Measuring socio-ecological vulnerability in PNG

 

Integrating adaptive capacity and climate modelling

(Joseph) Maina Mbui completed a BSc. (Hons) in natural sciences at the Egerton University in Kenya. Following this, he worked for several years on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Coral Reefs Conservation Project in Mombasa. Joseph then completed a MSc. in geo-information science for environmental modeling. Having recently completed his PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney, Joseph has since moved to the University of Queensland, where he is currently a WCS/CEED postdoctoral research fellow.

(Joseph) Maina Mbui completed a BSc. (Hons) in natural sciences at the Egerton University in Kenya. Following this, he worked for several years on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Coral Reefs Conservation Project in Mombasa. Joseph then completed a MSc. in geo-information science for environmental modeling. Having recently completed his PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney, Joseph has since moved to the University of Queensland, where he is currently a WCS/CEED postdoctoral research fellow.

Human societies, species and ecosystems across Papua New Guinea (PNG) are already feeling the effects of climate change. Consequently, addressing the impacts of climate change is becoming an urgent priority for central and provincial governments, NGOs and local communities. One way to address these impacts is by first assessing the vulnerability of the socio-ecological systems to climate-related disruptions. This would then inform decisions concerning climate-smart planning and help facilitate the implementation of adaptation strategies.
A key issue is scale – at the end of the day, all adaptation actions need to be conducted at the local (site) scale. But almost all socio­ecological vulnerability analyses that incorporate future climate information to date have been conducted at regional scales or above. This makes them of little value when considering different local adaptation strategies.
In an ongoing study funded by AusAID, researchers from CEED and WCS have developed a methodology that allows for the integration of top-down climate modeling with bottom-up social adaptive capacity assessments. We then used this to undertake a vulnerability assessment in five villages across Manus island, (PNG). The steps of this methodology include: (i) assessing the adaptive capacity of artisanal and subsistence reef-based fisher communities via questionnaires undertaken by WCS local community facilitators; (ii) generating a model of the relative environmental exposure of coral reefs that these communities depend on by combining satellite observations of wind velocity, sea surface temperature, UV radiation, photosynthetically active radiation, and suspended sediment; and,
(iii) assessing the exposure of ecosystems and human population to extreme climate events based on future predictions of temperature and rainfall.

“We also found that the social adaptive capacity differed among the five villages, with fisher communities on the island villages having a relatively high social adaptive capacity compared with those on the mainland.”

Figure 1. Manus island of PNG and locations of the five village communities studied

Figure 1. Manus island of PNG and locations of the five village communities studied

We found that corals reefs in PNG are highly exposed, with the reefs off the mainland being relatively more threatened than those offshore (in Andra and Ponam islands). We also found that the social adaptive capacity differed among the five villages, with fisher communities on the island villages having a relatively high social adaptive capacity compared with those on the mainland.

Figure 1

Figure 2. Intersection of three axes of the vulnerability components considered for each village, and the relative position of the villages along each of the three axes on a 3D plot.

 

We also found that these villages were differentially exposed to extreme events. Consequently, when these three factors were combined, these villages vary in their overall vulnerability. By integrating these different data sets, we have been able to develop an overall analysis that allows us to assess how socio-ecological vulnerability varies among villages. This is being used to inform future adaptation planning.

 

 

 


More info: Joseph Maina jmaina@wcs.org

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