The Indo-Pacific small island states characteristically have relatively small land areas but large maritime zones that include biodiversity hotspots, fragile ecosystems and unique habitats affected by anthropogenic impacts and natural pressures. Whilst there are differences between these nations in terms of geography, history, and politico-legal systems, the majority are developing countries with limited technical and financial resources to implement laws for marine conservation and management. Despite these limitations all the small island states have laws for marine protected areas (MPAs) in one form or another. Because these countries also rely heavily on the coastal zone and marine resources in terms of subsistence and livelihoods for local communities, the extent to which the law accommodates civil society interests, and involvement in decision-making and management, is critical. Although some studies have explored law and policy relevant to MPAs in individual countries, rarely have countries across the Indo-Pacific region been compared. By doing so, different approaches and success stories can be shared, as well as legislative gaps and challenges addressed. This paper outlines the legal frameworks that provide for the establishment and management of MPAs in a selection of small island states across the Indo Pacific. The laws have been comparatively analysed to demonstrate the extent to which they provide for public participation and community-based management. The results are presented together with lessons learnt and recommendations made for future legal developments. The article, therefore, contributes to the growing body of literature on MPA governance, marine management in island States, and how to advance social sustainability.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) share a common vulnerability to climate change. Adaptation to climate change and variability is urgently needed yet, while some is already occurring in SIDS, research on the nature and efficacy of adaptation across SIDS is fragmentary. In this article, we systematically review academic literature to identify where adaptation in SIDS is documented; what type of adaptation strategies are taken, and in response to which climate change impacts; and the extent to which this adaptation has been judged as successful. Our analysis indicates that much adaptation research is concentrated on the Pacific, on independent island states, and on core areas within SIDS. Research documents a wide array of adaptation strategies across SIDS, notably structural or physical and behavioral changes. Yet, evaluation of concrete adaptation interventions is lacking; it thus remains unclear to what extent documented adaptation effectively and sustainably reduces SIDS’ vulnerability and increases their resilience.
The study of recent past trajectories of vulnerability to climate-related hazards allows for highlighting the prevailing environmental and anthropogenic drivers that operated over the last fifty to sixty years and given latency phenomena in social systems, therefore have the potential to continue driving a system’s vulnerability in the coming decades. Stop or even reverse these trends represents as much unavoidable solutions for enhancing concrete long-term adaptation to climate change, whatever the end-century warming scenario.
Using the case study of Reunion Island (Indian Ocean), we emphasize four major drivers of the recent coastal trajectory of vulnerability, i.e. changes in human-built assets, shoreline position, natural buffers’ characteristics, and the extent of coastal protection structures. Together, these drivers highlight the need for controlling the urbanisation process to reduce the anthropogenic pressures exerted on morphological-ecological systems, restoring the buffering function of the latter, and moving towards a less hard structure-dependent coastal defence strategy. Such a shift in coastal management however supposes some radical changes in the way coastal development strategies consider environmental issues (hazards, resources and services). Here we bring empirical material showing that neither Reunion Island decision-makers are keen to drive such radical changes, nor the population is ready to accept potentially constraining policies that will have benefits only in the future. We conclude on the need for further advancing the design of adaptation pathways that build on the implementation of context-specific unavoidable solutions, and thus that seriously consider limiting the risk of maladaptation as a baseline strategy.
For conservation science to effectively inform management, research must focus on creating the scientific knowledge required to solve conservation problems. We identified research questions that, if answered, would increase the effectiveness of conservation and natural resource management practice and policy in Oceania's small-island developing states. We asked conservation professionals from academia, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations across the region to propose such questions and then identify which were of high priority in an online survey. We compared the high-priority questions with research questions identified globally and for other regions. Of 270 questions proposed by respondents, 38 were considered high priority, including: What are the highest priority areas for conservation in the face of increasing resource demand and climate change? How should marine protected areas be networked to account for connectivity and climate change? What are the most effective fisheries management policies that contribute to sustainable coral reef fisheries? High-priority questions related to the particular challenges of undertaking conservation on small-island developing states and the need for a research agenda that is responsive to the sociocultural context of Oceania. Research priorities for Oceania relative to elsewhere were broadly similar but differed in specific issues relevant to particular conservation contexts. These differences emphasize the importance of involving local practitioners in the identification of research priorities. Priorities were reasonably well aligned among sectoral groups. Only a few questions were widely considered answered, which may indicate a smaller-than-expected knowledge-action gap. We believe these questions can be used to strengthen research collaborations between scientists and practitioners working to further conservation and natural resource management in this region.
Sea-level rise and climatic change threaten the existence of atoll nations. Inundation and erosion are expected to render islands uninhabitable over the next century, forcing human migration. Here we present analysis of shoreline change in all 101 islands in the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu. Using remotely sensed data, change is analysed over the past four decades, a period when local sea level has risen at twice the global average (~3.90 ± 0.4 mm.yr−1). Results highlight a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5 ha (2.9%), despite sea-level rise, and land area increase in eight of nine atolls. Island change has lacked uniformity with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. Results challenge perceptions of island loss, showing islands are dynamic features that will persist as sites for habitation over the next century, presenting alternate opportunities for adaptation that embrace the heterogeneity of island types and their dynamics.
This article contributes to a special issue examining SDG 14 and other international policy instruments for effective implementation of the Goal. This article focuses on island ocean states (IOS), or ‘small island developing states’ (SIDS), which are characterized by limited land and oceanic remoteness, creating local and international dependencies for food, livelihoods, trade and transport. While IOS contribute less than 1% to global green-house gases, they are directly impacted by extreme weather and climate change, in particular sea level rise. Near-shore marine ecosystems (mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs) provide critical coastal protection and other benefits (e.g. fisheries), yet continue to be degraded from coastal development. Given their importance, restoration is needed where ecosystem function has declined, in concert with conservation of healthy sites. The overall restoration goals for IOS are to: i) enhance ecological integrity, ii) inspire local capacity building, and iii) accelerate climate change adaptation. This article examines the scope for such restoration through the UN SDGs, the Biodiversity Convention, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Paris Agreement. Practical considerations of near-shore restoration are reviewed, emphasizing local and traditional knowledge regarding past and future perspectives. The article concludes with policy recommendations to integrate near-shore marine restoration across climate adaptation, conservation and planning processes to achieve synergies in effectiveness, essential to IOS settings. The UN SDGs provide a timely platform for IOS to align international processes with local needs to address their own goals in balancing population growth, economic development, food security and climate security.
Coastal communities in tropical environments are at increasing risk from both environmental degradation and climate change and require urgent local adaptation action. Evidences show coral reefs play a critical role in wave attenuation but relatively little direct connection has been drawn between these effects and impacts on shorelines. Reefs are rarely assessed for their coastal protection service and thus not managed for their infrastructure benefits, while widespread damage and degradation continues. This paper presents a systematic approach to assess the protective role of coral reefs and to examine solutions based on the reef's influence on wave propagation patterns. Portions of the shoreline of Grenville Bay, Grenada, have seen acute shoreline erosion and coastal flooding. This paper (i) analyzes the historical changes in the shoreline and the local marine, (ii) assess the role of coral reefs in shoreline positioning through a shoreline equilibrium model first applied to coral reef environments, and (iii) design and begin implementation of a reef-based solution to reduce erosion and flooding. Coastline changes in the bay over the past 6 decades are analyzed from bathymetry and benthic surveys, historical imagery, historical wave and sea level data and modeling of wave dynamics. The analysis shows that, at present, the healthy and well-developed coral reefs system in the southern bay keeps the shoreline in equilibrium and stable, whereas reef degradation in the northern bay is linked with severe coastal erosion. A comparison of wave energy modeling for past bathymetry indicates that degradation of the coral reefs better explains erosion than changes in climate and historical sea level rise. Using this knowledge on how reefs affect the hydrodynamics, a reef restoration solution is designed and studied to ameliorate the coastal erosion and flooding. A characteristic design provides a modular design that can meet specific engineering, ecological and implementation criteria. Four pilot units were implemented in 2015 and are currently being field-tested. This paper presents one of the few existing examples available to date of a reef restoration project designed and engineered to deliver risk reduction benefits. The case study shows how engineering and ecology can work together in community-based adaptation. Our findings are particularly important for Small Island States on the front lines of climate change, who have the most to gain from protecting and managing coral reefs as coastal infrastructure.
For Pacific Island communities, social change has always been a part of their socio-political lives, while environmental changes were always transient and reversible, so that they understood and engaged with their ocean as a provider for food, culture and life. However, recent unprecedented and irreversible changes brought on by global climate change challenge this norm and alter their lagoons and adjacent oceans into unfamiliar territories. Climate change already is affecting, and has been projected to continue to disproportionately impact, Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) through rising temperatures, sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion of freshwater resources, coastal erosion, an increase in extreme weather events, altered rainfall patterns, coral reef bleaching, and ocean acidification. While knowledge is building about potential impacts on ecosystems and some target stocks, there is little information available for communities, governments and regional institutions on how to respond to these changes and adapt. What are the consequences for marine conservation, fisheries management and coastal planning at local, national and regional scales? What strategies and policies can best support and enable responses to these challenges across different scales? What opportunities exist to finance necessary climate change adaptation and mitigation measures? To consider these urgent issues, this paper synthesises innovative research methods, and studies many of the looming scientific, policy and governance challenges from a diversity of perspectives and disciplines.
Data scarcity in small-scale fisheries hinders the effective management of marine resources. This is particularly true within small island developing states that often have limited capacity for monitoring activities that could inform policy decisions. This study estimates the spatial distribution of fishing activity in the data-poor nearshore reef fisheries of Barbados using low cost interview surveys of fishers combined with a geospatial platform. With data from over 150 fishers in the island's major reef fisheries, the estimated total annual yield ranged from 272.6 to 409.0 mt, with seine fishing accounting for 65% of landings. This estimate is substantially higher than the recorded landings in official databases. Fishing activity is concentrated on the sheltered and heavily populated West Coast of the island. Reef fishing effort decreases markedly during the months associated with the offshore pelagic fishery season, as many fishers switch fisheries during this time and rough sea conditions restrict access to the nearshore windward reefs. The high levels of fishing intensity and low yields per unit of reef area appear to validate anecdotal evidence that the nearshore reefs of Barbados are heavily overexploited. The qualitative nature of interview data and other data gaps hinder the precise estimation of fishing effort and yield, where relative values are likely to be more accurate than absolute values. Nonetheless, the spatially and temporally explicit data generated here demonstrates how simple cost-effective methods can be used to fill important information gaps for marine resource management and spatial planning.
The Canary Islands, as many islands and coastal regions, are characterized by no conventional energy sources (but renewable resources, mainly wind and solar), by a high population density and land scarcity. Taking into account this context, it is crucial to determine the offshore wind energy potential as a first step for the energy planning. For this purpose, a methodology adapted to islands’ and coastal regions’ requirements has been developed. The methodology is based on GIS (Geographical Information Systems), and takes into account technical, economic and spatial constrains. Wind turbines (bottom-fixed or floating according to the bathymetry) are placed within the resulting suitable areas, quantifying also the energy production and its cost. The economic analysis includes the calculation of the LCOE (Levelized Cost Of Energy), including integration costs, and the resulting resource cost curves. The methodology has been applied to a practical case, the Canary Islands. Results show that the electricity produced by offshore wind farms exceeds the yearly electricity demand. Moreover, the offshore wind energy cost is lower than the current electricity cost. The analysis provides further useful indicators such as percentage of suitable areas, surface covered by wind turbines, array density of turbines and marginal offshore wind energy cost.