Fisherman showing daily catch in Calatagan, Verde Island Passage, Philippines.
© CI/photo by Giuseppe Di Carlo
In the Philippines, CI collaborated with partners to conduct a vulnerability assessment of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), focused specifically on marine and coastal areas. The 1.14 million-hectare VIP is part of the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape and located within the globally significant Coral Triangle, an area considered the center of the world’s marine biodiversity. As such, VIP has a wealth of coastal marine resources including highly diverse coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass meadows.
The abundant fish and another marine life support over 1.7 million people living in coastal areas in the provinces surrounding the Passage, whose livelihoods include fishing, aquaculture, and tourism.
Climate change impacts
The vulnerability assessment identified five main climate change impacts that will be felt in the VIP:
- Increased sea surface temperature — Sea surface temperature varies among years, but an increase of 0.06°C/decade over the last 100 years and 0.2°C/decade for the past 20 years has been observed. Increases are most pronounced in bays with low circulation.
- Sea level rise — As sea water temperature increases, it expands, resulting in sea level rise. Over the last five years, sea level surrounding the Verde Island Passage has been increasing at 0.5 to 1.0 mm per year.
- Increased storm frequency and intensity — Between 1952 and 2008, 160 typhoons passed within 200 km of the Verde Island Passage. With increasing sea surface temperatures, predictions are that the number and intensity of storms are likely to increase.
- Increased rainfall — Rainfall shows high variability in the Verde Island Passage, but a general increase has been recorded in the region.
- Ocean acidification — As the ocean absorbs the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) from emissions released into the atmosphere, the acidity of the ocean increases.
Recommendations for adapting
Given the climate change impacts and their consequences for ecosystems and people, recommendations for adapting include:
- Review existing national and local policies, programs and plans to ensure that they include strategies to address climate change impacts and incorporate ecosystem monitoring and evaluation
- Use best management practices for fishing on coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests, and increased enforcement against illegal and destructive practices (e.g. dynamite fishing, push nets)
- Establish marine protected areas (MPA) to reduce current impacts, preserve biodiversity, and sustain fisheries, increasing the resilience and adaptive capacity of marine ecosystems to address current future climate change impacts
- Protect natural mangroves, seagrass, and coral habitats that act as natural coastal defence mechanisms, reducing erosional processes and buffering storms and other extreme weather events
- Diversify livelihood opportunities of coastal resources-dependent communities to reduce climate change vulnerability and promote sustainable practices