ISLANDS IN THE STREAM
IN RECENT YEARS,
it has become increasingly clear that small island communities and nations are amongst the first global communities to be affected by the current changing climate. Small coastal communities across the Indo-Pacific have, for generations, relied heavily upon natural resources and the traditional management of those resources as a successful means of survival on their island homes.
This, however, is changing. For coastal communities in the Indo-Pacific, marine resource management is becoming an ever more critical task, with climatic changes such as ocean acidification and rising sea surface temperatures as well as anthropogenic effects such as overfishing and nutrient loading. The future is uncertain for both marine ecosystems and the local human communities they support.
IMPROVING THE CHANCES
In regards to coral reef ecosystems and their associated biomes such as mangrove forests and seagrass beds, one component has been identified by researchers that greatly improves survival chances in the face of climate change – resilience.
Research over the last decade has proven that areas with so-called “high resilience” have a much higher chance of recovery after bleaching events and other climatic stressors such as those mentioned above. To use a real-world example, in 1998 a large and incredibly severe bleaching event affected reef systems across the Indian Ocean. Locations like the Maldives and the Seychelles lost more than 90 percent of live coral cover, a huge percentage.
However, from research conducted in the Seychelles from 1994 onwards at 21 coral reef sites, it was seen that 12 recovered close to pre-disturbance live coral states, an encouraging statistic (Graham N.A.J. et al. 2015). These 12 reefs all had one thing in common – a high level of resilience. Nine of these sites, however, went through what is known as a regime shift to an algal dominated system rather than coral, leading to a substantial decrease in biomass and diversity – the resilience of these systems was low.
Small island nations like Fiji are some of the first to suffer the accelerating impacts of climate change, but communities are now combining modern, data-driven conservation with traditional resource management to build resilient reefs
Coastal communities in the Pacific rely heavily on the oceans' natural resources