Tobia de Scisciolo

PhD project title: Exploring the interconnections between Tourism, Marine Protected Areas, and Coral Reef Health: A Socio-Ecological Approach for the Dutch Caribbean

Supervisory team: Erik Mijts (UA), Lisa Becking (WUR), Ingrid van de Leemput (WUR), Andries Richter (WUR)

PhD project description: The decline of coral reefs worldwide, particularly evident in the Caribbean, has been attributed to both local stressors, such as pollution, coastal development, and overfishing and global stressors, including rising sea temperatures. Concurrently, the region has experienced rapid growth in tourism, which has become a vital economic driver for many Caribbean islands. While tourism and coastal development can contribute to diversifying coastal economies and even support marine protected areas (MPAs), they can also exacerbate local stressors and hinder economic resilience. With my PhD within the INREEF project, by recognizing the interdependencies between the social system of tourism, MPAs, and the ecological system of coral reefs, I aim to adopt a socio-ecological approach to explore their interactions. This project seeks to assess the role of tourism in MPAs, understand the trajectories and lock-in processes influenced by tourism, and identify possible intervention points to prevent destabilizing feedbacks and protect the socio-ecological systems around coral reefs.