Mangrove Planting for Climate Change

mangrove

 

Mangrove as a tool in addressing climate change gained prominence after the East Asia Tsunami in 2004. The tsunami generated in the Indian Ocean, ravaged coastal communities facing the Indian Ocean taking many lives and damaging infrastructure worth a lot of money.

Anecdotal evidence show that villages situated behind mangroves stands, sustain less damage when compared to those communities without mangrove barriers.

In the absence of technological intervention, Climate Change Experts identify mangroves as the first protection for coastal villages facing coastal flooding and extreme high tide.  Mangrove projects can be easily implemented by communities. Mangrove planting and rehabilitation costs less than other technological interventions and has been shown to be effective in saving lives and property.

What makes mangroves special?

Like any other tree species, the mangroves take 10-15 years to mature before they can provide the desired effect. Mature stands of mangrove act like a porous fence that slows down wave energy by reducing the velocity of the waves into and out of communities resulting in less damage infrastructure and livelihood.

 

Mangrove planting or mangrove forest rehabilitation must be approached as a long term strategy with the goal of ensuing planted and or rehabilitated mangrove stands become mature stands in the future.

Current practice involves planting of plant mangrove seedling in areas already under threat from the rising sea level. Numerous mangrove replanting exercise have never attained the envisaged success – this is despite the common  knowledge that young mangroves at waterfront are vulnerable to wave action and are easily uprooted and killed by the sun and the salt.

Ideally a mangrove replanting exercise should duplicate a vegetation succession as happens in nature.

Vegetation succession at a beach normally starts from the forest edge and gradually grows seaward.

Firstly, pioneer species like vines and grasses grow first to help build a soil environment suited for succession to take place. Then the trees, starting with the terrestrial species at the forest edge. Once this has established then the back mangrove species is the next to germinate, followed by the middle mangrove species then finally, the front line mangrove species facing the foreshore.

Re-vegetation through succession enables the plants to gradually adapt to a salty growing substrate and increases their chances of survival.

The process of natural succession takes years, the same will apply to a successful mangrove planting project.

The communities that survived the East Asia Tsunami in 2004, did not plant their mangrove stands the year prior to the tsunami. The mangrove stands have existed and protected, probably not intentionally, but importantly , the mangrove stands provided the needed protection.

While waiting for the mangrove forest to grow , the most cost effective climate change activity is educating people about the impending crises and the options available for adapting to the change.  Local people do have solutions for their challenges. They must be involved in the quest for a solution.

For the donors who fund mangrove projects, they  must realize that the impact of mangrove planting can only be realized in the future. Therefore they must  look for other targets to measure how their funds in the short term  is successfully addressing the climate change challenge.

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BOOK REVIEW: Adapting to a Changing Environment: Confronting the Consequences of Climate Change

Book coverBook Title: Adapting to a Changing Environment: Confronting the Consequences of Climate Change (2011) by  Tim R. McClannahan, Senior Conservation Zoologist with the Wildlife conservation Society and Joshua E. Cinner, Senior Research Fellow at the James Cook University.

The book is focused on the Western Indian Ocean Communities. These communities depend on fisheries and coral harvesting to sustain a livelihood. Some communities have over-harvested their coral reefs.  Climate change is causing waters in this part of the world to heat up affecting the source of their livelihood. This book analyses the state of their environment and the adaptive capacity of the people to withstand the impacts of climate change.

The book contains eleven (11) chapters. The first six chapters contain excellent background on impacts of climate change. Chapter 7 and 8 contain instruction on how to build an adaptive capacity model. Chapter 9 and 10 describes the social and ecological adaptation. Chapter 11 – talks about the future and how to confront the consequences of climate change.

This book is recommended for practitioners interested in helping communities adapt to the changing climate.

Chapters of Interest

The chapters of interest are chapter 7-10.

To identify the adaptive capacity of communities to climate change the authors measured the environmental and social attributes that predisposes communities to impacts of climate change.

Adaptive capacity is the flexibility with which communities can cope with changes. Adaptive capacity  of the people in the West Coast of Africa was measured by measuring the communities (i) flexibility to switch between livelihood strategies (ii) Social organization (iii) Learning – recognizing change and taking advantage of the change or adapting  (iv) Assets – the resources to draw on in times of change.

Data collection for this exercise involved extensive surveys. What is missing in the book is the survey to collect adaptive capacity data and the kind of information that was collected.   Environmental health was measured by surveying the health of the coral reef.

Data analysis was done using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP).  AHP is one of the multiple criteria decision-making methods. AHP provides measures of judgment consistency by deriving priorities among criteria and alternatives and then simplifies preference ratings among decision criteria using pairwise comparisons.

The analyzed data was then mapped into a 4 quadrat planning graph. Depending on where the communities fell in the quadrat given their environmental health versus the adaptive capacity, the planners can then develop locally appropriate strategies to address the challenge of climate change.

graphThe heart of the book is this graph which identifies and explains what action communities should take to help them adjust to climate change depending on which quadrat the community falls in.

For instance, when both Adaptive Capacity and Environmental health of a community is high, the intervention is in quadrat C. The activities of the community must be toward transforming and managing the health of their environment, while the ability of the people to look after themselves must be preserved and enforced.

On the other hand, when both environment health and adaptive capacity is low, the prescribed intervention is in quadrat A. The environment needs relief immediately which means that it must be left alone to recover, while the adaptive capacity of the people must be built.

The more adaptive the community , the more flexibility they have to adjust to changes in the environment.

In the last chapter, the authors discuss the merits of the method. They encourage nested efforts in addressing adaptive capacity issues in communities. At the very top of the nested effort is the international community, followed by the government, then the sub-national government and at the core is the local scale where the project is happening.  This is to ensure accountability when it comes to implementation.

The authors however caution that adaptation measures can potentially create unintended and unforeseen consequences on other social and natural systems creating uncertainty about the outcomes of AC. In an attempt to build adaptive capacity, social equity must also be taken into consideration. Excluded communities can undermine efforts to build adaptive capacity in chosen communities.

This model is a one-off tool. Ideally this exercise must be repeated within 4/5 years to measure the changes that have taken place.   It is costly to run this exercise in the field because it requires stringent data collection. The data collected must be in a format that can be analyzed by the AHP.

Application to Papua New Guinea

The adaptive capacity model is a helpful planning tool because it identifies environmental health and human capacity as the two factors that can be used to measure community capability to respond to impacts of climate change.

The model identifies the ideal situation then analyses the current situation, then detects the deficiency in the system. Once that is done, it becomes easier to identify interventions.  The interventions can then be turned into project activities.

The challenge of using this model is proponents will need to work out a method for data collection, and then identify the kind of information that must be collected.

Logically this is a project that must be undertaken by the government through its designated authority dealing with Climate Change.

It may work at District level and above for several reasons.  First, districts are a planning unit in the PNG system and therefore, planning for adaptive capacity can happen at that level. Second, districts have a budget and this may be the way to get the commitment by the governments to systematically address the interventions identified.  Third, the provincial government and the National Government are the levels of government that can ensure that such plans are implemented. This fits in with the nested level of implementation. Such projects require investment of money and infrastructure – all of which are the responsibility of all the levels of government.

The danger however, is this exercise may become just one more planning exercise. If there is no follow-through, this may become a waste of time and resources for both the planners and the people. The local people may become disillusioned because they would have identified the interventions, but lack the tools and the capacity to implement those activities.

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