floods

From theory to practice: building more resilient communities in flood-prone areas

López-Marrero T, Tschakert P (2011). ‘From
theory to practice: building more resilient
communities in flood-prone areas’ Environment
and Urbanization 23 (1): in press.

Abstract: 
Enhancing community resilience is key to reducing vulnerability in the face of natural hazards. In this article we discuss the elements that support or undermine community resilience to floods and propose ways of enhancing it. In the study, participatory methods and techniques were used with community members and emergency managers from a flood-prone municipality of Puerto Rico, including conceptual mapping, participatory mapping, and listing and ranking. The findings suggest that enhancing resilience in these communities requires: support for social learning by building on existing knowledge; stressing the importance of developing a diverse set of flood management options; and promoting effective linkages and collaborations between community members and emergency managers to encourage collective flood management. For this to happen, however, mutual distrust, lack of confidence and other obstacles must be overcome.

An integrative approach to study and promote natural hazards adaptive capacity: a case studyof two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico

LÓPEZ-MARRERO, T. (2010), An integrative approach to study and promote natural hazards adaptive capacity: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico. The Geographical Journal, 176: 150–163. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2010.00353.x

Abstract: 
capacity to natural hazards of exposed populations. This paper analyses the strategies of adjustment implemented by members of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico, and discusses how the adoption of these strategies and other factors could influence future adaptive capacity and vulnerability to floods. Semi-structured interviews with community members from different resource endowment groups were used to elicit the resources behind the process of adjustment along with additional factors that could influence future adaptive capacity, including their perceptions of risks related to floods. The analysis revealed how access to resources – including material, economic and human resources – has facilitated living with floods in these communities; although not everyone has been able to adapt in the same way. Past actions, along with public responses being undertaken in the area (i.e. flood control project and upstream structural modifications) appear to be reducing flood-risk perceptions and promoting a false sense of security among community members, irrespective of resource endowment group. For that reason, developing ways to increase awareness about future flood potential and making clear the need for complementary non-structural strategies is imperative. In short, the research findings emphasise that access to resources and cognitive factors are important determinants of adaptive capacity. Hence, both should be taken into account while developing practical strategies towards increasing adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to floods specifically, and to other natural hazards in general.

Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people’s lives: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico

López-Marrero, T. and B. Yarnal (2010). Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people's
lives: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico. Natural Hazards 52:
277-297.

Abstract: 
Recent developments in the vulnerability literature have contested the use of technical solutions as the sole adaptive strategies to reduce natural hazard impact; this literature emphasizes the need to attend to the wider everyday risks to which people are exposed and that aggravate hazard vulnerability. Using a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico, this article supports and enhances that literature by placing floods within a wider context of other risks and determining how everyday risks influence people’s perceptions of and capacity to adapt to floods. Participatory methods are used to elicit the everyday risks that concern community members. The analysis reveals that participants perceive floods as one of their risks, but they see them as neither the most important nor most severe risk in their lives. Instead, they find other concerns—health conditions, family well-being, economic factors, and land tenure—more pressing. These competing risks limit adaptive capacity and increase vulnerability to natural hazards. The results suggest that addressing these multiple risks, mainstreaming flood management and adaptation into the wider context of people’s general well being, and increasing risk perception will strengthen adaptive capacity to present and future floods.

Tropical cyclones and the flood hydrology of Puerto Rico

Smith, J. A., P. Sturdevant-Rees, M. L. Baeck, and M. C. Larsen (2005), Tropical cyclones and the flood hydrology of
Puerto Rico, Water Resour. Res., 41, W06020, doi:10.1029/2004WR003530.

Abstract: 
Some of the largest unit discharge flood peaks in the stream gaging records of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have occurred in Puerto Rico. Many of these flood peaks are associated with tropical cyclones. Hurricane Georges, which passed directly over the island on 21–22 September 1998, produced record flood peaks at numerous USGS stations in Puerto Rico. The hydrology and hydrometeorology of extreme flood response in Puerto Rico are examined through analyses of rainfall, based on Weather Surveillance Radar–1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) radar reflectivity observations and USGS rain gage observations and discharge from USGS stream gaging stations. Peak rainfall accumulations of more than 700 mm occurred in the central mountain region of the island. The largest unit discharge flood peaks, however, were located in the eastern portion of the island in areas with smaller storm total rainfall accumulations but markedly larger rainfall rates at 5–60 min timescale. Orographic precipitation mechanisms played an important role in rainfall distribution over the island of Puerto Rico. Amplification of rainfall accumulations was associated with areas of upslope motion. Elevated low-level cloud water content in regions of upslope motion played an important role in the maximum rainfall accumulations in the central mountain region of Puerto Rico. The largest unit discharge flood peaks, however, were produced by a decaying eye wall mesovortex, which resulted in a 30–45 min period of extreme rainfall rates over the eastern portion of the island. This storm element was responsible for the record flood peak of the Rı´o Grande de Lo´iza. The role of terrain in development and evolution of the eye wall mesovortex is unclear but is of fundamental importance for assessing extreme flood response from the storm. Hydrologic response is examined through analyses of rainfall and discharge from five pairs of drainage basins, extending from east to west over the island. These analyses point to the importance of short-term rainfall rates for extreme flood response. The hydrologic response of Puerto Rico is compared with two other extreme flood environments, the central Appalachians and Edwards Plateau of Texas. These analyses suggest that the high rainfall environment of Puerto Rico is linked to the development of a hydraulically efficient drainage system.

Linking habitat stability to floods and droughts: effects on shrimp in montane streams, Puerto Rico

COVICH, A. P., T. A. CROWL, AND F. N. SCATENA. 2000. Linking
habitat stability to floods and droughts: effects on
shrimp in montane streams, Puerto Rico. Verhandlungen
der Internationalen Vereinigung fu¨ r theorestische und
angewandte Limnologie 27:2430–2434.

Abstract: 
Most previous studies on Caribbean flood and drought frequency have examined hydrological (e.g. MORRIS & VAZQUEZ 1990, GARCIA et al. 1996) rather than ecological effects (COVICH et al. 1998). We analyzed temporal and spatial distributions of rainfall, stream flow, and mean maximum pool depth over an 8-year period (1990–1997) to evaluate effects of variable flows. We examined the response of a biotic variable (the coefficient of variation in shrimp densities) to changes in water depth (coefficient of variation of maximum pool depth) along an elevational gradient.

Linking habitat stability to floods and droughts: effects on shrimp in montane streams, Puerto Rico

Covich A.P., Crowl T.A. & Scatena F.N. (2000) Linking
habitat stability to floods and droughts: effects on
shrimp in montane streams, Puerto Rico. Verhandlungen
der Internationalen Vereinigung fu¨r Theoretische und
Angewandte Limnologie, 27, 2430–2434.

Abstract: 
Most previous studies on Caribbean flood and drought frequency have examined hydrological (e.g. MORRIS & VAZQUEZ 1990, GARCIA et al. 1996) rather than ecological effects (COVICH et al. 1998). We analyzed temporal and spatial distributions of rainfall, stream flow, and mean maximum pool depth over an 8-year period (1990–1997) to evaluate effects of variable flows. We examined the response of a biotic variable (the coefficient of variation in shrimp densities) to changes in water depth (coefficient of variation of maximum pool depth) along an elevational gradient.
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