Gema Rodriguez, Climate Change Adaptation & Biodiversity Program Officer, WWF Spain
© Juan Carlos DEL OLMO / WWF-Spain
I have worked for WWF Spain for over 3 years. In that time I have seen the organization achieve numerous successes despite great challenges. However, we have quickly come to realize that our work is facing a new threat, one that requires us to rethink the way we approach conservation. We work mainly in the Mediterranean Region, an area greatly affected by climate change. While some of the impacts can already be seen in the places we work and on the programs we run,(especially those related with water scarcity) we know there is more coming.
In this context, we started working on climate change adaptation with the ultimate goal of mainstreaming it not only into our field projects, but also into our lobbying and advocacy activities. Starting to think in terms of climate change prompted a few questions: How must we strengthen or conservation and ecosystem management approaches to ensure we are successful in achieving our goals today and into a rapidly changing future? How can we prepare for increasing conflicts related to water scarcity? How can we know to what extent the species we protect will be affected by climate change?
Bruce Byers, Bruce Byers Consulting
Cruising through mangrove-lined channel opposite Angoche © Bruce Byers
After wading across the low tide mudflats at the Port of Angoche, and into knee-deep water to climb into the fiberglass boat, the big Yamaha outboard wouldn’t start. While we bobbed lazily in the hot sun and I fretted about how nothing in Africa ever goes as planned, the boat skipper removed the rusty sparkplugs and cleaned them in the bailing bucket with a little boat gas and an old toothbrush. Ten minutes later we were bouncing through the swell, heading seaward toward the mouth of the Angoche estuary, flying past the flocks of canoes and dhows sailing these waters. Nothing ever goes as planned, but everything works out in the end.
Cremildo Armando, the marine coordinator of the CARE-WWF Primeiras and Segundas Program, was our guide this afternoon, and we were going to Ilha dos Búzios, an island where Cyclone Jokwe, in March 2008, had destroyed a hundred houses in a small coastal village. We didn’t go ashore, but passed slowly up and down the mangroveless beach in front of the former village. This was Lesson #1 of the importance of maintaining the fringe of mangroves that surround and protect all of the shoreline here around Angoche, and the whole coast of Mozambique: “Ten-Thousand Mangroves Could Save A Village!”
Eilif Ursin Reed, Center for International Climate and Environmental Research
Fisherman cleaning a catch. © Meg Gawler / WWF-Cannon
Imported food is changing people’s dietary habits and introducing lifestyle diseases in many of the world’s tropical island states. One reason is that the transition to a modern economy has made food self-sufficiency both unprofitable and unnecessary. At the same time, this aspect of globalization has reduced hunger and may become a necessary part of climate change adaptation.
“Traditionally, fishermen in Belize combined fishing and farming, and were largely self-sufficient. Today, farming brings in too little [money] to be worthwhile, while fish exports and tourism provide revenue for society,” explains Marianne Karlsson of CICERO (the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo).
Karlsson and Elizabeth McLean (of the University of Rhode Island) interviewed fishermen in Belize and the Dominican Republic about how they are experiencing climate change and vulnerability as part of the Many Strong Voices programme (MSV). Actually more of a constellation of researchers and organizations, the programme aims to communicate the complexities of climate change, and to gather information that makes islanders capable of making knowledge-based decisions.
Rhys Gerholdt, WWF-US
WWF marine biologist Marianne Fish attaches coral fragments at a nursery site. © Rhys Gerholdt
Coral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing a home and nursery for 25% of the world’s marine life. For many coastal areas, healthy coral reefs provide an important barrier against destructive storms. In Belize, they are essential to the local economy, which depends on fishing and tourism.
However, roughly one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirds facing serious threats from overfishing, careless tourism, agricultural runoff, sewage pollution and rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change.
The warmer waters can force algae that lives in coral to abandon their host, depriving coral of its food and its vibrant colors. The coral turns ghostly pale—what we call “coral bleaching”—and is left vulnerable to starvation.
If the current rate of warming continues, coral reefs may be pushed past their capacity to recover.
But there is hope. About 12 miles off the coast of southern Belize, scientists are experimenting with growing and planting coral that are naturally tolerant of warmer temperatures.
Eugenio Barrios & Sergio Salinas, WWF-Mexico
Bart Wickel, WWF-US
Climatic change and variability are presenting serious challenges to a country that already is experiencing serious strain on its water resources. © Edward Parker / WWF-Canon
Freshwater ecosystems occupy approximately 1% of the earth’s surface yet possess about 12% of all known animal species. By virtue of their position in the landscape they connect terrestrial and coastal marine biomes and provide and sustain ecosystem services vital to the health and persistence of human communities. These services include the supply of clean water for food production (including freshwater fisheries, aquaculture and agriculture), urban and industrial consumption, among others. Over the past century many freshwater ecosystems around the world have been heavily modified or lost due to the alteration of flow regimes (e.g. due to damming, canalization, diversion, over-abstraction). The synergistic impacts of land use change, changes in flows, chemical deterioration, and climate change have left many systems and their species very little room to adjust to change, while future projections indicate a steady increase in water demand for food and energy production and water supply to suit the needs of a growing world population.
Andrew Zubiri, Climate-Eval Moderator, Global Environmental Facility
Materials for the game Upstream/Downstream
As London prepared for the Olympics a few weeks ago, a different type of games were held in the Washington DC office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Shaun Martin and colleagues from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, Carina Bachofen and Erin Coughlan, organized the ‘Adaptation Games’ aimed to educate people about climate change and its impacts. Seventy-something individuals from various environment, development and humanitarian organizations gathered to learn about climate-environment-human interaction complexities.
Games present a simplified view of reality while integrating fun and learning at the same time. The Adaptation Games wasno place for convoluted panel discussions and PowerPoint presentations.
Susan Evans, WWF Canada
© Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada
As a Canadian working in the field of climate change adaptation, it should come as no surprise that my first foray into applying my knowledge on the ground was in the Arctic, where change is happening faster than anywhere else on the planet!
In 2009, I found myself in a remote part of Sweden discussing options for arctic conservation with an elite group of researchers from around the world. After a few days, I was soon confronted with the radical new thinking we (conservationists, land-use managers, decisions makers) would need to embrace to be successful in conserving arctic ecosystems under conditions of rapid change.
It was clear that our current approach to conservation was falling short, as evidenced by the continued decline in ecosystem services and the increased number of species on IUCN’s red list. This prompted a group of us working on WWF’s Global Arctic Programme to ask 1) how can we maintain functioning ecosystems that provide for people and nature in the face of climate change, and 2) how must we strengthen our conservation and ecosystem management approaches to ensure we’re successful in achieving our goals today and into a rapidly changing future?
This set in motion the development of an ambitious new project called RACER, Rapid Assessment of Circum-Arctic Ecosystem Resilience. After 3 years of technical analyses and countless expert discussions on how to apply resilience thinking to conservation, a new tool for identifying and mapping places of conservation importance across the Arctic was produced.