Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Building Resilience to Climate Change in the Caribbean

Paulette Coley is the only registered fisherwoman in Old Harbour Bay, a community of some 8,500 fishers close to the Goat Islands in Jamaica, and an outspoken opponent to the proposed development of Goat Islands for fears of negative impacts to their livelihoods. © Robin Moore

In the Caribbean Islands biodiversity hotspot, the impacts of climate change are likely to be a decrease in rainfall in much of the region and increases in temperature and sea level. Meanwhile, hurricanes are expected to be more severe. These changes have and will increasingly alter life in the Caribbean—for humans, plants and animals alike.

CEPF is working with Caribbean organizations and communities to adopt nature-based solutions to mitigate, build resilience and help the hotspot adapt to the impacts of climate change as part of the five-year, $6.9 million CEPF biodiversity conservation investment in the region. “We recognize that climate change already is impacting biodiversity in the Caribbean islands, and clearly in the future it will have a tremendous impact,” said Michele Zador, CEPF’s grant director for the Caribbean Islands Hotspot. “Almost all of the places we work provide a lot of important ecosystem services for the people—such as provision of food and fresh water, and soil retention. So that linkage of climate change resilience, biodiversity conservation and human welfare is really very clear.”

The CEPF investment, managed by CEPF and its regional implementation team, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), is addressing climate change both by integrating it into management plans for key biodiversity areas and by supporting projects focused on decreasing, or helping the region adapt to, associated impacts. 

In the Dominican Republic, two projects have resulted in firsts for the nation. 

CEPF grantee Fondo Pro Naturaleza (PRONATURA) developed a consensus-based management plan for the 29,000-hectare La Humeadora Mountain National Park, the nation’s first protected-area management plan to factor in climate change resilience. PRONATURA conducted extensive stakeholder consultations, including 35 affected communities, to put together the plan for the park, which is vital to the country as the source of more than 60 percent of the water consumed in greater Santo Domingo, the capital.

Another CEPF-funded project—led by Consorcio Ambiental Dominicano (CAD), Fundación Loma Quita Espuela (FLQE) and the Sociedad para el Desarrollo Integral del Nordeste (SODIN)—initiated the sale of the Dominican Republic’s first forest carbon credits under its carbon offset strategy. The proceeds from the sale go to the long-term financing of the country’s first private protected area, which was established by the grantees in 2012. Carbon credits give landowners, especially small-scale farmers, an added incentive to restore the forest through planting a mix of cacao and native wood species. The project has raised more than $650,000 in private capital.

Young Jamaican iguanas are raised in a facility in Kingston, Jamaica to see them through the most vulnerable months before being released back into the wild – a process known as “headstarting.”​ © Robin Moore​

In Grenada, CEPF is supporting a partnership between the Grenada Dove Conservation Programme, the Grenada Forestry and National Parks Department, and the University of Chester in the United Kingdom to model climate change impacts on Grenada’s dry forest and develop a framework for managing this important ecosystem. “We’re seeing changes in the seasons, in the duration of the seasons, and the amount of rain or lack thereof, including a couple of significant droughts island-wide,” said Bonnie Rusk, director of the Grenada Dove Conservation Programme, of evidence of climate change on the island. Grenada’s remaining dry forests are disappearing as developers target the forests’ prime coastal location. But the forests play an important role in providing fresh water, preventing erosion, and protecting mangrove and offshore habitats, according to Rusk. The forests are the preferred habitat of the Critically Endangered Grenada dove (Leptotila wellsi), and are home to many other species. Some of the most important fish nurseries in Grenada also are in the area. The results of the modeling will be used to inform government policies and guide specific adaptation and management actions. 

Jamaica’s Hellshire Hills and Portland Ridge key biodiversity areas include an important watershed that provides communities with fresh water, serves as habitat for many fish species and the last population of the Critically Endangered Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei), and supports mangrove wetlands. CEPF grantee Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) facilitated a climate change risk assessment for Portland Ridge and Hellshire Hills as part of the preparation of a management plan for the Portland Bight Protected Area. This is the first such plan in Jamaica to factor in climate change. The assessment determined that two of the major expected climate risks are a decrease in freshwater and coastal sedimentation and saline intrusion. In response, C-CAM is implementing an action plan that provides strategies on climate change adaptation and mitigation, land use and development zoning, and afforestation and reforestation initiatives.

In Haiti, the impacts of climate change have already damaged agriculture in the Southeast Department community of Michineau, which is part of the Massif de la Selle key biodiversity area. Increased temperatures and change in rainfall patterns combined with extreme weather events and deforestation to cause erosion, loss of arable soil and mudslides. With support from CEPF, French NGO Agronomes et Vétérinaires sans Frontières and local partner Coordination Régionale des Organisations du Sud-Est (CROSE) built on work with local farmers that they began in 2007, reforesting land and installing anti-erosion devices such as stone walls and grass strips. Their project also yielded a biodiversity evaluation and management plan, long-term protection of 5 hectares of forest and reforestation of 20 hectares. Since 2007, the area has seen a 17.2 percent increase in forested land.