The Pacific Community’s GEF-funded Pacific International Waters Ridge to Reef Project (R2R) successfully trials the spatial prioritization procedure based on the R2R conceptual framework, refining a decision-support tool for regional policy makers to prioritize actions to govern and manage their resources.
As part of the Project’s Science to Policy approach and process, the results of the initial trial in Vanuatu were presented to the Project’s Regional Science and Technical Committee in February this year. This demonstrated the application of a fine-scale, spatially-explicit decision support framework to support planning for upscaling future R2R investments at the national and local scale.
Pacific R2R Regional Programme Coordinator Peter Cusack said: “The GEF Pacific Ridge to Reef Programme Initiative is working with project countries in the Pacific region to test and mainstream innovative solutions to integrated and climate resilient approaches to land, water, forest, biodiversity and coastal resource management.”
Pacific IW R2R Science and National Project Lead Samasoni Sauni explained: “The connectivity of land to sea ecosystems primarily through water and the impact of climate change on ecosystem goods and services are central to the R2R management approach.”
R2R Model developer and R2R project consultant Dr. Jade Delevaux says, “The land-sea framework can help identify where to prioritize terrestrial conservation initiatives that maximize downstream benefits, and test proposed terrestrial and marine protection and restoration policy actions, and model their effects on marine resources.”
Key outcomes of the trial included: the identification of priority conservation areas on land that will have the greatest impact on marine conservation in Vanuatu; testing of policy actions prior to implementation; and the development of a decision support tool to identify synergies and trade-offs in habitat conservation across terrestrial and marine ecosystems at an archipelagic scale.
“Our study found that deforestation resulting from urbanization and commercial agriculture expansion increases sedimentation while forest restoration mitigates sedimentation,” she explained.
Results supported previous studies in showing a negative effect of sediments on coral abundance and fish biomass. Consequently, an increase in urbanization (and associated deforestation) caused declines in coral cover and reef fisheries. Conversely, “The models projected increases in both corals and fishes under the proposed forest restoration zones, implying that more trees result in more corals and fishes,” she emphasized.
In addition, findings showed that marine protection can support fishery outcomes. Conversely, an increase in urbanization (and associated deforestation) caused declines in coral cover and reef fisheries. Consequently, a combination of forest restoration and marine protection from fishing resulted in the best outcomes for coral reefs and associated fisheries.
The R2R conceptual framework was adapted to Vanuatu and implemented at the national scale and in an IW R2R project demonstration site, Tagabe watershed on Efate Island.
Vanuatu IW R2R Project Manager Ericksen Packett said: “The R2R management approach advocates whole-of-island, evidence and science-based approaches informing policy reforms, planning and decision making.”
He emphasized: “Vanuatu is the first country to trial this innovative procedure, which moves us one step closer to a decision-support tool that could be used to strengthen the governance and sustainable management of our resources.”
The procedure was planned to be trialled again in Solomon Islands in April, however, this is postponed due to travel restrictions as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The connectivity of ecosystems land to sea primarily through water and the impact of climate change on ecosystem goods and services are fundamental considerations in setting out this theory of change from science to policy.
The GEF Pacific R2R Programme is a global test case aimed at achieving the sustainable development of Pacific Small Island Developing States (Pacific SIDS) within a truly integrated environmental and natural resource management framework. The goal of the programme is “to maintain and enhance Pacific Island countries’ ecosystem goods and services (provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural) through integrated approaches to land, water, forest, biodiversity and coastal resource management that contribute to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience.”
The Programme supports and addresses the national priorities and development needs of 14 Pacific SIDS while delivering global environmental benefits by focusing on a more crosscutting approach to water, land and coastal management.
The Programme is also a USD 90m GEF multi-focal area, multi-GEF agency and multi-country initiative that guides the coordinated investment of GEF grant funding across its focal areas of biodiversity conservation, land degradation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable land, sustainable forest management, and international waters in Pacific SIDS.
The Programme also guides the mainstreaming of gender and cultural issues, and the effective engagement of young people, in environmental and natural resource management. It is also supported in areas of science-based planning, human capital development, policy and strategic planning, results-based management, and knowledge sharing through a regional GEF International Waters project, which is executed regionally by the Pacific Community.
The Programme is coordinated by a Regional Programme Coordination Unit (RPCU), which also executes the regional International Waters R2R Project, hosted by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division based in the Fiji Islands. The RPCU is tasked with the provision of technical, operational, reporting and monitoring support as requested by the participating Pacific SIDS.