Adverse effects of climate change needs community to work together

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BY GEORGINA KEKEA

Plant mangroves to protect coastline from erosion.

STUDIES in communities on climate change issues found that communities need to have the strength to confront the issues collectively.

In a study in communities in Roviana, it was found that people need to work together when it comes to adaptation to climate change.

The report found that some communities in there are highly vulnerable to sea level rise with more than half of the village land, inundated if the sea level rises by 50cm.

In a booklet by the Pacific Adaptation Strategy Assistance Programme project in the Solomon Islands, it speaks on the issues of climate change in Roviana.

The lagoons of Roviana and Vonavona are said to support human populations for 15,000 years already.

The history in tribal warfare, religious diversity, WWII, high rainfall, tectonic uplift/subsidence and tsunamis has made the human and ecological communities strong and resilient.

However an assessment conducted more than five years ago found a number of issues are now reducing this strength and making the Roviana area more exposed to climate change.

Changes in weather observed over recent years by community members and recorded in the PASAP project includes more rain, unpredictable seasons, more wind and hotter temperatures.

For its marine life, Roviana has a healthy and diverse marine ecosystem that contains 920 hectares (ha) of coral reefs, 1495ha of seagrass, more than 5000 ha of sparse seagrass and corals amongst sediment, rubble, rocks and algae.

However, coral bleaching and disease is already impacting Roviana and will continue to increase with climate change.

“Nusa Hope Marine Protected Area (MPA) the most well enforced reserve is the only MPA that has less bleaching and disease surrounding reefs. More coral disease and bleaching on offshore reefs compared to the lagoon”, the report said.

Another finding from the project also revealed that lagoon areas experience less disease/bleaching because lagoon corals naturally experience big temperature of changes.

“The actions needed to safeguard the marine ecosystem in Roviana includes protection of herbivore populations that are required to maintain coral reef health, new marine reserves including connections between coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems as well as protection of lagoon passages as corals there are resistant to temperature fluctuations”, the report said.

While there are also other issues raised, the issue of drinking water is one that needs community support.

Access to clean drinking water is an essential requirement for healthy communities.

However the report found that sea level rise will cause salt water to come into low-lying groundwater wells, making them unsuitable for drinking.

Also community water supply from streams with a forested catchment and from wells located away from the coastline will be very important for the people there.

With these findings, it is important for the Roviana people to keep healthy forests in water catchment areas and not to allow logging operations within 200m of streams or anywhere in water catchment areas.

“Maintain a diversity of water sources (rainwater, wells, stream supply)”.

Whilst some of the factors are externally driven, many can be addressed at the local level through community based adaptation.

The report says through a consultative process, they have been able to identify local actions that will re-enforce existing community strengths.

Actions includes strengthening of marine ecosystems by improved management of mangrove ecosystems, protection of coastal ecosystems through limitation of removal of mangroves adjacent to villages and coconut plantations as well as practice good gardening.

“Better land use planning to limit agroforestry encroachment onto garden lands, training in soil fertility improvement methods, documenting traditional knowledge of garden practices and bushfoods for future generation”.

The report on climate change issues in Roviana calls for greater cooperation from the people there and encouraged them to look after their resources properly.

For Solomon Islands, sea level has risen by a massive 8mm per year since 1993. Temperatures continue to rise since 1951 by 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade, leading to more hot days while the country also experience extreme rainfall days. The storms are also said to be less frequent and more intense.

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