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Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the region is seeking to turn the tide.
Warming seas brought forth by climate change have contributed to corals being “bleached” – a state where the tiny polyps that build the reefs die. This is particularly problematic as coral reefs are showcases of biodiversity, centrepieces of cultural identity and sources of sustainable economic opportunity. Loss of reefs is a serious economic problem in the Caribbean, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism.
These realities are the basis for the Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration: Managing coral reefs in a changing climate. The two year programme (2012-2014) seeks to bring together coral reef managers and policymakers from across the world to improve the outlook for the Caribbean’s coral reefs in the face of climate change by:
Developing a Regional Plan of Action for reducing coral reef vulnerability amidst a changing climate,
Enhancing knowledge exchange between Australia and the Caribbean region through Collaborative Projects
Providing a platform for engagement and capacity building across the region through a Climate Change Adaptation Resource Portal
Regional Plan of Action
The Regional Plan of Action will provide a regional vision for building resilience of coral reefs to climate change and identify key needs and opportunities for national and international initiatives. The programme will also establish a framework for mainstreaming adaptation strategies for coral reefs into Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states’ sustainable development agenda, in a manner that advances the implementation of the landmark Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (2009-2015).
A dedicated Climate Change Adaptation Resource Portal is also being developed to provide a one-stop shop for coral reef managers and policymakers seeking the latest and best concepts, tools and resources for managing coral reefs in a changing climate.
Five collaborative projects are being implemented to enhance knowledge exchange between Australia and the Caribbean region, especially in priority areas such as biodiversity conservation, integration of social and economic considerations, strategic coastal management, stewardship and reef health assessment.
Project activities are being coordinated with existing activities and organisations within the region to ensure integration and sustainability of project benefits.
The projects include:
Marine biodiversity offsets: toward no net loss of biodiversity in a changing climate
Outlook reporting: Building climate change into integrated coastal management
Monitoring multi-tool for managers: A monitoring protocol for meeting the information needs of decision-makers
Building social resilience into reef management: guidance to help managers integrate social and economic considerations into decisions
Reef stewardship: A Caribbean program for harnessing people power for reef management
The Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Implementation of the program is being led by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) in partnership with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) under the auspices of the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM).
Key project partners include:
Program activities are coordinated with other important regional programs and initiatives, including:
Coral reefs are like geese laying golden eggs. Let's protect them. See what we're doing http://t.co/behZQvFBFq
— Caribbean Climate (@CARICOMClimate) April 29, 2013
Development resilient to climate change
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) have agreed to a two-year program led by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The programme is designed to share Australia’s expertise in climate change adaptation and coral reef management to address some of the key challenges identified in Climate Change and the Caribbean: A regional framework for achieving development resilient to Climate Change (2009-2015) (and the associated Implementation Plan), landmark regional documents developed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
Collaborating to reduce vulnerability
The Centre’s Senior Programme Development Specialist, Keith Nichols, says the partnership allows for valuable expertise and knowledge to be shared and will make a real difference to the region’s marine environment. He says the program will enable work with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and CARICOM countries to develop a regional framework for reducing the climate change vulnerability of coral reefs and building the resilience of reef-dependent communities and industries. The program will also support the capacity of coral reef and natural resource managers to deal with the implications of climate change through development of an adaptation toolkit and facilitation of international collaboration.
This program follows a successful scoping mission last year and workshops in Belize and Barbados, which identified priority strategies for reducing coral reef vulnerability to climate change, key experts and organizations and mapped other Regional initiatives and programs to optimize the contribution of the AusAID-GBRMPA-CCCCC program.
Coral reefs are important to the Region’s future
Coral reefs provide benefits to the Caribbean valued at over $4 billion annually. The reefs of the Caribbean are of great importance in providing shoreline protection, habitat for healthy fisheries and an essential attraction for the tourism sector. They are also internationally significant, representing unique biodiversity and totalling approximately 10% of the world’s reef area. However, like all reefs around the world, Caribbean coral reefs are under unprecedented pressure. Local stresses such as unsustainable fishing, pollution and coastal development are combining with the global impacts of climate change and ocean acidification to threaten the range of ecosystem services provided by coral reefs. Understanding these risks, and developing strategies to deal with them, is crucial to the sustainable development of the Caribbean region.
Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre. Learn more about CARICOM-Australia relationship.