Incorporating natural capital into climate adaptation and development planning for low-lying coastal nations
Oceans and coasts provide people with diverse benefits, from fisheries that sustain lives and livelihoods to recreational opportunities that generate tourism. But translating appreciation of these benefits into changes in management and policy is not trivial. We will share two pioneering efforts to use ecosystem service values and models within development planning processes in low-lying coastal and island nationals with economies based on these services and where climate change is an eminent threat. In the first engagement in Belize, we developed models that quantify services provided by corals, mangroves and seagrasses to people. We worked closely with the national government to use these models within an extensive engagement process to design a national, spatial plan for the country’s coastal zone. Now we are engaged in development planning in one of the most pristine areas of The Bahamas. Working with the Office of the President of the Bahamas, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), we are using ecosystem services approaches to design a master plan for Andros Island and its surrounding waters. The overarching question in both cases is “where should we site human activities to reduce risk to ecosystems and enhance delivery of multiple ocean benefits?”
In Belize we developed a preferred plan, currently under formal consideration by the Belizean government. Our results suggest the plan will lead to greater returns from coastal protection and tourism than outcomes from management scenarios oriented towards achieving either conservation or development goals. The plan will also reduce impacts to coastal habitat and increase revenues from lobster fishing relative to current practices. By accounting for spatial variation in the impacts of coastal and ocean sectors on benefits ecosystems provide to people, our models allowed stakeholders and policy-makers to refine zones of human use. The final version of the preferred plan improved storm protection by over 25% and more than doubled the revenue from fishing compared to earlier versions based on stakeholder preferences alone. The engagement in The Bahamas is on-going. We are adapting the models we used in Belize to the Bahamian context and will share initial results for the current scenario of human uses and several future management scenarios. We will discuss the potential for scaling ecosystem service approaches to inform coastal development and climate adaptation planning through partnerships with multi-lateral development banks, such as IDB, and opportunities for ensuring implementation from the start of the process.