The archipelago of Puerto Rico experiences many of the typical problems faced by island states: an open and relatively small economy, a rugged landscape with a concentration of the population and activities in the coastal zone, fragmentation and loss of high quality land, pressure on the coastal wetlands, deforestation, flooding, pollution, scarcity of drinking water, etc. With a population just below four million living on an area less than 10,000 km2, it is also a densely populated island.
The anticipation and in-depth analysis of the impacts of large-scale climatic, economic and demographic phenomena, requires a careful planning process. This can be supported by analytical tools that represent the fundamental physical, economic, social and environmental processes that shape the country.
Xplorah is an integrated spatial decision support system (SDSS) that is tailor made for Puerto Rico. It supports impact analysis, but it also serves as a communication tool to stimulate the creativity of policy makers and to promote discussion on planning issues. For the implementation of Xplorah in the Puerto Rico Planning Board, RIKS and the Graduate School of Planning jointly organized a series of workshops, in which Puerto Rican planners from several departments were taught how to use the system and how it could fit in their workflow. In total about 40 planners, technicians and managers participated in over 10 workshops to learn how the system can help them in their everyday work.
The SDSS has been developed with Geonamica and contains models that simulate processes such as climate change, demography, land use changes, transport and macro economic developments. These models are all integrated to represent the complexity of the real world. With this system Puerto Rican planners can analyze the effects of, for example, new infrastructure elements, zoning regulations, migration and economic changes on a range of indicators. These indicators include potential biodiversity, risk of flood damage, employment, age structure and congestion.
RIKS is especially proud of the development of a multi-scale land use model that allows one to simulate a municipality at a finer scale than the rest of the island. Also, a zoning tool has been developed that directly relates to the way spatial planning is conducted by the Puerto Rico Planning Board. The use of the SDSS is supported by an auditing tool for model parameters – to prevent any misuse – and a repository for easy dissemination and updating of model data.