Climate-Smarting Marine Protected Areas and Coastal Management in the Mesoamerican Reef Region.
The Mesoamerican Reef System (MAR) is the largest transboundary reef system in the world and contains the world’s second longest barrier reef. The system stretches across four countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, along more than 1,000 km of coastline and is a hotspot for biodiversity including endangered marine turtles, more than 60 types of corals and more than 500 fish species.
Coastal and marine resources in the Mesoamerican Reef region provide essential ecosystem services, sustain key economic sectors (esp. fisheries and tourism), support the livelihoods of more than two million people and contribute to the protection of coastal communities against adverse effects of climate change. At the same time, the Caribbean coastlines of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras are among the most vulnerable regions worldwide to climate change impacts. The management of these resources, including through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and overarching coastal development frameworks, does not yet adequately take into account adaptation principles and options. There is a need to strengthen capacities in coastal communities and government institutions to integrate climate change scenarios and adaptation options into a participatory decision-making process that can inform MPA as well as coastal zone management and development policies.
With support from the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the “Smart Coasts” initiative seeks to incorporate climate change principles into the management of marine protected areas and coastal development policies in the countries bordering the Mesoamerican Reef, with the aim of improving the capacities of coastal communities to adapt to climate change.
Ecosystem-based adaptation options are being identified by means of a participatory and inter-sectoral decision- making process, applying science-based tools, including ecological risk evaluations that integrate climate change and ecosystem services modelling. In addition, the project seeks to impact on public policy frameworks with the aim of achieving long-term implementation of adaptation measures in key coastal areas of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. The objective of the project is to improve local and national knowledge and capacities, to contribute to climate change adaptation plans and policies, and to present better practices in relevant national and international forums.
The Project is being implemented in the four countries that conform the Mesoamerican Reef System.
In Mexico, the target sites are the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve (Yucatan) and in the Flora and Fauna Protection Area of Yum Balam (Quintana Roo).
In Belize, three project regions are planned in accordance with the national Integrated Coastal Zone Management plan: the Northern Regional Planning Zone, the Ambergris Caye Regional Planning Zone, and the Southern Regional Planning Zone.
In Guatemala, the Rio Sarstún Multiple Use Area is the target site.
In Honduras, the focus will be laid on four protected areas: Cuyamel-Omoa National Park, Jeannette Kawas (Punta Sal) National Park, Punta Izopo National Park, and Bahía de Tela Marine Wildlife Refuge and an 11,700 ha large connecting zone between two of the protected areas.
All of these sites were chosen due to the importance they have for biodiversity conservation and due to their population’s vulnerability towards climate change.
National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), Division/Department: Yucatan Peninsula and Mexican Caribbean Region
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development. Division/Department: Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI)
Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN)
Division/Department: Department of Ecosystems
Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mines (MiAmbiente+) Division/Department: Department of Protected Areas/National Institute of Forest Conservation and Development, Protected Areas and Wildlife (ICF).
WWF Guatemala/ Mesoamerica WWF
WWF Mexico and WWF US / Columbia University and Natural Capital Project- Stanford University
From the expected results, so far, the project has been able to reach the following:
1. A portfolio of climate change adaptation options has been identified through a participatory process that considers local community needs and environment conservation. The Smart Coasts Project - Results Viewer features the scientific results and respective adaptation scenarios for each project location. It can be accessed here
2. Local populations and decision-makers are strengthening their capacity to identify and prioritize climate change adaptation options. Numerous regional and local workshops have been conducted. The project newsletter report on these workshops as well as on other efforts that have been carried to support capacity building on climate change for local communities and decision-makers.
3. A regional working group is established to exchange and promote better practices on the identification, integration and implementation of (ecosystem-based) adaptation measures in coastal zones and marine protected areas, as well as to share the project results more widely.
Besides the continuation of efforts to reinforce the three results reached so far, these are the next steps the project will focus on:
1. Provide recommendations and continue close cooperation with protected area management entities and competent authorities on integrating climate change aspects and adaptation strategies into relevant marine protected area and coastal development policies/plans.
2. Implement a selection of adaptation measures with the participation of local stakeholders in each of the four countries.
The following are some examples of the main communications activities that have been carried out by the project:
This workshop conducted during October 12 and 13, 2021 represented a free training opportunity presented by the Smart Coasts project aimed at journalists from the four countries that share the Mesoamerican Reef System: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, to learn more about how climate change will continue to impact this ecoregion according to science-based results and the measures to adapt to these impacts, as well as the importance of communicating it effectively. After the workshop, a journalism contest was launched to encourage journalists to publish articles and news pieces around the topics covered during the workshop. All the information and the recording of the two-day workshop is available here.
As shown by this compilation of stories, it is evident that many people are already witnessing the impacts of climate change on their life, and they are more than willing to undertake the measures needed to become more resilient.
This compilation is available here
A 10-episode radio education program in a soap opera format was produced to raise awareness about the important of the basic adaptation measures to be implemented in communities across the Mesoamerican Reef Region. The program was broadcasted in radio stations in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras reaching more than 30,000 persons. This education program was also formatted as online podcasts, the complete podcast series can be found here
This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.