Building island resilience against climate change: Integrating science into a community-based initiative reviving watersheds, coral reefs, and fisheries in Guam

Austin J. Shelton III, Department of Biology
Friday, November 20, 2015 - 3:30pm to 4:20pm
BioMed B-103

Climate change is a clear and present threat in small tropical islands, requiring solutions at both global and local levels.  The goal of this research was to take a community-based approach to building island ersilience against climate change.  The removal of local environmental stressors restores natural ecosystem functions, promoting resistance to and quick recovery from global climate change imapcts.  The Humatak Project (www.humatakproject.org) was developed as a community-based initiative directed at reviving coastal watersheds, coral reefs, and nearshore fisheries in Guam.  A six-part community engagement strategy was created and serves as a model for other communities.  The Humatak Project addresses accelerated ersosion, a major local environmental stressor caused by poor land-use practices  Erosion results in sedimentation on coral reefs, which smothers and kills corals, interferes with coral reproduction and recruitment, and destroys essential fish habitat.  Nearly 2,000 volunteer hours were contributed to reducing erosion in the La Sa Fu'a Watershed.  Tree seedlings and sediment filter socks were tested as watershed resotoration tools over a 21-month period and were effective in trapping 112 tons of sediment on land.  Based on the efficiency of these tools, management recommendations were developed to bring Fouha Bay below sever-moderate sedimentation stress (>50 mg cm-2 day-1).  As shown in other high islands, coral reefs are resilient and can recover after sedimentation stress is reduced.  The community engagement strategy and data generated on the effectiveness of watershed resotration tools can be used in management plans to build resilience against climate change in other tropical islands.