Coastal zones

Climate change effects on coastal zones and adaptation responses

Coastal zones are already experiencing adverse effects of climate change and will be increasingly exposed to risk in the coming decades. Without adaptation, sea level rise and climate change are likely to make some islands and low-lying areas uninhabitable. Both biophysical and socioeconomic factors underlie climate-related risks. Human-induced pressures such as land use and high population density (e.g. in Asian mega deltas) are found to contribute to climate change effects (Harvey, 2006). Management of coastal zones in an integrated manner is therefore vital.

Coastal communities engaged in fisheries and the aquatic sector are among the most vulnerable socioeconomic groups to climate change. Sufficient guidance exists to assure sustainability of the sector, but implementation of principles and interventions lags behind (FAO, 2013). Drawing from global experience, lessons for coastal adaptation include: early warning communication and response systems; hazard awareness education; and robust vulnerability assessments leading to prioritisation of disaster prevention and response interventions (e.g. capacity development and strengthening of governance and institutions) (Adams & Castro, 2013; Bene et al., 2015). Gender considerations are crucial in coastal zone assessments and adaptation: women and men have different knowledge of coastal systems and different responsibilities defined by gender norms (e.g. women dominate close to shore and inland fishing and processing and men in off-shore fishing ) (UNDP & GWA, 2006).

Harvey, N. (Ed.) (2006). Global change and integrated coastal management: The Asia-Pacific region. Dordrecht: APN/Springer.
What are the impacts of global change on coastal environments in the Asia-Pacific? The impacts of global warming and accelerated sea level rise are compounded by unsustainable use of coastal resources, population increases and urbanisation pressure, and coastal impacts from poor catchment management. This book identifies strategies to tackle such issues, including Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).

Adams, P., & Castro, J. (2013). Embedding climate change resilience in coastal city planning: Early lessons from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (Inside Stories on climate compatible development). Climate & Development Knowledge Network.
How can coastal cities integrate planning for climate change with economic growth strategies and poverty reduction? This brief reports on the development of adaptation guidelines for Cartagena, Colombia, through a participatory planning process involving scientists, officials, politicians and citizens. An extensive vulnerability assessment highlighted risks including flooding, coastal erosion, and increased prevalence of disease. The guidelines highlight priority actions, and emphasise the importance of land-use planning and zoning policies as an entry point for adaptation. Lessons from the process include the importance of using climate science to help decision-makers weigh the costs of adaptation with the costs of inaction.

FAO. (2013). Climate-smart fisheries and aquaculture. In Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook (Module 10). Rome: FAO.
This module examines climate change impacts on fisheries and aquaculture and provides guidance on viable approaches to reduce risk. It emphasises the ecosystem approach. Recommendations include:

  • improving efficiency measures, such as through incentives to maintain the resilience of aquatic systems and the communities that rely on them;
  • gaining understanding to reduce the vulnerability of those most likely to be impacted;
  • improving capacities for decision-making under uncertainty;
  • improving fisheries management to increase output sustainably;
  • increasing production efficiency;
  • reducing post-harvest and production losses;
  • developing regional trade; and
  • monitoring to assess consequences and test responses.

Options for supporting these actions and case examples are provided.

Bene, C., Devereux, S., & Roelen, K. (2015). Social protection and sustainable natural resource management: Initial findings and good practices from small-scale fisheries (FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. 1106). Rome: FAO.
This publication explores how social protection and other measures can reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience among households and communities involved in small-scale fisheries. Communities that depend on fisheries are among the socio-economic groups most exposed to natural disasters, which occur mostly in South and Southeast Asia where the impact of climate change is expected to be greatest. While exposure to risks is high, ability to cope and recover is low. Vulnerability to climate-related risk among fisherfolk depends on social, economic and environmental factors such as the nature of the resource, methods of catch, market risks, and political and security risks. Recommendations include: assessments of risks; policy review (proposing new options as needed); flexible management and governance systems that can adjust to changing conditions; and adequate compensation when protective measures such as quotas and closed seasons are introduced.

UNDP, & GWA. (2006). Resource guide: Mainstreaming gender in water management. UNDP/GWA.
This resource guide assists practitioners in mainstreaming gender in 13 sub-sectors to facilitate access for specific purposes and water uses. For example, it covers water-related disasters, coastal zone management, fisheries, sanitation and hygiene, water supply and agriculture.