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Case Studies

Island ecosystems present unique challenges for conservation due to their restricted geography and isolation as well as high vulnerability to threats such as climate change. At the same time, island peoples must confront pressures from rapid economic transformations, globalization, and climate change. Without the geographic buffers that a continent can provide, islands face critical conservation decisions now that foreshadow decisions all peoples, societies and nations will increasingly face. These decisions directly impact both biological and cultural diversity. Home to over 600 million people, islands are at the forefront of how humans will take action to define our shared future. These case studies relate first-hand experiences of how island systems have resisted or recovered from major disturbances. Understanding how island systems have faced and resisted or recovered from major disturbances can help managers and scientists assess what information they need to better inform planning and policy for resilience in the future.

The case studies presented here were inspired by the 2013 Milstein Science Symposium Understanding Ecological and Social Resilience in Island Systems: Informing Policy and Sharing Lessons for Management. Many symposium attendees expressed interest in hearing more about places that face challenges similar to their own. The Policy Working Group at the symposium felt that case studies on socio-ecological resilience collected and distilled to highlight success stories will bring community issues to life in a way that national policy representatives can use to guide recommendations on the global stage.

Read the introduction to the Resilience Sourcebook:

By relying on traditional food sources and norms of reciprocity, local communities on the island of Simbo exhibited social-ecological resilience following a devastating tsunami in 2007. Simbo, Solomon Islands.  

By Matthew Lauer, Simon Albert, and Shankar Aswani

A coral bleaching event and proposed coastal development provided the impetus to create a community-supported marine protected area. Speyside, Trinidad and Tobago. 

By Jahson Alemu and Hyacinth Armstrong

Conservation NGOs united in the face of a common enemy, the invasive lionfish, and have consequently been able to better coordinate conservation efforts. Bay Islands, Honduras. 

By Ian Drysdale, Jenny Myton, and Giacomo Palavicini 

Intensifying land clearing caused sediment plumes that threaten coral reefs. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. 

Contributions by Kevin Rhodes 

Community-based marine protected areas revitalize traditional management institutions and fisheries stocks. New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. 

By John Aini and Paige West

A crown-of-thorns outbreak in 2005 catalyzed the collaboration of community members and local NGOs to work together to reduce the species numbers. Romblon, Philippines.  

By Chito Dugan

A coral bleaching event in 2010 highlighted the importance of communication and consultation between local government agencies, businesses, and local NGOs. Tioman Island, Malaysia. 

By Julian Hyde

Conservation actors facilitate the establishment of a Marine Park in response to a coral bleaching event and long-term overfishing pressure. Sint Maarten.

By Tadzio Bervoets 

Early detection of coral disease enables a coordinated response and learning for the future. Hanalei, Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi, USA.

By Anne Rosinski and Makaʻala Kaʻaumoana

A robust marine protected area buffered the ecosystem from the threat of a Crown-of-Thorns sea star outbreak. Nimpal Channel, Yap, FSM.

By Peter Houk, Berna Gorong, and Eva Buthung  

Through the melding of traditional and Western management practices, local communities were able to mitigate the harmful ecological effects of overfishing. Ulithi, Yap, FSM.

By Peter Nelson 

In response to rapid terrestrial and marine degradation following economic change in the San Andres Archipelago, community members and natural resource managers addressed environmental degradation through multidisciplinary, broad-based programs under the UNESCO biosphere reserve model. San Andres Archipelago, Colombia.

By Marion Howard and Elizabeth Taylor

Local government and community leaders organized themselves to combat destructive cyanide and blast fishing through local patrolling. Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia.

By Purwanto

When poorly maintained roads threatened the reefs of Babeldaob through sedimentation, a broad coalition of stakeholders worked to establish and promote best management practices, leading to recovery. Babeldaob, Palau.

By Umai Basilius

Coral nurseries aim to improve the sustainability of the longstanding collection of corals for lime in an island renowned for the quality of its lime. Andra Island, Manus, Papua New Guinea.

By Jane Wia

Successful temporary closures generate momentum to establish a large locally managed marine protected area. Velondriake, Madagascar.

By Charlotte Gough, Jade Delevaux, Michele Barnes, and Kirsten L.L. Oleson

NGOs, government agencies and research institutions complement one another in fighting the lionfish invasion's effect on Bermuda’s reefs. Bermuda. 

By Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley

District chiefs, with technical support from NGOs and government ministries, work to overcome overfishing through community-based no-take areas. Kubulau District, Vanua Levu, Fiji.

By Stacy Jupiter