J. Brian Bird


Beach changes and recreation planning on the west coast of Barbados, West Indies

J. Brian Bird

Geographia Polonica (1977) vol. 36, pp. 31-42 | Full text

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White, coral sand beaches, interrupted occasionally by low limestone cliffs form the west coast of Barbados for 20 km between Harrison Point in the north and Fresh Water Bay near Bridgetown. Clear, usually calm seas wash the coral reefs that fringe the coast and sunshine exceeds 3000 hours in the year. It is hardly surprising that tourists from northern countries have increased ten fold in the past seventeen years to more than a quarter million persons annually. Although today they produce an income for the island comparable with that from sugar, the traditional economic leader, they have brought with them inevitably various environmental, economic and social problems. Not least of these is the danger that continuing pressure from hotel construction and from the new and large, if albeit transitory, population along the coasts will be fol-lowed by degradation of the inherently high quality coastal environment that attracted visitors in the first place.

Damage to the littoral physical environment may include pollution of the beach and adjacent terrace areas, pollution of inshore waters with destruction of the reefs, and alteration of the beach morphology and associated sediments. This third aspect forms the core of the present study. The environmental system of the shore zone is dynamically complex due to the interaction of physical vari-ables of both marine (waves, longshore currents) and terrestrial (fluvial, ground-waters, etc.) origins, biological variables (coral, beach vegetation), and man's activities since settlement commenced in the early seventeenth century. The basic environmental question facing recreational planners on the west coast of Barbados is whether a steady state exists between the interdependent variables, and over what duration of time this has been achieved; and particularly wheth-er changes in specific variables generate further changes, normally perceived as being degradatory, or do feedback relationships exist so that the system is selfregulatory at least until a specific threshold of disruption is reached.

J. Brian Bird, Professor, Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Canada