Coastal management, climate change adaptation and sustainability in small coastal communities: leatherback turtles and beach loss
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- Mycoo, M.A. & Gobin, J.F. Sustain Sci (2013) 8: 441. doi:10.1007/s11625-013-0212-x
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Beaches are frequently subjected to erosion and accretion that are influenced by coastal development interventions and natural variations due to storms and changes in river flow. Climate change may also exacerbate beach erosion and accretion. Natural scientists are concerned with the sustainability of species dependent on the beach ecosystem. Policymakers are pre-occupied with the economic sustainability of coastal communities should species decline and prolonged beach loss occur. The aim of this paper is to explore the linkage between science and policy by reporting the findings of a study of coastal change impacts on leatherback turtle nesting and analysing the socio-economic and adaptation implications of these changes for coastal communities. Grande Riviere, Trinidad, was used as a case study. Primary fieldwork investigated unsustainable coastal management practices. A questionnaire was administered to examine livelihoods, including ecotourism based on leatherback turtle nesting, and knowledge and awareness of climate change. One key finding of the study was that the community’s livelihoods were natural resources dependent, and that natural beach dynamics and unsustainable coastal management practices posed major threats to natural resource and economic sustainability. Another key finding was that, despite these impacts, community knowledge and awareness of climate change in general was low, and there was a perception of state responsibility for climate change adaptation. The research findings have global applicability for coastal communities at risk of exposure and that are highly vulnerable to natural resources damage arising from anthropogenic stress and potential climate change. These communities require policy reforms to strengthen current coastal management practices and adaptation responses aimed at ensuring long-term sustainability.