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CR 32:161-176 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr032161

Adapting to Pacific Island mangrove responses to sea level rise and climate change

Eric L. Gilman1,15,*, Joanna Ellison1, Vainuupo Jungblut2, Hanneke Van Lavieren3, Lisette Wilson4, Francis Areki5, Genevieve Brighouse6, John Bungitak7, Eunice Dus8, Marion Henry9, Mandes Kilman10, Elizabeth Matthews11, Ierupaala Sauni Jr.6, Nenenteiti Teariki-Ruatu12, Sione Tukia13, Kathy Yuknavage14

1University of Tasmania, School of Geography and Environmental Studies, Locked Bag 1-376 Launceston, Tasmania 7250, Australia
2Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, PO Box 240, Apia, Samoa
3United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Seas Programme, PO Box 30552 Room T-232, Nairobi, Kenya
4WWF-South Pacific, PO Box 8280, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea
5WWF-Fiji, 4 Ma’afu Street, Private Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji
6Coastal Management Program, Utulei Executive Office Building, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799, USA
7Environmental Protection Authority, PO Box 1322, Majuro, MH 96960, Republic of the Marshall Islands
8Wildlife Conservation Society, PO Box 277, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
9Department of Economic Affairs, PO Box PS12, Palikir, Pohnpei, FM 96941, Federated States of Micronesia
10Primary Resources Consulting Company, PO Box 1691, Port Vila, Vanuatu
11Palau Conservation Society, Box 1811, Koror, PW 96940, Palau
12Ministry of Environment, Land, and Agricultural Development, PO Box 234, Bikenibeu, Tarawa, Kiribati
13Department of Environment, PO Box 917, Nuku’alofa, Tonga
14Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Coastal Resources Management Office, Box 10007, Saipan MP 96950, USA
15Present address: 2718 Napuaa Place, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

ABSTRACT: Stresses associated with effects of climate change, including rise in relative mean sea level, present one set of threats to mangroves. Coastal development and ecosystems in the Pacific Islands region are particularly vulnerable to climate change effects. We investigated the capacity of Pacific Island countries and territories to assess mangrove vulnerability to the effects of climate change, and their capacity to adapt to mangrove responses to these forces. Technical and institutional capacity-building priorities include: (1) strengthening management frameworks to conduct site-specific assessment of mangrove vulnerability and incorporate resulting information into land-use plans to prepare for any landward mangrove migration and offsetting anticipated losses; (2) reducing and eliminating stresses on and rehabilitating mangroves, in part, to increase mangrove resilience to climate change effects; and (3) augmenting abilities to establish mangrove baselines, and monitor gradual changes using standardized techniques through a regional network to distinguish local and climate change effects on mangroves. Other priorities are to: (4) assess how mangrove margins have changed over recent decades; (5) determine projections of trends in mean relative sea level and trends in the frequency and elevation of extreme high water events; (6) measure trends in changes in elevations of mangrove surfaces; and (7) incorporate this information into land-use planning processes. Also in (8) some locations require spatial imagery showing topography and locations of mangroves and coastal development. Land-use planners can use information from assessments predicting shoreline responses to projected sea level rise and other climate change effects to reduce risks to coastal development, human safety, and coastal ecosystems. This advanced planning enables coastal managers to minimize social disruption and cost, minimize losses of valued coastal ecosystems, and maximize available options.

KEY WORDS: Mangrove · Sea level rise · Climate change · Land-use planning · Pacific Islands

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