Coastal Resilience Team Announced as Finalist in Global Resilience Challenge


The Nature Conservancy Coastal Resilience Team Announced as Finalist in Global Resilience Challenge

Contributed by Amanda Wrona Meadows, TNC

Some of the greatest risks to people throughout Southeast Asia come from coastal storms, flooding and sea-level rise. Yet some of the very habitats that protect coastal communities from increasing risks of these natural hazards, mangroves and coral reefs in particular are being destroyed.

Globally, large areas of mangroves are being lost through coastal development and expanding aqua- and agriculture, with some degraded by over-harvesting. It has been estimated that up to 67% of the historical global mangrove forests have already been lost and nearly all unprotected mangroves could be lost in the next 100 years.

Nature Conservancy lead scientist Dr. Mike Beck is well aware of the issues but focused on the solution. “Mangrove forests and coral reefs provide a first line of defense as well as providing many other benefits that support community resilience,” explained Beck. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent replacing these natural defenses with costly artificial structures such as dikes, seawalls and breakwaters, which further degrade habitats and don’t provide additional ecosystem services that natural habitats provide”.

Millions of coastal dwellers obtain both their food and livelihoods from the productive waters of the mangrove forest, where fish, shrimp, and mollusks live in great abundance. Mangrove wood is also used for timber and charcoal. Reefs act as fish factories year round, generating critical sources of food for many coastal populations as well as smaller volumes of high-value commercial fish. In many countries coral reefs are also key tourist destinations, used particularly for diving, snorkeling, and recreational fishing.

(ALL INTERNAL RIGHTS, but LIMITED EXTERNAL USE) Red Mangrove displaying impressive arching root system. Shot in Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Bahamas. The Nature Conservancy works closely with partners such as the Bahamas National Trust and the government of the Bahamas to protect the marine habitat of the Exuma Cays and achieve the goal for the long term protection of national parks through the Caribbean Challenge. PHOTO CREDIT: © Jeff Yonover

Red Mangrove displaying impressive arching root system. Photo Credit : Jeff Yonover

Beck notes that the physical complexity of habitat is important. “The mangrove forest, including low branches and aerial roots, also forms a critical barrier against storm surges and erosion, greatly reducing wave heights while capturing and holding sediments that become new soil,” he says. “We also know that coral reefs can be the first line in defense against incoming storms, reducing the power of incoming waves by 97%, even during hurricane-force winds. Most (86%) of this wave energy reduction happens at the reef crest, a thin narrow band at the highest point of the reef where waves break first.”

The Nature Conservancy has teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Deltares, United Nations University, Zoological Society of London- Philippines, Indonesia Institute of Sciences, Wetlands International, FERAL-India, to be a successful finalist in the Global Resilience Challenge.

The Global Resilience Challenge is working to improve the ability of communities and systems to prepare for, adapt to, and thrive in the face of shocks and stresses, such as drought, flooding, coastal storms, food, water and energy insecurity, social unrest and conflict. The Global Resilience Challenge, funded by the partnership of the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, and Sida, is a three-stage competitive grant process aimed at combating acute shocks and chronic stresses in regions across the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. Nearly 500 applications were received during Stage One. The Nature Conservancy was chosen as part of the top sixteen teams to move forward based on regional experience and inclusiveness of regional stakeholders; depth of expertise and proven track record in the developing world; demonstrated capacity and experience in interdisciplinary teams.

“Our team’s key resilience innovation is exploring the restoration and long-term management of nature-based defenses to reduce risk and provide cost-effective, sustainable adaptation options for people,” explains Dr. Carter Ingram, from the Wildlife Conservation Society. “There have been important successes in mangrove restoration and management in the Southeast Asia region, but like many places around the world, there have been less successful outcomes, also. Moving forward, it is important that we learn from previous experiences to identify and implement best practices in leveraging ecosystem conservation to meet social and ecological resilience goals.”

Armed with years of experience in sustainably managing and restoring mangrove forests throughout Southeast Asia, the team will develop best practices, demonstrations and guidance for future initiatives. The team plans to expand access to innovative on-line science and mapping tools to inform restoration and sustainable management for risk reduction through linked projects supported by Science for Nature and People and Coastal Resilience.

“This team’s goal is to explore the best ways to achieve both ecological conservation and risk-reduction in a way that builds critical resilience for over 200 million people in at-risk coastal regions around the world,” noted Beck. “The project and our team’s approach represents a new model for solving today’s complex and interrelated resilience challenges, supported by the proven success of its partners through the Global Resilience Challenge.”

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