According to a study published in Frontiers, Pacific Islands are always described as vulnerable to climate change, and they lack adaptation strategies to cope with it.
However, this description overlooks what Pacific Islanders are doing to adapt through their traditional practices combining it with scientific knowledge to help implement locally relevant climate solutions.
This lack of appreciation for Pacific Islander’s leadership in climate change adaptation is made worse by the biases in climate research favouring Western science and technological solutions over other knowledge systems, the study says.
The study highlights the importance of supporting and recognising these local adaptation strategies that Pacific Islanders led apart from global climate policy and national governments.
These locally-led, ecosystem-based adaptations (EBA) are rooted in traditional knowledge, reinforced and supported by climate science, traditional leadership structures, and sustainable climate solutions, which can improve the communities resilience and ecosystems health, according to the study.
The paper presents local ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) examples that reinforce the critical role of ecosystems in climate adaptation that primarily benefits food security, water security, and coastal protection.
These EBA strategies are also projects implemented through the support of governments and NGOs across Micronesia and Melanesia from 2015 to 2018, which includes the following:
Revitalising traditional wells
Freshwater security in coastal areas is affected by a combination of factors such as coastal flooding, high tide events, drought, and saltwater intrusion, and pollution. To improve water quality and reduce environmental impacts and pollution, residents have rehabilitated traditional water wells by cleaning them and planting vegetation to protect them from sedimentation and contamination.
These actions also support national water policies on good watershed management for sustainable use and conservation of water resources.
Implementing Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA)
An integrated approach to managing cropland, livestock, forests, and fisheries designed to support food security under climate change. CSA includes applying agroforestry, experimenting with salt and drought-tolerant crops.
Though the support from the government and NGOs, coastal communities who rely heavily on fishing are encouraged to plant household gardens, introducing new farming practices, and low-cost aquaculture projects designed to improve their food security
Implementation of Protected Areas
The Municipality of Tamil in Micronesia suffers from flooding, erosion, and salter water intrusion affecting their crop production. The municipality also has poor water management and lacks alternative water sources, which has increased their reliance on the watershed. The municipality’s coastal ecosystems health and the fish population is also on the decline.
Problems in water security have led the community to declare their first Watershed Protected Area in 2017 to protect 320 acres of watersheds aimed to improve water security and coastal ecosystem health.
In the island of Chuuk of Oneisomw, the community implemented a marine protection area and enforced a seasonal and longer closure of reef areas.
These climate actions are based on scientific knowledge to protect their coral reefs against dynamite fishing, overfishing, and other damaging activities and ensure that future generations can still access coral reef resources.
The community is also developing a plan to design ridge-to-reef protected areas to prevent pollution runoff and maintain water quality.
These strategies show that western and traditional approaches can be complementary and mutually beneficial to meet conservation, resilience, and sustainability goals.
Climate-Smart Development Plans include updating current infrastructure, designated upland lease development for migrating vulnerable community members and infrastructure away from the coast, and recommendations to make future development less vulnerable to climate impacts.
Challenges to implementing strategies
The study identified challenges to implementing these strategies such as the remoteness of the islands, lack of capacity to implement and sustain projects, lack of governance and the way that impact is measured, which highlights the need for and importance of supportive national policies and political will to reinforce and scale up these efforts.
To read the entire study, click the link below:
Mcleod E, Bruton-Adams M, Förster J, Franco C, Gaines G, Gorong B, James R, Posing-Kulwaum G, Tara M and Terk E (2019) Lessons From the Pacific Islands – Adapting to Climate Change by Supporting Social and Ecological Resilience. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:289. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00289
Micronesia by User: Kahuroa – Outline: File:World2Hires filled mercator.svg; Map information based on Vaka Moana: Voyages of the Ancestors – the discovery and settlement of the Pacific, ed K.R. Howe, 2008, p57., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61904861
Romanum Island, Chuuk, Micronesia by Euniceminjeong – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48907873