Climate Change in Ecuador's Coastal Communities and Mangrove Ecosystems: Local Knowledge, Perceptions, and Priorities
Rainville, Tiffanie Katharine
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Coastal communities in Ecuador – and worldwide – are vulnerable to climate change due to both marine and inland pressures. Studies predict that climatic changes will impact strongly on coastal zones, with particularly negative effects on communities that rely on mangrove ecosystems for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, relatively few studies have determined how these communities perceive climate change and other environmental changes witnessed during their lifetime. This research gathered primary information from two Ecuadorian coastal communities, as well as data from non-governmental organizations, global scientists, government, and national institutes in an effort to discover where information gaps or points of collaboration exist. At the community level, environmental change was often attributed to the drastic effects of the shrimp farm industry, deforestation of mangrove and tropical forests, and El Niño (ENSO) events. Participants mentioned God, a displeased nature, and the climate being loco (crazy) as other factors affecting change. The richness of local ecological knowledge in the communities studied indicates a need for more bottom-up information through monitoring and dialogue around entry points. Addressing vulnerabilities and adaptation requires a focus on the local context and pressing issues of food security, freshwater, pollution, and diminishing fish species which are currently overshadowing climate change as priority issues. Accordingly, collaboration around mangrove restoration may be an effective win-win climate adaptation strategy.