Integrating Climate Change into Coastal and Marine Conservation


Global climate change is fundamentally altering the world’s environment and threatening the biodiversity of the land, oceans and air. These changes are occurring more rapidly than the Earth has experienced in hundreds of thousands of years and represent a fundamental change in the fabric in which all life exists. Equally importantly, climate change threatens the livelihoods and welfare of communities across the globe. The impacts of climate change in Madagascar directly threaten the survival of the island nation’s unique marine biodiversity and the welfare of its people. Sea-level rise and increased storms threaten coastal communities and important coastal mangrove and wetland areas with flooding and erosion. Madagascar’s unique coral reef ecosystems are vulnerable to ocean warming and the effects of ocean acidification: in 2005 warm ocean temperatures resulted in bleaching of up to 80% of the coral on the north-east coast of Madagascar. Shifting ocean currents will have potentially drastic impacts on fish populations and the migration routes of numerous wide-ranging species such as whales and turtles in the region.

Project Data

  • Started:
  • Planned end date:
  • Executant:
  • Managing Office: WWF Madagascar and West Indian Ocean Programme Office
  • Address:
    WWF Madagascar and West Indian Ocean Programme Office
    B.P. 738
    Antananarivo 101
    +261 20 22 348 85
  • Status:

Objectives and activities

The project goal is to improve the understanding of the vulnerability of Madagascar’s marine biodiversity to climate change, and to support the integration of climate change considerations into marine protected area network planning, thereby contributing to the protection of Madagascar’s globally important marine biodiversity from the impacts of climate change. The project objectives are the following: i) A robust climate change vulnerability assessment of Madagascar’s marine biodiversity is completed. ii) A program of capacity building on climate change and its impacts in the country and the results of the vulnerability assessment is implemented.
  • Implement outreach activities for key groups and individuals with a role in the integration of climate change adaptation issue into MPA prioritization and planning; this activity included provision of support for the formation of a Government of Madagascar Climate Change Committee and development of training materials
  • Conduct supplementary research/assessment to contribute to a generally improved understanding of the vulnerability or marine ecosystems and specifically to the development of a vulnerability index for coral reefs through hydrological modeling, sediment plume modeling, and more detailed socioeconomic analyses.

Project description

Climate change will have dramatic effects on the world’s oceans. Globally, changes in atmospheric conditions are being accompanied by changes in sea level, ocean temperature, current systems, biologically important ocean features such as upwelling, and the basic chemistry of the oceans. An assessment of the vulnerability of Madagascar’s marine biodiversity which was initiated in January 2008 by CI, WWF and USAID clearly identified that the effects of climate change are already being felt at a local level. To ensure the long-term survival of the nation’s marine biodiversity, further research into the vulnerability of Madagascar’s marine environments to the impacts of climate change will be required to elaborate the expected responses of marine species and ecosystems to future climate conditions, and the feasible actions that can be taken to ensure the resilience and adaptation of the country’s biodiversity. This information will form the first step towards developing a conservation response to climate change by providing a foundation on which to plan and make educated decisions about the best ways to protect and better manage natural and social systems in response to climate change. This project built on work carried out in a previous MacArthur Trust funded project to improve the understanding of marine biodiversity vulnerability to climate change and support the integration of climate change considerations into the planning of the national marine protected areas (MPAs) network.
© Viktor Nikiforov / WWF Russia
Maromena in the south of Madagascar
© Viktor Nikiforov / WWF Russia


A nation-wide workshop was organized by CI, WCS and WWF in Antananarivo in April 2009. The workshop focused on conservation planning and integration of climate change adaptation into the national protected areas network (SAPM: Système des Aires Protégées de Madagascar);
  • Creation of a documentary film, which draws attention to the climate change impacts in the Itampolo region of southwestern Madagascar;
  • Hydrological and sediment plume modeling work completed to inform the vulnerability assessment for the southwest part of the island; and
  • Completion of a local-scale coral reef vulnerability assessment in southwestern Madagascar that will help to develop a vulnerability index for coral reefs.


Lack of basic information on the distribution and abundance of key habitats, and on key feeding and breeding grounds for various animal species, makes it difficult to accurately predict their vulnerability to climate change;
  • Lack of capacity among conservation practitioners on climate change impacts and adaptation and its implication on conservation policy;
  • Uncertainties surrounding future climate change. For instance, in Madagascar, a key uncertainty is whether the frequency or intensity of cyclones will change. In the marine environment, cyclones can be both beneficial and disastrous. Frequent, powerful cyclones make it difficult for coral reefs to persist and grow, but cyclones can also rapidly cool water and reduce clarity, thereby reducing the risk of bleaching. There have been several instances where reefs in the paths of cyclones were spared from bleaching.