The Ecosystem & Socio-economic Resilence Analysis and Mapping (ESRAM) is a component of the Pacific Ecosystem Based Adaptation to Climate Change Program (PEBACC); a five year project funded by the German Government, implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to explore and promote ecosystem-based options for adapting to climate change. The project aims to help integrate Ecosystem-based Adapation (EbA) into development, climate change adaptation and natural resource management policy and planning processes in three Pacific island countries providing replicable models for other countries in the region.
BackgroundThe world’s biodiversity is under growing pressure from climate change impacts. These impacts are on top of the loss of species and the degradation of ecosystems from the ever-growing human ecological footprint. The species and ecosystems of inland and coastal areas and small islands in the developing world, including Least Developed Countries, are under particular pressures due to the concentration of human settlement and infrastructure they support. Feeling the heat from climate change, governments are acting to both ‘mitigate’ (reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel and deforestation) and ‘adapt’ (change what people do to avoid or minimise the harm from a rapidly changing climate). Unfortunately, the kinds of mitigation and adaptation actions being taken are often causing even more loss and degradation of natural environments. For example, in response to rising sea levels and storm surges, governments seek to replace natural coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests with sea walls. Another example of a perverse climate change action is where natural forests are being cleared in developing countries for palm oil plantations to produce feedstock for biofuels in Europe.
The key to dealing with climate change without compounding pressures on natural systems is to take an ecosystem-based approach: The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way (Source: UNEP Convention on Biological Diversity). By allowing natural ecosystem processes to unfold, preventing further damaging land uses, and restoring degraded habitats, the full mitigation and adaptation benefits of healthy ecosystems can be realised. Natural ecosystems sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and securely store carbon in trees and soil. Unfortunately, we are currently heading down the path of further deforestation, and land clearing, including degradation of coastal ecosystems. An EbA to adaptation is the key to helping species adapt to a rapidly changing climate, maintaining the resilience of ecosystems, and providing critical ecosystem services to local communities including climate change adaptation benefits. Removing other stressors from habitats such as industrialisation, unsustainable use, invasives and pollution, results in healthier ecosystems that are naturally more resilient to climate impacts and can provide a more reliable supply of services and benefits.