to avoid exposed fallow land

  • Planting of shelter belts of trees to reduce impact of wind

N.B. the relationship between soil erosion and poverty: the case of Haiti

  1. Coral Reefs

The geography of the Caribbean allows the importance of coral reefs in maintaining many aspects of the region’s way of life.

Coral reefs are large strips of wave resistant coral rocks. Coral polyps are the tiny organisms which secrete a calcium carbonate shell or tube that remains after the polyps die. They stick together to form the massive structure of the reefs.

  1. Contributions of Coral Reefs

  • The reefs provide habitats with shelter and food for thousands of species of marine flora and fauna;

  • Reefs beak the force of waves;

  • Reefs are a breeding ground for many species of fish;

  • Reefs protect coastal harbours and beaches during storms and high waves; and

  • They provide ideal environment for diving and photography.

  1. Threats to Coral Reefs


  • Bleaching which occurs when the sea temperature rises

Human threats

  • Improper sewage treatment , esp. from large hotels lead to algae growth which choke the corals

  • Agricultural pesticides/herbicides run-off poison corals

  • Construction of hotels, marinas destroy ecosystems – wetland, mangroves

  • Extracting corals, sand and limestones

  • Tourist traffic

  • Overfishing

  • Coastal development

  • Discharge from desalination plant, distillery etc lead to bleaching

  1. Drought

A drought occurs when there s not enough rain to support people or crops. Droughts mostly occur in the summer, when hot and dry weather is normal. However, sometimes droughts can occur for months, years or even decades.

  1. Effects of Drought

  • Lack of water means less irrigation for crops, less drinking water, less water for hygiene, and less hydro-electricity.

  • Damage to crop quality, less food production

  • Increase in wild fires

  • Migration and relocation

  • Increased in food prices – due to food shortages

  • Increase importation of food

  • Loss of wildlife (animals)

  • Wind and water erosion of soils

  • Damage to plant species

  1. Actions to lessen the impact of drought


Hurricanes are large tropical storms with heavy winds. By definition, they contain winds in excess of 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour) and large areas of rainfall. In addition, they have the potential to spawn dangerous tornadoes. The strong winds and excessive rainfall also produce abnormal rises in sea levels and flooding and soil erosion.

Impact of hurricanes on Caribbean Society

Readings: Mohammed, J. Caribbean Studies

Any Caribbean Geography text

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