Scientific tool for assessing climate change vulnerability developed

  • 29 January 2016, Friday

Source: The Philippine Star
28 Jan 2016

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – It’s simply called VA-TURF.

It stands for “Assessing Vulnerability of Coastal Fisheries in the Philippines to Climate Change Impacts: Tool for Understanding Resilience of Fisheries.”

VA-TURF is a cost-effective and practical tool for assessing the climate change (CC) vulnerability of coastal fisheries in the tropics. Developed by the University of the Philippines Diliman-Marine Science Institute (UPD-MSI), it aims to identify vulnerable fishing communities and demonstrates how to link vulnerability assessment (VA) results to CC adaptation.

“The results are inputs to drafting of action plans towards assessing vulnerability,” said Remelyn de Ramos of UPD-MSI.

She discussed the scientific tool at the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) based in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) here.

SEARCA, which is commemorating its 50th anniversary this year, published a synthesis of De Ramos’ report in its Agriculture and Development Notes.

The UPD-MSI researcher explained that the spatial unit of VA-TURF’s analysis is the barangay (village).

Hence, the tool’s target end-users are local government units (LGUs), barangay captains, and Bantay Dagat (sea patrol). The CC hazards considered are waves, storm surges and sea surface temperature.

“One of the advantages of using VA-TURF is that the required data is accessible or easily generated,” De Ramos said.

Moreover, the analysis is devoid of complicated mathematical equations. In addition, assessment is highly participatory and allows validation of results and decision-making for local adaptation strategies.

VA-TURF follows the vulnerability framework of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with the following components: exposure, sensitivity, potential impact, adaptive capacity and vulnerability.

IPCC was established by the World Meteorological Organization in 1988 to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about climate change and to lay the foundation for measures to counteract such change.

The panel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, which it shared with former United States vice president Albert Gore Jr., whose documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” generated global interest in the alarming impact of climate change.

Six Filipino scientists (Rex Victor Cruz, Rosa Perez, Jett Villaria, Felino Lansigan, Rodel Lasco and Juan Pulhin) were among those who composed one IPCC technical committee.

VA-TURF examines the type of fisheries in the area.

The life history, characteristics, and behaviors of target species are important biological features that provide insights to vulnerability of fisheries.

Measures of socioeconomic vulnerability of the fishing community include population size, level of dependence on fisheries, annual household income from fishing, number of fishermen having other sources of income, and their annual household income derived from other sources.

To date, De Ramos reported, VA-TURF has been applied to 14 towns in the country to aid in the identification of their vulnerability status and formulation of site-specific adaptation strategies for fisheries sustainability in the context of climate change.

One of those assessed was Malay, Aklan, where the world-famous Boracay Island is situated. Tourism is the primary source of income for the inland barangays while agriculture (farming/fishing) prevails in the mainland.

Five out of six sampled barangays had low overall vulnerability which was mainly due to the low exposure and low ecosystem and socioeconomic vulnerabilities.

The only barangay that scored medium for overall vulnerability is Barangay Caticlan. The score is mainly attributed to the area’s high exposure to the waves coupled with high reef ecosystem sensitivity and medium socioeconomic sensitivity.

“Even though the remaining barangays have comparable scores with Caticlan, its high exposure to waves has rendered it more vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” De Ramos said.