During Earth Week, we’re exploring the connections between climate change and the environment we depend on to sustain us.
Stretching across almost 6 million square kilometers of ocean and coastal waters in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, the Coral Triangle is considered the global epicenter of marine biodiversity. It is nearly half the size of the United States and home to over 500 species of reef-building corals and 3,000 species of fish and threatened marine species such as sea turtles. It is also home to some 363 million people, a third of whom depend directly on coastal and marine resources for their livelihoods.
These rich natural resources support livelihoods in the six countries of the Coral Triangle area—Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. Yet they are increasingly under threat. Scientists warn that, by the year 2030, virtually all coral reefs in the Coral Triangle Region will be threatened by a combination of ocean warming and acidification as well as human activities. More than 80 percent of reefs will face high, very high, or critical threat levels, according to the Reefs at Risk Revisited report (PDF), by the World Resources Institute.
To grapple with this challenge, the six countries of the Coral Triangle area formed the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI). They committed to work together to stem the decline of the region’s marine resources and increase the social and economic resilience of coastal communities to climate change. With USAID support, they adopted the CTI Region-wide Early Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation for Near-shore Marine and Coastal Environment and Small Island Ecosystems in 2011. Under this action plan, the six countries are developing tools for communities on the front lines.
Among these tools is the Local Early Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit, a comprehensive set of cutting-edge scientific and social instruments that local governments and communities can use to conduct climate outreach to their constituents. It can be used to develop qualitative climate change vulnerability assessments and site-specific adaptation plans.
The toolkit provides critical information in a practical format. And it is catching on. By the end of 2012, at least 137 participants from six communities and government and academic institutions in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines were replicating the Coral Triangle Initiative trainings and developing their own vulnerability assessments and climate change adaptation plans.
Many come from areas that are key marine biodiversity sites like Kimbe Bay, Milne Bay and Manus in Papua New Guinea and similar spots in the Western and Choiseul Provinces of Solomon Islands.
In Manus, Jenny Songan has started a Women in Conservation group to cultivate and plant mangrove seedlings and take other steps to mitigate against climate change. Residents of Ndilou Island in Manus have built seawalls and planted mangroves to reclaim beaches lost to erosion caused by climate change.
In the meantime, the governments of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (PDF), recognizing the critical need for these tools, agreed to create a national network of training teams to roll out the training—a critical need.
Local government officials believe the practical training is key to helping build resilient ecosystems and communities across the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity. “We have learned valuable tools and lessons which I know will further our work in country,” said Agnetha Vave-Karamui, Chief Conservation Officer for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology. “We look forward to putting into use what we have learned.”
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