Climate change refers to long-term shifts or changes in temperatures and weather patterns. Ideally, this change should be natural, but since the 1800s there has been a rapid increase in the Earth’s temperature, which has had consequences on the entire food web.
Climate change will continue to have serious impacts on forests, oceans, fish stocks and local communities. Based on recent predictions, if we continue to emit carbon at the current rate, there will be a species diversity decline of up to 25% by the end of the century due to shifting fish stocks and decreases in the quantity of fish produced.
Climate change is most commonly monitored by using weather stations which assess the average surface temperature of the planet. Measurements of near-surface air temperature from weather stations can be combined with measurements of ocean surface temperature from ships and buoys to create a record of the planet’s surface temperature.
Climate change management approaches typically fall into four broad categories.
Our locally-led projects focus on coral reefs and forest ecosystems which are considered sensitive to adverse conditions. Known to absorb a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, they are a useful early indicator of climate change. Protecting these ecosystems directly helps in mitigating climate change. We monitor these critical ecosystems and habitats (coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass and forests) and collect long-term datasets on physical factors such as temperature, currents, wind speed and salinity, as well as ecological factors such as herbivore numbers and predator numbers, and anthropogenic factors such as fishing pressure or logging in the forest.
Key climate action activities during an internship include:
We also focus on coastal islands, biosecurity and sustainability in small island nations (like Fiji, Seychelles and Madagascar) who are on the frontline of climate change as they face rising sea levels, flooding, coastal erosion and warming ocean temperatures.
A few of the world’s habitats and ecosystems are more impacted than others. We use strong scientific approaches to mitigate the impact of climate change.
These activities include:
Interns and GVI team members work alongside government institutions, NGOs and support activities of various partner institutes. Below are a few examples of organisations we have partnered with on our climate change internship programs.
We offer climate change internship opportunities in six countries.
In Costa Rica, our focus is on forests and jungles. The key climate issue faced by the region is that it will become warmer and drier as climate change accelerates. This could have a major impact on the environment of Costa Rica, upsetting delicate mountain cloud forests and causing a decrease in plant and animal species in a region famous for its biodiversity. For example, the golden toad, which is only found in cloud forests, became extinct in Costa Rica after successive extreme droughts in 1990. Climate change is also impacting the leatherback turtle. Rising sea levels, higher tides and increased storm events, which are more likely as the climate changes, wash away turtle nests and permanently destroy nesting beaches in the long term. The sex of a marine turtle is determined during the incubation of the egg on the nesting beach where it was laid, and the mix of males and females depends on the temperature of the sand. Hotter sand – which is consistent with global warming – leads to a disproportionately higher number of female turtles.
GVI’s work in Costa Rica includes generating a baseline database and species checklist of coastal (turtles) and forest (herpetofauna, mammals and bird surveys) associated biodiversity, assisting in local wildlife conservation efforts through providing practical support to project partners, data collection, awareness raising and habitat restoration.
Coral reefs, water security and sustainability are our key areas of focus in Fiji. The main climate issue identified in this region is that climate change is expected to interact with cyclones (which occur regularly in Fiji) in ways that are complex and currently poorly understood. Known risks include the effect that rising sea levels have on increasing the damage caused by cyclone-induced storm surges, and the possibility of increased wind speed and the intensity of precipitation. The effects of tropical cyclones and flooding are pushing populations into poverty.
GVI contributes to coral reef conservation and supporting local marine-protected areas. We also collect data that will help to assess the health of the reefs in Fiji.
In Madagascar our projects focus on coastal areas as well as forests and jungles. The climate issues faced by the region are driven by large-scale disruptions in atmospheric circulation and are exacerbated by poor land use practices. Droughts are a common occurrence in the south of Madagascar, which is the hottest and driest part of the island, with some areas receiving less than 400 mm of rainfall each year. Shoreline erosion caused by rising sea levels is already a significant problem to the coastal ports and beaches of Madagascar. Projected temperature increases could disrupt unique and critical micro-climates and lead to significant changes to local farming systems, with implications for food security.
In Madagascar GVI is generating a baseline database and species checklist of forest-associated biodiversity (herpetofauna, mammals and bird surveys), assisting in local wildlife conservation efforts through providing practical support to project partners, data collection, awareness raising, and habitat restoration.
In Mexico, our climate change volunteer programs focus on coral reefs. Ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea are on track to surpass critical thresholds for coral health by 2050. Mexico’s coastal lowlands (particularly on the Yucatan Peninsula) may be vulnerable to sea-level rise. Climate-related hazards in the region include storms and flooding, which mostly occur during heavy rain seasons. Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, ranging from coastal flooding linked to rising sea levels, to increased mass coral bleaching due to warming seas. This will affect the reef’s biodiversity and the millions of people who depend on it for their livelihoods.
GVI contributes to coral reef conservation and restoration, and supporting marine-protected areas. We also collect data that will help to assess the health of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.
Our climate change programs in Seychelles focus on coastal areas, mangroves and coral reefs. In 1998 some areas in Seychelles lost up to 90% of its coral reefs in an environmental event known as bleaching. The rise of sea levels may lead to coastal erosion which has an impact on infrastructure, especially tourism and roads. Changing sea levels could also increase salinity of the soil and aquifers, which impacts food and water supply. In the last decade extreme rainfall has caused significant agricultural losses to crops.
GVI contributes to coral reef conservation and supports marine-protected areas. We also collect data that will help to assess the health of the reefs in Seychelles.
In Thailand, our climate change volunteer programs focus on coral reefs and coastal areas.
Research on sea-level rise in marine and coastal areas in the southern region of Thailand indicates marginal change in sea level in general. Most cases of severe droughts occur in the north and northeast regions, which account for over 80% of the country’s drought-prone areas.
GVI works with local communities to monitor the biodiversity and overall health of coastal ecosystems, and aims to reduce plastic pollution through regular beach cleans.