Freshwater & Drought

Freshwater_VKeener_SquareCropFreshwater resources are essential to life on Pacific Islands. Water is needed for human consumption, as well as for agriculture, industry, ecosystems and public health. Each island location relies on a different mix of freshwater sources, including groundwater, surface water, and rainwater catchment, but the small size of islands means that these resources are limited. Climate change may pose serious challenges for island freshwater resources. Warmer and drier conditions mean that freshwater supplies will decrease on some Pacific Islands. Read more >>

Coastal Infrastructure

Tamara Greenstone Alefaio March 3rd 2014 (245)_SquareCrop

The Pacific Islands face a range of challenges from sea-level rise. Higher average water levels and increasingly frequent extreme water-level events threaten infrastructure, property, groundwater, waste water systems, sandy beaches, and coral reef ecosystems. Atolls and low islands are especially vulnerable, and it may become difficult to for populations live in low-lying areas. Rising sea levels will increase the likelihood of coastal flooding and erosion,
damaging coastal infrastructure and agriculture, negatively impacting tourism, reducing habitat for endangered species, and threatening shallow reef systems. Read more >>

Terrestrial Ecosystems

Partula_radiolata_Guam_USFWS_Pacific_Islands_2012_SquareCropThe Pacific Islands are host to diverse and fragile terrestrial (meaning “land-based”) ecosystems that provide people of the region with food, income, recreation, shared cultural heritage, and many other benefits. These ecosystems and their services are at risk from climate change and local stress from human activities. The physical and chemical changes in the environment resulting from climate change have cascading impacts on species composition and diversity, soil conditions, and habitat availability. Often these impacts combine to limit ecosystem function and reduce biodiversity. Read more >>

Ocean & Coastal Ecosystems

Chubs_Northwest_Hawaiian_Islands_SquareCropThe Pacific Islands region contains some of the most diverse ocean and coastal ecosystems in the U.S. These ecosystems contain species and groups of species of value economically, culturally, and for conservation, protection, and global biodiversity. These species include, among others, pelagic fish (such as tuna), reef fish, corals, endangered sea turtles and monk seals, marine mammals, and plankton, which form the base of the food web. Climate variability and change threaten marine and coastal ecosystems through rising air and sea-surface temperatures, sea-level rise, changes in seasons, changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (such as tropical cyclones and heavy rain events), changes in solar radiation, and increasing ocean acidification. Read more >>

Communities and Cultures

Casting_net_Guam_David_Burdick_2006_SquareCropClimate change confronts Pacific Islands and their communities with enormous challenges that may affect every aspect of life. The close proximity of populations and structures to the ocean contributes to island communities’ vulnerability to climate change.  Island economies generally depend on local ecosystems and limited sources of revenue, so any external stresses from climate impacts hit particularly hard. Human health will be increasingly impacted by climate change through extreme events, heat-related illnesses, psychological stresses, and a possible increase in infectious disease. These climate impacts, on top of other socioeconomic and political motivations, may lead individuals or even entire communities to consider migrating to a new location. Read more >>

Photos (from top): (1) courtesy of Victoria Keener; (2) King tide flooding in Rita Village on Majuro Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, March 2014. Photo courtesy of Tamara Greenstone-Alefaio; (3) Partula radiolata (tree snail) of Guam is a listed Critically Endangered species (IUCN). Photo © USFWS Pacific Region, 2012; (4) Chubs (Kyphosus bigibbus) in foreground and goatfish (Mulloidichthys sp.) in distance. Northwest Hawaiian Islands. September, 2004. ©NOAA Photo Library, photo by Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR; (5) Fishermen casting net at sunset in Guam. Photo ©David Burdick, 2006, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.