Lessons From the Pacific Islands – Adapting to Climate Change by Supporting Social and Ecological Resilience

By necessity, Pacific Islands have become hubs of invention, where climate strategies are piloted and refined to inform adaptation efforts globally. Pacific Island ecosystems are being degraded by pollution, overfishing, and unsustainable exploitation. They besides increasingly face severe climate impacts including low-lying rise, changing temperature and rain patterns. These impacts result inchanges in food and water security system, passing of identity, climate-induced migration and threats to sovereignty. In response, communities in the area are leading climate adaptation strategies, frequently combining traditional practices and up-to-date science, to build the resilience of their communities and ecosystems in the face of increasing climate risk. For case, communities are implementing bouncy networks of nautical protected areas using the best available skill and strengthening tribal administration to manage these networks, experimenting with salt and drought tolerant crops, revegetating coastlines with native salt-tolerant plants, revitalizing traditional wells, and implementing climate-smart development plans. Often these efforts contribute to local anesthetic development priorities and create co-benefits for multiple sustainable development goals ( SDGs ). These community efforts are being scaled up through provincial and national policies that reinforce the critical role that ecosystems play in climate adaptation and provide a model for the pillow of the world. While adaptation efforts are critical to help communities cope with climate impacts, in some cases, they will be insufficient to address the magnitude of climate impacts and local anesthetic development needs. therefore, there are built-in trade-offs and limitations to climate adaptation with migration being the last repair for some island communities .


The Pacific Islands are facing devastating impacts of climate change including increasing droughts and urine scarcity, coastal flood and erosion, changes in rain that feign ecosystems and food production, and adverse impacts to human health ( IPCC, 2014, 2018 ) .
overpopulation, befoulment and overuse of natural resources ( for example, overfishing and intensive domain and urine use ), and unsustainable exploitation and mine are besides degrading island ecosystems ( Burke et al., 2011 ; Hills et al., 2013 ; Balzan et al., 2018 ). While the Pacific Islands are frequently described as highly vulnerable to climate change and lacking adaptation options ( Pelling and Uitto, 2001 ), such descriptions disregard the ways in which Pacific Islanders are leading climate military action and combining their own systems of cognition with western science to implement locally relevant climate solutions ( Barnett and Campbell, 2010 ; Mcleod et al., 2018 ). The lack of taste for Pacific climate leadership is exacerbated by biases in climate inquiry that prioritize westerly skill and technical solutions over early systems of cognition ( Jasanoff, 2007 ; Alston, 2014 ). It is critically important for global climate policy and national governments to recognize and support residential district efforts to build resilient communities and ecosystems through ecosystem-based adaptation strategies that are rooted in traditional cognition and reinforced and supported by climate science, traditional leadership structures, and sustainable climate solutions .
Pacific Island leaders, along with leaders from other Small Island Developing States ( SIDS ), have been implemental in shaping climate policies and the Paris Climate Agreement ( UNFCCC, 2015 ). They called for a loss and damages clause that allows islands to assess and quantify impacts of cyclones and weather-related events and were vocal advocates to limit calefacient of global mean temperature to 1.5°C. The realization that warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with irreversible damages such as the loss of stallion ecosystem has just been articulated in the latest IPCC report ( IPCC, 2018 ). Despite their minimal contribution to ball-shaped greenhouse boast emissions ( Hoad, 2015 ), many SIDS included ambitious extenuation targets in their home climate plans ( i.e., nationally Determined Contributions, NDC ) to raise corporate ambition to reduce GHG emissions globally ( Ourbak and Magnan, 2018 ).

Pacific Islanders are besides leading climate natural process at the local degree, implementing strategies to help communities and ecosystems to be more resilient to climate deepen. The region provides important opportunities for testing and refining adaptation responses at scale. The Pacific Islands are home plate to species found nowhere else on earth and are incredibly divers, in terms of their ecosystems, geography, and demographics. Pacific Islanders have lived with natural environmental impacts for thousands of years and have adapted practices to accommodate periods of environmental fluctuations. Although the pace of environmental and climatic changes has increased, many communities are implementing climate-smart agribusiness and are revitalizing traditional practices that utilize drought-tolerant species and the benefits of nature, such as using seaweed as compost to make dirty more fecund, using handle fronds to shade plants during droughts, and planting vegetation to reduce deluge and erosion along coastlines. They are besides combining these traditional practices with modern scientific advancements such as the exploitation of salt-tolerant and heat-tolerant crops and community-led GIS map of breadfruit trees vulnerable to climate impacts in the Marshall Islands. Communities are revitalizing traditional wells, establishing new protected areas and improving the management of existing protected areas, and developing climate-smart development plans that incorporate ecosystem-based adaptation .
however, ecosystem-based adaptation ( EBA ) efforts initiated by Pacific Island communities have largely been ignored in the peer-reviewed literature. Ecosystem-based adaptation is defined as combining biodiversity and ecosystem services into an adaptation and development scheme that increases the resilience of ecosystems and communities to climate change through the conservation, renovation, and sustainable management of ecosystems ( Colls et al., 2009 ). Researchers have highlighted the necessitate for reflexive insights, including lessons and challenges implementing EBA projects, given the increased attention it has received in global and national climate discourse ( Doswald et al., 2014 ). Key benefits of EBA have been identified including : ( 1 ) plug water system resources to help communities cope with drought ( 2 ) food and fisheries provision ; and ( 3 ) buffering people form lifelike hazards, erosion, and implosion therapy ( Munang et al., 2013 ) .
therefore, this newspaper presents local anesthetic EBA examples that demonstrate how Pacific Island communities are leading the implementation of sustainable climate solutions and reinforcing the critical character of ecosystems in climate adaptation. We include examples that address the elementary benefits of EBA including water security, food security, and coastal security. We present examples of EBA projects that were implemented across Micronesia and Melanesia from 2015 to 2018. The EBA project mho included a partnership among communities, local governments, and conservation NGOs ( The Nature Conservancy, The Micronesia Conservation Trust, other local conservation partners across the Pacific ). We discuss these EBA activities, identify barriers to implementation, and highlight the importance of supportive national policies and political will to reinforce and scale up these efforts .

Revitalizing Traditional Wells

Oneisomw ( once Oneisom ) is an island located in Chuuk State lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia. It has a population of 638 inhabitants ( 2010 Census of Population and Housing ) that is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Villages are primarily located along the shoreline and are affected by coastal flood during typhoons and high tide events. The communities rely on a combination of water tanks, aquifers, streams, and wells but freshwater security is threatened by drought and seawater trespass. human impacts are besides adversely affecting these fresh water sources and the coastal environment ( for example, befoulment from shit sites, barren from farrow pens, inadequate sanitation systems, erosion from unpaved pathways, solid waste dump, and sediment overflow from inland clear ). To improve water security and reduce impacts in the coastal environment, Oneisomw residents have rehabilitated traditional urine wells by cleaning them, planting vegetation buffer strips around wells and streams to stabilize take down banks and reduce deposit and installing concrete covers over the wells to reduce folderol and early pollutants from entering the wells. They besides developed agreements with landowners who had wells to allow others to access water during drought. This access was presented during a national mayor ’ sulfur peak in 2018 and other communities have requested support to implement these actions to improve water security in their municipalities .
such local actions need to be reinforced by the implementation of express and national water policies that promote watershed management and provide the foundation for the sustainable manipulation and conservation of water resources ( for example, Pohnpei State Water Policy passed in 2018 ). This need was articulated at a stakeholder workshop in Pohnpei in 2017 that brought together local leaders, land-owners, and others who utilize the watershed area. While traditional leaders endorsed the march of managing the watershed sustainably, miss of cooperation and plan was noted along with the need to integrate State water management regulations into a home water policy framework to ensure a consistent stream of funds to manage the river basin and protect the full cortege of ecosystem services .

Implementing Climate Smart Agriculture

Climate-smart department of agriculture ( CSA ) is defined as an integrate approach to managing cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries that aims to support food security under the newly realities of climate change through sustainable and equitable transitions for agrarian systems and livelihoods across scales ( Lipper et al., 2014 ). It is designed to increase productivity ( i.e., produce more food and boost local anesthetic incomes ), enhance the ability of communities to adapt to climate transfer and weather extremes, and decrease greenhouse gas ( GHG ) emissions from food product ( Steenwerth et al., 2014 ). When implemented in an island context, CSA can besides support benefits to coastal ecosystem ( for example, by reducing sediment into the coastal zone through taro swamps, reducing pressure on wild-caught fisheries, reducing pollutants from fertilizers ; Clarke and Thaman, 1993 ; International Fund for Agricultural Development [ IFAD ], 2017 ) .
Communities across the Pacific are revitalizing traditional farm practices, based on agroforestry, to increase food security and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts, and they are besides experimenting with salt and drought-tolerant crops ( FAO, 2010 ; Mcleod et al., 2018 ). traditional farm practices include shading crops with palm leaves, maintaining trees around plants to provide tad, composting using seaweed. Some coastal fish communities ( for example, Ahus, Papua New Guinea ) have historically relied on fish for food security and are now working with local anesthetic NGOs, women ’ s groups and politics farming officers to establish family gardens. Ahus is off the coast of Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and has a population of more than 700 residents. Observed climate impacts include low-lying rise, reduced marine protein sources, saltwater flood of urine wells, coastal erosion, storm surges, droughts, heavy rains, ocean acidification and coral bleach. With support from the government and NGOs, Ahus has introduced newly grow practices that are designed to improve food security, the health of the nautical environment, and provide an significant source of income for local households ( Tara, 2018 ). These include the initiation of growing food crops including greens, tomatoes and cabbages, composting in very arenaceous soils, raised gardens and local water collection in drums and small tanks. Women ’ second groups, in partnership with local anesthetic conservation NGOs and agrarian extension officers have led trainings on farming methods such as the use of organic fertilizers and pesticides, raised beds to improve dirty quality and eliminate saltwater trespass, and the diversification of crops. These farm practices are being replicated and scaled through the peasant women ’ randomness network Pihi Environment and Development Forum ( PEDF ). Benefits have included changing and improving the diet of Ahus families, increased cash income for women selling produce at market and to local anesthetic restaurants, food security particularly when bad weather prevents fishing, better community cohesion as people shared ideas and produce .
first gear cost aquaculture projects are besides being implemented in Ahus, such as clam farming techniques from Palau that have been adapted to local conditions to provide food security and reseed local reefs with clam larva to re-establish the local anesthetic barbarian population. Community members in Tamil, Yap built a greenhouse utilize traditional compost techniques and including food crops and plants to revegetate coastal areas vulnerable to corrosion ( for example, Nipa Palm ). The nursery reduces reliance on coastal fisheries that are being depleted, increases the diverseness of food sources, improving community health, and reduces the impact of coastal erosion .

Implementation of Protected Areas

Tamil is a municipality on the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. It includes twelve villages with a entire population of about 1200 people living in 848 households ( Office of Statistics, Budget and Economic Management, Overseas Development Assistance, and Compact Management, 2011 ). The community has experienced flood, corrosion, and drought driven by climate change, in addition to saltwater trespass into fresh water sources and taro patches. Water security is far impacted by poor water management, high addiction on the watershed, and miss of option water sources as many local wells are degraded or contaminated by waste and deposit from erosion. The community noted the trace ecological impacts : declines in coral health, seagrass beds, and reduced fish populations due to increased deposit in the coastal environment and contamination run-off driving algal increases ( LEAP 2017 ). To improve water security and coastal ecosystem health, the community declared their inaugural Watershed Protected Area in 2017 ( 320 acres of watershed protected by traditional council members and recognized by state law ). The Tamil watershed provides water to over half of the population of Yap, and its protection provides greater resilience to and recovery from wildfires, and designates the area as a water conservation partition to increase water security in times of drought .
similarly, in the island of Chuuk, the community of Oneisomw agreed to implement a locally managed marine area ( LMMA ) to reduce threats facing coral reefs ( for example, controlling dynamite fishing and overfishing, coral and sandpaper removal, commercial harvest ). The LMMA supports seasonal worker or permanent wave closures and fishery management through the traditional management arrangement ( mechen ). Based on the traditional mechen system, Oneisomw coral reef “ owners ” initiated an agreement to jointly enforce seasonal or longer closures of witwatersrand areas, based on scientific cognition and community inputs, to ensure access to coral reef resources for future generations. The LMMA is the beginning marine protected area for the newly passed Protected Area Network ( PAN ) legislation. In 2018, the community initiated the summons to develop their first land-based protected area by signing a memo of understanding with well owners to maintain healthy watersheds. The land-based protect area will reduce befoulment and overflow around water sources and will include revegetation with green buffers to help maintain water quality. The following step is for the community to produce a management plan that will integrate a ridge-to-reef approach, which will help to design one of the foremost Ridge-to-reef protected areas in the area. These collective efforts support the FSM ’ second climate adaptation commitment to the UNFCCC and demonstrate that western and traditional natural resource management methods can be complimentary and mutually beneficial in meeting conservation and human wellbeing goals. They besides show how local ideas addressing local needs in the FSM can help to support the ambitious targets of the Paris Agreement .

Climate-Smart Development Plans

Melekeok State is located along the east seashore of the chief island of Palau. The population includes about 300 residents ( about 90 households ) and the State is besides master of ceremonies of the capitol build of the Palau national government. Most of the homes and infrastructure ( for example, elementary school, State agency, retirement center ) are located along the coast within 5 meters of the high-water commemorate, thus highly vulnerable to flooding and erosion due to storm impacts and low-lying raise ( ADB, 2012 ; Melekeok State Government, 2012 ). For exemplar, Typhoon Bopha in 2012 caused meaning damage to the community. In response to climate impacts and projections of future impacts, Palau developed a national climate change policy ( Government of Palau, 2015 ) which identifies the need for building ecosystem and community resilience. additionally, the Melekeok community developed a climate-smart guidance text file ( Polloi, 2018 ) due to their high dependence on their mundane and marine ecosystems ( Brander et al., 2018 ; Förster, 2018 ) in partnership with the Melekeok State government and conservation NGOs ( for example, the Nature Conservancy, Micronesia Conservation Trust ) .
The climate-smart exploitation document provides guidance for updating current infrastructure, designated highland rent development for migrating vulnerable community members and infrastructure away from the coast, and recommendations to make future development less vulnerable to climate impacts. A keystone focus is to ensure that new development and refining of existing structures are climate bright and do not cause environmental damages that threaten water quality and the marine ecosystem. For case, the state residential lease/housing plan incorporates sustainable designs and approaches to support the resilience and enhancement of ecosystem services. The residential rent agreement requires individuals to revegetate bare soils to reduce run-off and deposit into the coastal system, minimize stormwater menstruation to promote water percolation and documentation water add, install body of water catchment systems to reduce vulnerability to drought, and include renewable energy systems ( for example, solar panels ) through existing national loanword programs. In addition, new permits for land consumption, the development of residential areas, and commercial developments require measures that support urine security and erosion control ( e.g., hedge rows and filter strips to mitigate soil erosion ). Melekeok State leadership is besides considering legislation for climate proofing new residential houses that would require raw houses to use hurricane clips in the construction .
These innovations in Palau provide a model for how to develop climate-smart development that besides include benefits to the coastal and marine ecosystem. To upscale implementation and enforcement at national grade, policies are needed that support sustainable finance mechanisms. Access to loans for building new homes should be provided under the condition of complying with guidance for climate-smart homeowners, like to the Energy Efficiency Subsidy Program of the National Development Bank of Palau. such policies could enhance the upscaling of adaptation strategies and their inclusion in local and home infrastructure development programs .

Challenges to Implementing Adaptation Strategies

A count of challenges threaten the success of local community-based adaptation projects including the farness of some islands, lack of capacity to implement and sustain projects, miss of government and the way that impingement is measured .

Remoteness of Islands

Logistical, technical, and weather-related obstacles are common in distant islands in the Pacific, causing delays to material-dependent projects. high costs of transportation and sealed goods divert spending from on-the-ground execution. distance from markets can besides limit economic growth. such issues can lead to decrease interest in the region from international conservation supporters and investors. however, the logistic challenges and high costs related to much outback locations of islands is besides a factor driving the growth of local solutions for climate adaptation that build on local traditional cognition. While some of the solutions are specific to the needs of islands, they inspire advanced approaches that can be applied in other areas .

Lack of Technical and Financial Capacity

Pacific Island countries face a number of capacity constraints ( for example, fiscal and visualize management, climate model and spatial analysis, and infrastructure care ; Dornan and Newton Cain, 2014 ). Sustained capacity in the local NGOs besides is a challenge ; as talented young person rise through the ranks of conservation programs, they are frequently recruited into higher-paying government or private sector jobs or seek opportunities abroad. such staff employee turnover problems hinder long-run conservation projects by causing significant portions of fund sources to be repeatedly used toward capacity growth. local adaptation projects supported by external sources of fund ( e.g., climate grants ) often end when the grant is all over, if there is not sufficient local capacitance to continue the project. finally, lack of technical capacitance is besides a challenge .
For case, enforcement of nautical resource harvesting regulations requires expensive investments in equipment ( for example, boats and surveillance technologies ) and advance train. enforcement fund is frequently gleaned from the conclusion of project budgets, as expenditures such as staff time, materials, and planning normally absorb hearty amounts of initial fund. technical foul capacity for climate resilient agribusiness is limited, and ongoing support is often needed to address emerging threats ( e.g., new garden pests in Ahus, Papua New Guinea ) .


complex nation tenure structures normally stick to traditional or tribal administration systems which can conflict with western discriminative laws and processes, making government approaches ineffective. This can deter climate finance from boastfully international organizations who require rigorous contract-based agreements such as down transfers and easements for protect areas. Nevertheless, traditional tenure and cognition systems can inform sustainable adaptation strategies and must be considered in the design of adaptation policies. Hence there is the challenge of ensuring compatibility between traditional and western government systems. The recently established local anesthetic Communities and autochthonal Peoples Platform ( LCIPP ) under the UNFCCC can help to bridge these institutional challenges and ensure local traditional cognition is considered in the planning of adaptation finance .

Measuring Impact

many Pacific islands have minor populations and humble land masses. If donors prioritize their digest based on the total numeral of hectares protected/restored or the total number of people who benefit from a given intervention, Pacific Island projects may not be selected for fund. however, the strong dependence on island communities on their ecosystems for food, livelihoods and traditional practices, provides opportunities for demonstrating how climate adaptation projects can result in lead benefits to both ecosystems and human wellbeing. additionally, regional commitments to conservation and sustainability such as the Micronesia Challenge can be an important mechanism to scale conservation efforts by providing enabling conditions to better cope with climate change. Initiated by a alliance of regional governments and endorsed at an external level with sustainable financing and technical support for execution, the Micronesia Challenge serves as a model for other regions. indeed, it inspired the development of the Caribbean Challenge, Western Indian Ocean Challenge, and the Coral Triangle Initiative .

Scaling Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Through Supportive National Policies and Innovative Financing

Ecosystem-based adaptation actions that support human wellbeing and healthy ecosystems require finance and supportive policies to ensure their execution, sustainability, and scaling across the area. such policies must be continually evaluated and refined to ensure that they continue to address local anesthetic needs in response to change social, ecological, and climatic conditions and must be developed in concert with traditional cognition. For exercise, marine protected areas in Manus, Papua New Guinea workplace good when they reflect the latest science on fish movements and collection sites and besides follow local anesthetic tribal boundaries to enable clans to manage their accustomed bring and seas as character of the protected area. This means that local tribes set the rules for their marine protected area that enable species sustainable and address local anesthetic needs. frankincense, in some communities ( for example, Ahus, Papua New Guinea ), it is important to strengthen tribal administration and local institutions to mobilize resources and management of adaptation projects. Methods to do so include incorporating climate change into existing cellblock plans, aligning ward plans with existing provincial and government policies and plans and adapting these plans over time to address changing conditions .
Learning exchange between local, state and national governments are an authoritative mechanism to discuss the challenges communities are encountering in adapting to climate change and to refine stream policies with new scientific and local cognition. They besides can highlight gendered impacts of climate transfer and the differential capacities for adaptation. For exercise, women in some Pacific Islands are not entitled to land rights due to accustomed laws and practices which may limit their ability to grow food and resettle in areas less vulnerable to climate impacts. consequently, policies are needed that consider these gendered impacts ( for example, addressing land possession unfairness as climate change is reducing the available estate in some places such as Papua New Guinea ; Mcleod et al., 2018 ) .
advanced finance for ecosystem-based adaptation includes the development of tools ( for example, green fees, payment for ecosystem services ) and new partnerships with the secret sector. For example, water utilities and other businesses that utilize nature for profit can be incentivized to protect the environment. Utilizing payment schemes, such as payments for ecosystem services, creates fiscal mechanisms to ensure that water is clean, sustainable, and generates new sources of gross for river basin protection .


The examples above prove positive steps taken by local communities and partners to implement EBA projects in minor islands states, yet there is little systematic information on the large-scale effects of these measures for building climate resilience across the region. While some island communities can build resilience to climate change, others will face the limits of adaptation and habit migration as a last repair for adapting to climate change impacts. Assessments that identify and bode where adaptation limits are probably to occur and who is most likely to be affected are substantive to better plan for climate impacts ( Dow et al., 2013 ). Further, scientific assessments that provide testify for the effectiveness of the EBA projects are lacking, specially those that include controls to assess the impacts of interventions and provide plausible counterfactual arguments regarding causal mechanisms ( Reid, 2011 ; Munroe et al., 2012 ). research is besides needed to highlight social, ecological, and economic opportunities for upscaling ecosystem-based adaptation and to assess the contribution of adaptation to enhancing island resilience to climate change. current assessments tend to focus on quantifying biophysical and socio-economic benefits but fail to make the connect to management and policy options that enable the implementation of local adaptation options ( Hills et al., 2013 ). In addition to research needs, there is the indigence for combining traditional with more recently introduced government systems. Cross-regional exchanges and capacity build up can foster the development of innovations that tackle the challenge of including local traditional cognition and address the needs of island communities. furthermore, platforms and partnerships that bring together leaders of traditional government systems with representatives of western administration systems can help to overcome barriers between different institutional systems and encourage the execution of holistic community- and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches .

Author Contributions

EM conceived of and developed the manuscript with contributions from MB-A, JF, CF, BG, RJ, GP-K, MT, and ET. JF, CF, GG, BG, RJ, GP-K, MT, and ET collected the data that supported the analysis .


This analyze is an result of a project that is financially supported by the Nature Conservancy and the german Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety ( BMU ). This study is function of the International Climate Initiative ( IKI ) and the BMU supports this first step on the footing of a decision adopted by the german Bundestag .

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or fiscal relationships that could be construed as a potential battle of interest .


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