As the tourism industry drastically expanded on St. John, US Virgin Islands, developers constructed hundreds of unpaved dirt roads to facilitate the fast-paced population growth on the island. During rain storms, the unpaved roads created runoff from the mountainous terrain of St. John, and sedimentation smothered the coral reefs surrounding the island. Due to the geography of the island, coral reef characteristics, and dirt road network, the biggest threats to coral reefs around the island was considered sedimentation from unpaved roads. Sedimentation drastically threatens the ability for reefs to survive. This study uses existing research on the sedimentation from unpaved roads on St. John to apply to the interaction between other island infrastructure systems and coral reefs around the world. For decades, individuals and organizations conducted studies in St. John on the amounts of sedimentation reaching coral reefs from unpaved road segments, and discovered what road variables contribute to highest sedimentation rates. The local St. John community and larger conservation organizations now use the research findings to develop different strategies and techniques to minimize sedimentation rates from unpaved roads. Interestingly, there remains minimal research on sedimentation from unpaved roads and runoff into the ocean besides the existing exploration on St. John. The process of conducting similar studies in new locations requires large amounts of time, money, and effort. However, a faster and less costly approach would be to use the research and findings on St. John and apply this knowledge to help other coral reef communities minimize sedimentation. However, these alternate reef communities must show consistent similarities to St. John in their geography, road structures, and coral reef systems. Without constant parallels, sedimentation from unpaved roads in other regions may not be a major threat to their coral reefs, and the mitigation techniques used in St. John may prove unsuccessful. In this paper, I want to evaluate the coral reefs, geography, and road system on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand, and determine if the findings and mitigation strategies used in St. John can be applied to the island. If many similarities exist between the development, terrain, coral reef dynamics, soils, and weather patterns of St. John and Koh Tao, the same strategies could be used on Koh Tao to help minimize the negative effects of unpaved roads. The research can help Koh Tao and other similar islands find the best management practices to reduce sedimentation from unpaved roads and save their coral reef ecosystems.
Paper prepared for the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar/Geography Capstone.
Vassallo, Dillon. "The effects of sedimentation from unpaved roads on coral reefs: An analysis of St. John, USVI and Koh Tao, Thailand." Paper for Environmental Studies Senior Seminar/Geography Capstone, University of Richmond, April 2012.