Monday, September 25, 2023

Increasing ecosystem resilience in coastal Ecosystems based Adaptation in SIDS

Tropical coastal ecosystems provide a range of essential ecosystem services to over 500 million people worldwide. These services – including food, fuel, and protection – support many of the world’s poorest communities that rely on mangrove and reef-based fisheries.
Coastal ecosystems are, however, particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Sea level rise, storm surges and increases in sea surface temperatures pose a real and present threat to the everyday lives of coastal populations, and can negatively impact the quality of local habitats for marine life. Issues of coastal development, increased tourism and maritime transportation often place additional external pressures on these valuable natural assets, contributing to their degradation rather than protection.

At both the government policy and community practice level, there is a pressing need to ensure that SIDS are ready for climate change. In whichever way SIDS may choose to identify and address their national adaptation priorities, ensuring that coastal ecosystems function at full capacity will serve only to complement national and local adaptation actions. Building requisite knowledge and capacity to enable meaningful coastal ecosystem adaptation activities to be delivered, is vital for reducing vulnerability of SIDS communities.

UNEP are among the many institutions whose global project staff are working closely with SIDS governments and communities to advance this agenda and develop case studies that demonstrate the importance of coastal ecosystems towards increasing climate resilience. Thanks to funding provided by the European Commission, UNEP has been able to start implementing coastal ecosystems-based adaptation (EbA) projects in two SIDS (the Seychelles and Grenada). This project work will provide a better understanding about the current state of coastal ecosystems, the threats they are facing under a changing climate, and how respective governments and communities alike can act positively to maintain the future health of tropical coastal ecosystems.

To ensure the adaptation needs of SIDS are being met, it is necessary to bring about improvements in capacity at multiple levels and scales to allow for better adaptation planning and action when it is needed most. Capacity building support to SIDS should be targeted and based on need. Providing ongoing technical oversight and project management support to national project staff can help SIDS to improve national capacity to deliver on project implementation and get meaningful results. Capacity development should take place at the community level to bring about a proper understanding of coastal ecosystem services and formalise the role of local communities in actively owning local adaptation actions. Such local action could take the form of training at-risk communities on planting new mangroves, or setting up voluntary community stewardship of coral reefs to protect fish nurseries. These efforts must feed into and inform the development of national planning for coastal ecosystem-based adaptation. Capacity development at the national level can be tailored to improving coordination between various government institutions that often have overlapping responsibilities, which can easily hinder both the delivery and sustained management of coastal ecosystems-based adaptation actions.

Appropriately, the theme of the SIDS Conference is to enhance global and regional partnerships between UN organisations, NGOs, national governments, and local coastal communities. It will be important to articulate our learning from the coastal EbA project in the Seychelles and Grenada, and share this experience regionally to inform and contribute to inter- and intra-regional SIDS dialogues. If we can deepen our understanding of coastal ecosystem-based adaptation options, then collectively we can work towards addressing regional and global adaptation knowledge gaps. Certainly, supporting partnership building represents a keystone to success in overcoming adaptation challenges and starting to address the adaptation needs of SIDS. Building capacity for coastal ecosystem-based adaptation will play an important role in reducing the vulnerability of island communities and meeting their adaptation needs. This important subject matter should be a central tenet of the dialogue of all SIDS partnerships.


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About EbA

Healthy ecosystems deliver critical goods and services, such as providing food and fuel, or preventing floods and soil erosion. People depend on these goods and services for their wellbeing and livelihoods. However, because of climate change and other human impacts, many ecosystems have become degraded, with negative impacts on people’s lives. EBA involves the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.readmore

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