From storms to plowshares: A multi-scale spatial risk analysis of Hurricane Maria’s impacts on Puerto Rico’s agro-food system
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused catastrophic damage to many aspects of life and landscape in Puerto Rico. A year after the hurricane made landfall the island continues its struggle toward recovery, yet in the future extreme events like Hurricane Maria are projected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change. Because agro-food systems are integral to meeting the basic needs of populations, identifying the socio-ecological communities at greatest risk of disruption is especially critical in the wake of disaster. This analysis requires interdisciplinary synthesis of the interactions between socioeconomic, landscape and ecological factors. Perhaps because of this complexity, however, it remains understudied. Our interdisciplinary team of researchers will synthesize available social and environmental data from Puerto Rico to address this critical knowledge gap with the twin goals of contributing to existing science by assessing these complex interactions and creating useful tools for decision-makers and other stakeholders in Puerto Rico. In the first phase of our project we will use pre- and post-Maria data to map hurricane impacts on components of the agro-food system across the island. We will then compare the spatial distribution of impacts with an extensive suite of potentially explanatory socio-environmental indicators. In the second phase we will focus in on priority areas—hotspots that experienced the greatest impact—in order to ascertain the socio-environmental indicators of greatest local importance. While we expect immediate relevance of our analyses in Puerto Rico, we also expect our integrative methods to be applicable in other places.