Marine protected areas – helping to face climate change in Madagascar

In the face of emerging challenges brought on by climate change, new solutions are needed. In the Diana region of north west Madagascar, one such solution is being trialled: Nosy Hara Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the country’s first MPA to incorporate climate change adaptation into its management plan.

A community workshop using the Climate Witness Community Toolkit Photo: WWF MWIOPO

The Nosy Hara archipelago off the northern tip of Madagascar is made up of about 12 small islands surrounded by coral reef. From basalt islets and mangroves, to dry forests and savannah, Nosy Hara boasts a rich diversity of habitats, including some of the most intact coral reefs in the Mozambique Channel. As well as being ecologically significant, the archipelago’s natural resources sustain local communities.

Nosy Hara is a headline case study for the IUCN World Parks Congress Stream ‘Responding to Climate Change’. It is being promoted under the Blue Solutions initiative in which four leading environment, conservation and development institutions combine their efforts to develop innovative marine and coastal management approaches and policy advice.

Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries and its population is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as coastal erosion, increased storm frequency and sea level rise. These have a direct effect on subsistence economic activities such as fishing. In the village of Fararano, close to Nosy Hara, local people are considering moving to a higher location to escape the rising sea.

The effects of coastal erosion. Photo: WWF MWIOPO

Over the last seven years, WWF and Madagascar National Parks have developed ways of making both the ecosystems and the people of the protected area more resilient to these threats.

Training site staff has improved their knowledge of climate change impacts and their interactions with existing threats. It has also equipped them with the tools to monitor changes such as through reef resilience surveys.

The lack of long-term climate data is a common issue in Madagascar. To address this, WWF has developed the Climate Witness Community Toolkit, which relies on community knowledge rather than scientific data gathering. Through a seasonal calendar, mapping exercises, and plant and animal inventories, the community’s collective knowledge on changes in weather patterns and their ecological results is tapped.

To ensure the long-term consideration of climate change impacts in the protected area’s day-to-day operations, its management plan has been updated to include the latest monitoring protocols, ensuring that changes such as coral bleaching are noticed and addressed.

Vulnerability assessments of both the ecological features of the site and of the communities, has helped develop adaptation options. Practically, this has translated into measures such as setting aside more resilient areas of coral reef for temporary fishing closures. Communities receive support in shifting to better adapted livelihoods such as planting climate change-resilient crops, or establishing crab fishery reserves.

Nosy Hara shows how a protected area can be a tool to better prepare both communities and nature to the inevitable impacts of climate change in one of the world’s most outstanding natural places. Lessons from this pilot site will be integrated into the management of new and existing protected areas throughout the country, as Madagascar continues to strive towards its ambitious goal for protected area coverage, announced at the last IUCN World Parks Congress in Durban in 2003.

Work area: 
Protected Areas
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