Promoting action to build resilient and sustainable island communities

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Activities

"It is a common misconception that sea level rise is the greatest threat to small island countries, when in fact the decline of the coral reefs that help feed and protect us and contribute to our wealth and well being is a more immediate threat to the economic viability and the very physical existence of many of our islands."- H.E. Ronny Jumeau, Ambassador for Climate Change and SIDS Issues, Chair of the GLISPA Steering Committee, Republic of Seychelles

The special characteristics of islands (e.g., geographic isolation, frequency of natural disasters and extreme weather events, nature-based livelihoods, socio-economic conditions) make them highly vulnerable to a large range of potential impacts from climate variability and change.

Island biodiversity is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts due to typically high levels of endemic species with regionally restricted distributions. Islands are often characterised by high levels of biodiversity that provide essential goods and services for local communities. In particular, climate change heavily impacts coral reefs, fisheries and other marine-based resources. Projected sea level rise poses a high risk for low-lying islands and their coastal resources (e.g., corals, mangroves, and reef fish). In addition, rapid climate change will lead to greater numbers of introductions and enhanced colonisation by invasive species, with consequent increases in impacts on these island ecosystems.

Resilience is the ability of an ecosystem to absorb disturbance without shifting to an alternative state and losing ecosystem function and services. Resilient and healthy ecosystems are a cost-effective way of managing some of the adverse impacts of climate change, such as increased storm surge, flood and erosion control. For example, the investment of US$1.1 million in mangrove restoration is estimated to have saved US$7.3 million in dyke maintenance in Vietnam, while providing coastal protection and ecosystem services to communities. Similarly, it is estimated that coral reefs and seagrass protect 5.5% of Jamaica's GDP from sea-level rise and tropical cyclones. Maintaining and restoring biodiversity promotes resilience to human-induced pressures and is therefore an essential 'insurance policy' and safeguard against expected climate change impacts. When appropriately designed, ecosystem restoration and management can also increase carbon sequestration and decrease emissions from ecosystem degradation, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation.