The Center for Climate Systems Research of University of Columbia, wich is regional partner of the Smart Coasts project featured the project as a case example in the 2020 UNEP Adaptation Gap Report that was released on January 14, 2021. The full report can be accessed through: https://www.unep.org/resources/adaptation-gap-report-2020
The case example is in the focal chapter of the report on Nature-based Solutions for Adaptation (Chapter 6).
The Natural Capital Project team at Stanford University, which is a regional partner of the Smart Coasts project, focused on finalizing the modeling inputs for the ROOT optimization analysis, and began to run the model and synthesize results. The ROOT (Restoration Opportunities Optimization Tool) is a tool to perform optimization and tradeoff analysis. It uses information about potential impact of restoration or management change activities together with spatial prioritization to identify key areas for ecosystem service provision.
In particular, the team finished the workflow for the ‘land-sea’ linkage which links terrestrial adaptations strategies (e.g. forest restoration, sustainable agriculture) to marine ecosystem services (e.g. coastal protection, target fisheries) via sedimentation related changes to coral health. They have been working with partners to identify country specific area-based and budgetary constraints in incorporating ROOT. This will allow them to constrain the optimization based on desired policy relevant targets for each country – e.g. prioritizing 12,000 hectares of mangrove to protect for Belize’s 2025 (6,000 hectares) and 2030 (6,000 hectares) NDC (National Determined Commitment) targets.
On November 4, 2020, the third meeting of the Smart Coasts project Regional Working Group was held. The meeting agenda covered issues of how climate change analysis is integrated into the project. The meeting also covered the presentation of how the results obtained to date have been integrated into the Integrated Coastal Zone Marine Plan (ICZMP) and the update of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in Belize, and how the results of the project were used for the structuring of a proposal for the restoration of mangroves and coastal dunes in the Yucatan Peninsula that will begin its implementation in the short term. The virtual meeting was attended by 15 representatives of the Group from three of the four countries that are part of the Mesoamerican Reef System. No representatives from Honduras were present due to the climatic conditions resulting from tropical storms Eta and Iota in the region.
On November 20, 2020, the Smart Coasts project, with the support of Pronatura Península de Yucatán, AC, organized a virtual workshop aimed at management teams of the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve and of the Yum Balam Flora and Fauna Protection Area. The purpose of the workshop was to obtain key inputs for the optimization of the measures that integrate the adaptation measures portfolio.
As a result of the workshop, information was obtained on the conservation status of the coastal dunes in the two protected natural areas, costs associated with the proposed measures were identified, and means and tools were identified to strengthen communication with the local communities benefiting from the project.
On December 7 and 9, 2020, the launch and the first virtual training session in the modeling of ecosystem services in Guatemala took place. These sessions were led by the local project partner: FUNDAECO. During both sessions, the introduction to the use of InVEST was carried out. InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) is a suite of models used to map and value the goods and services from nature that sustain and fulfill human life was carried out. It helps explore how changes in ecosystems can lead to changes in the flows of many different benefits to people. Theory on ecosystem services and their importance was shared to 18 representatives from government agencies, academia, NGOs, local-based organizations, and independent researchers. Training more people in the theory, use and interpretation of the results of the modeling of ecosystem services will increase national capacities for the use of this tool in other spaces throughout the country.
On January 20, 2021, training was carried out on the coastal vulnerability model, one of the five models that the Smart Coasts project is using. Since the training took place virtually due to COVID-19, after the presentation of the theory behind the models, the participants were asked to run the same individually and share their results with the rest of the group to be trained.
Between October and December 2020, training in ecosystem services analysis began in Honduras, with the participants having the opportunity to learn about the coastal vulnerability model as part of the knowledge transfer strategy of the Smart Coasts project. The training was carried out with authorities and organizations divided into 2 groups, one with representatives of the Cuyamel-Omoa Protected Areas System and the municipalities of Omoa and Puerto Cortés; the other group with participants from the coastal marine protected areas of Tela Bay. In total, 27 people were trained who will continue their training throughout 2021.
Coastal ecosystems - often referred to as “blue carbon” ecosystems – can play an important role in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement as a nature-based solution. They can provide measurable contribution towards country’s mitigation and adaptation commitments, and thus, need critical actions for their protection – nationally, regionally and globally.
Belize is very vulnerable to the impacts posed by climate change such as storms and hurricanes. The country is hence trying to raise the level of attention granted to coastal ecosystems within its current updating process for its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This is being done recognizing the important adaptation and mitigation values of these ecosystems. Information derived via the climate and ecosystem risk analyses of the Smart Coast project is being used to help set robust targets and recommendations for inclusion within the updating process for Belize’s NDC. The collaborative effort is to help build ambition for protection of coastal ecosystems in country. A key coastal ecosystem targeted owed to its triple-wins effect – contribution to mitigation, adaptation, and resilience - is mangroves.