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Adaptation Notes

Agriculture and Development Notes on Climate Change Adaptation1
Vol. 5 No. 3  | Miledel Christine C. Quibilan2

Coastal vulnerability assessment (VA) tools aim to provide guidance for coastal climate change adaptation (CCA) planning by measuring the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems to a variety of climate-related hazards such as changes in ocean temperature, sea level rise, and increased frequency of more devastating typhoons.

The scope of coastal vulnerability assessment includes fisheries, coastal integrity, or the overall state of the coast and biodiversity therein. The tools used are mostly ecosystem-based with biophysical and socioeconomic components. The scale of application is the coastal barangay (village) with an average coastline of nine kilometers. To learn more about these coastal VA tools,3 refer to the guidebook, which can be downloaded for free at http://www.coraltriangleinitiative.org/library/guide-vulnerability-assessment-tools-coastal-ecosystems.

Defining Vulnerability for the Coastal VA Tools

Vulnerability to climate change depends on three key elements: exposure (E), sensitivity (S), and adaptive capacity (AC). Using the vulnerability assessment framework (Figure 1), vulnerability as defined in the context of coastal VA is a function of E, S, and AC whereby the level of exposure (E) quantifies the intensity or severity of physical environmental conditions that drive changes in the state of the biophysical system. On the other hand, the level of sensitivity (S) refers to the system’s present state for specific properties that respond to exposure factors arising from changes in climate. The combination of exposure and sensitivity to climate change determines the potential impact (PI) without adaptation. Vulnerability is then derived from the combination of the PI and adaptive capacity (AC), which is defined as the ability of the system to cope with impacts associated with climate change.

Conducting the Vulnerability Assessment

The conduct of vulnerability assessment is composed of three major stages with each stage broken down into various steps. Preliminary vulnerability assessment involves identifying the scope and scale of the VA, putting together the needed expertise, and conducting the initial data scoping. On the other hand, vulnerability assessment characterizes the exposure and identifies the tools needed for measuring vulnerability. The post vulnerability assessment involves identifying adaptation actions, prioritizing the actions, and finding the right plans in which to mainstream these actions. It also includes allocating budget and implementing adaptation actions, feedback, and monitoring.

Coastal VA Tools

There are three coastal VA tools that focus on marine habitats, fisheries, and coastal integrity. These tools are as follows:

  1. Integrated Coastal Sensitivity, Exposure, and Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change (ICSEA-C-Change). This tool is used for scoping and rapid reconnaissance of the vulnerabilities of integrated ecosystem services (fisheries, coastal integrity, and biodiversity) to climate change such as sea level rise, waves and storm surges, sea surface temperature, and extreme rainfall as exposure factors. Conducted at the village level, this tool also measures integrated vulnerability of a coastal system to synergistic climate change impacts. Data requirements include information from existing research and previous resource evaluations (e.g., provincial and municipal development plans) and Participatory Coastal Resource Assessment (PCRA). However, the tool must be complemented with other coastal VA tools for use in adaptation planning.
  2. Tool for Understanding Resilience of Fisheries (TURF).4 This tool provides the necessary information that would guide decision makers on adaptation strategies for the fisheries sector. The tool considers climate hazards such as storm surge (waves) and changes in sea surface temperature. Similar to ICSEA-C-Change, the scope of the assessment for the TURF is village level. The variables incorporated in the tool relate to three major aspects, namely: fisheries, reef ecosystem attributes, and more particularly, socioeconomic features. The tool needs primary data from focus group discussions, interviews, fish landing survey, fish visual census (FVC), as well as secondary data. Secondary data include the municipal fisheries profile and the information scoped by ICSEA-C-Change.
  3. Coastal Integrity Vulnerability Assessment Tool (CIVAT). In assessing vulnerability using CIVAT, the vulnerability of the physical coast to erosion in relation to climate change hazard variables is considered for sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacity. A distinct feature of this tool is its incorporation of variables relating to natural habitats and processes. The tool provides critical information to maintain coastal integrity when developing adaptation measures. It considers long-term shoreline trends using maps and satellite images. Moreover, the tool sets guidelines on setback zones based on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and zoning guidelines. Thus, primary data such as beach assessment and monitoring—as well as secondary data like maps and charts from the Philippines National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), Google Earth, tidal records, and information scoped by ICSEA-C-Change—are needed in using this tool.

It would be best if users receive the proper training on the utility and application of the VA tools. Moreover, it is recommended that VA tools be applied by coastal managers and field practitioners with assistance from coastal resource management and fisheries experts who could guide stakeholders in the data collation and collection efforts, interpret results, and serve as resource speakers during VA/CCA trainings and workshops.

A Means to an End

Vulnerability assessment is just a means to an end. Its aim is to have people re-think and evaluate their current management plans and to undertake adaptation actions sooner than later. The long-term goal of coastal adaptation is to increase overall social and ecological resilience. While the need to improve the current state of coastal marine ecosystems and fisheries remains to be a core resource management objective, there is now an urgent need to also focus on how to improve coastal communities’ ability to cope and eventually adapt to climate change.

Learnings drawn from some case studies under the Resilient Sentinel Ecosystems of Archipelagic Seas (Resilient SEAS) Program show that CCA actions contribute to value-added benefits in learning to adapt wisely and building resiliency to the changing coastal environment. Some of the proposed adaptation strategies include enhancing management effectiveness, reducing fishing mortality, and disaster risk reduction. The process of prioritizing adaptation actions would be based on the local communities’ capacity to implement these actions and the urgency of the problem to be addressed. Prioritization is an iterative process and will require engagement of various stakeholders at the various governance levels. This process is supported by meticulous planning to ensure that the prioritized adaptation actions are implemented and monitored on-the-ground.

Networking VA/CCA Practitioners

The Coral Triangle Initiative Coastal Learning Adaptation Network (CTI-CLAN) was initiated by the Marine Environment and Resources Foundation, Inc. (MERF, Inc.) with funding from the USAID Coral Triangle Support Program Integrator. The network was established to link the academe, NGOs and national government agencies (NGAs), local governments, and communities in the six Coral Triangle countries through trainings and capacity building workshops on coastal VAs and climate change adaptation.

After two successful regional-level trainings held at Papua New Guinea (2011) and in the Philippines (2012), the trainings and workshops that followed include: the Coastal VA Training for Higher Education Institutions; Developing Trainers on Costal VA Tools: An Orientation Course both funded by CI Philippines through the CTSP; and the coastal VA and CCA workshops funded by GIZ Philippines, Rare, Ecofish Project, and the DENR.

Challenges in Conducting Coastal Vulnerability Assessments

In terms of VA tools refinement, challenges remain in data consolidation and validation, refining existing tools based on the lessons learned, and possible inapplicability of tools in context of other countries. To support the objective identification of appropriate adaptation measures and actions, there is a need for new tools like decision-support and cost-benefit analysis tools. There is, likewise, a need to continue to effectively communicate what climate change is and its implications with various audiences. On the conduct of VA/CCA trainings, the challenges lie in the high transactional costs of face-to-face trainings, the need to package and institutionalize VA/CCA trainings to ensure standard delivery and quality, and the need to develop web portals for maximizing web-based trainings.

Finally, to accelerate peer-to-peer learning among coastal VA/CCA practitioners and tool developers, more knowledge sharing fora, documentation of best practices on VA/CCA, and monitoring and evaluation are required. Monitoring and evaluation is needed to track whether the adaptation actions chosen have been implemented, whether it was a success or a failure, and to learn if it has contributed to enhancing both social and ecological resilience.

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1 This adaptation note was drawn from the presentation of Miledel Christine C. Quibilan during the Workshop on Vulnerability, Impact, and Adaptation Assessment for Climate Change: Approaches, Methods, and Tools organized for the United Nations Environment Program Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific by the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) through the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), held on 10–12 July 2013 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
2 Miledel Christine C. Quibilan is a Coastal Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Specialist at the Coral Community Ecology Laboratory of the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines.
3 MERF. 2013. Vulnerability Assessment Tools for Coastal Ecosystems: A Guidebook. Quezon City, Philippines: Marine Environment and Resources Foundation, Inc.
4 Mamauag, S.S., P.M. Aliño, R.S. Martinez, R.N. Muallil, M.A. Doctor, E.C. Dizon, R.C. Geronimo, F.M. Panga, and R.B. Cabral. 2013. “A framework for vulnerability assessment of coastal fisheries ecosystems to climate change—Tool for understanding resilience of fisheries (VA–TURF).” Fisheries Research 147: 381– 393.
Address comments and questions to the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Packaged into an Agriculture and Development Note by Evelie Serrano and Mark Vincent Aranas

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