Sealey, K.S. and Patus, J., 2015. Resources, methods, and effort associated with ESI mapping of the Bahamian archipelago for Great Exuma, Bahamas.
With the expanding exploration and transportation of petroleum products through Bahamian waters, a growing gap in coastal protection is an Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) mapping dataset of the entire archipelago. The resources required for coastal classification, ranking, and GIS mapping for one island, Great Exuma, are documented as a cost-effective methodology to protect all Bahamian shorelines. The ESI mapping follows international conventions for oil spill response planning, but because of the lack of a national coastal management structure, a relational database was developed to bring together field photographs, geology, and wildlife occurrence information to initiate the mapping process. The final product for Great Exuma was 13 ESI maps for one island environs, each map covering about 120 square km. The ESI mapping requires three types of expertise: (1) GIS (ESRI ArcMap 10.2) and relational database (Microsoft Access) expertise; (2) coastal ecology and geomorphology expertise; and (3) local resource management and natural history expertise. After initial field work of 14 days on the island, the GIS and coastal classification datasets required about 5 weeks for compilation. The datasets are dynamic and can be updated as new information becomes available. The ESI maps and coastal classification database are easily shared and revised moving forward. The process could be facilitated by the participation of citizen scientists to contribute photographs and local reports on status and changes to coastal resources. The overall ESI mapping product can provide a valuable management tool not only for oil spill response but for better integrated coastal zone management.