Investigating socioecological vulnerability of coastal communities in southwest Madagascar to Climate Change
A blog post from Amber Carter, second year PhD student at University of Edinburgh
Fig 1 Pirogue at sunset, southwest Madagascar
Southwest Madagascar is home to the Vezo people: a traditionally semi-nomadic group whose cultural identity is strongly tied to the ocean and who are highly reliant on the marine ecosystem for their food security and income.
Owing to a combination of climate change, rapid population growth, coastal development and overexploitation from industrial and foreign fishing fleets, the livelihoods of the Vezo people are increasingly under threat.
Recognising these threats, the local communities became motivated to proactively manage their marine resources. With support of non-governmental organisations, the Vezo people have created a locally managed marine area (LMMA) named Velondriake (meaning “to live with the sea”).
Measures implemented through the Velondriake LMMA, such as no-take areas, fishery closures and gear restrictions, have had some success, with studies demonstrating increases in fish biomass in protected areas. However, despite local action, the impacts of climate change – in particular coral bleaching and tropical cyclones – remain a threat for the degradation and destruction of marine ecosystems at a regional scale, and for the livelihoods of the Vezo people.
Fig 2 Seaweed farming creates a sustainable addition to income in some villages of Velondriake
My PhD Research
To support coastal communities to best plan and adapt for future climate conditions and extreme weather events, it is important we understand the potential impacts of climate change on the local social and ecological systems.
For my PhD, I am using a combination of marine ecology, social research and climate science to assess the vulnerability of the Velondriake socioecological system to climate change.
The project is highly interdisciplinary, using several years of coral survey data, fisheries data and social survey data collected by the PhD project partner, marine conservation NGO Blue Ventures. This data will be used to produce locally relevant social and ecological indicators of vulnerability. These indicators will be assessed in conjunction with climate analysis of latest International Panel on Climate Change projections (IPCC CMIP6) to investigate current and potential future vulnerability to climate change in the communities in the Velondriake region.
Although this research is specific to the Velondriake region, it is thought its findings will be relevant to reef-reliant communities throughout the Western Indian Ocean. Furthermore, in light of the recent impacts of COVID-19 on coastal fishing communities (e.g. breakdown of seafood supply chains, major decline in tourism, and job losses) it is thought this research could not only be relevant to climate-related disturbances but other global disruptions such as a health pandemic.
Fig 3 Bringing in the daily catch in Andavaoaka