Global Warming Effects Around the World

Solomon Islands

Top Impact

Temperature (Ocean)

Other Impacts

People (Food)

Ecosystems (Saltwater)

Fishing in the Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands lie within the western Pacific Warm Pool, a 5.8 million-square-mile (15 million–square–kilometer) area slightly larger than the Arctic Ocean. Along with political conflict and unsustainable fishing practices, rising ocean temperatures are making the nation's extraordinary coral reefs more susceptible to bleaching, reducing food security in a society heavily reliant on fish.1

Key Facts

The Solomon Islands host an extraordinarily high level of coral diversity, with more than 500 documented species.2,3 Warming ocean temperatures are threatening the health of these phenomenal marine ecosystems as well as the people that depend on them for dietary and economic sustenance.4,5

  • Since 1955, ocean surface temperatures around the Solomon Islands have warmed by 0.5 to 1.4° F (0.3 to 0.8° C).15,16,17 Warmer temperatures make corals more susceptible to bleaching and death.10,11,12
  • Fish protein accounts for about one–third of the average diet in the Solomon Islands7—obtained primarily through subsistence fishing.8 As coral cover declines, so does the availability of fish species targeted by fishers.9
  • Given a mid–level scenario24 for future heat–trapping emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil, gas, and trees, the Solomon Islands could see a 3.1–3.6° F (1.7–2.0° C) increase in ocean temperatures by the end of the century.16,25

Details

The Solomon Islands sit in the eastern half of the Coral Triangle, a region in the Western Pacific that is home to more than 500 coral species.2 With about 2,239 square miles (5,800 square kilometers) of reefs, 507 documented coral species, and 1,371 documented fish species, the marine diversity in the Solomons is extraordinary.2,3 However, warming ocean temperatures in the Solomon Islands and throughout the Western Pacific are threatening the health of these phenomenal marine ecosystems—as well as the people who depend on them for dietary and economic sustenance.4,5

The population of the Solomon Islands is largely rural, with only 19 percent living in urban areas in 2010, and depends heavily on fish for nutrition.6 Per capita fish consumption is 112 pounds (51 kilograms) annually—more than three times the world average—and fish protein constitutes 32 percent of the average diet.7 Subsistence fishing provides about 73 percent of food fish.8

Healthy coral reefs are critical to subsistence fishing in the Solomons. As coral cover declines, so does the biomass of targeted fish because healthy corals provide habitats for reef fish.9 And warming ocean temperatures are increasingly threatening the reefs of the Solomon Islands.

Natural temperature cycles, combined with a long–term rise in average sea surface temperatures, can cause coral bleaching. When corals bleach, they expel the symbiotic algae that sustains them and gives them their color.10,11,12 Bleached corals are more susceptible to disease,13 as well as partial or total death.14

In the past 50 years, ocean surface temperatures around the Solomon Islands have warmed by 0.5 to 1.4° F (0.3 to 0.8° C).15,16,17 While scientists have not documented coral bleaching events as thoroughly in the Solomons as in the Caribbean and the Great Barrier Reef,18 we do know that the islands underwent extensive bleaching in 2000 as a result of elevated ocean temperatures.19

Beyond the threats posed by rising temperatures, the reefs of the Solomon Islands are vulnerable to overfishing, tropical cyclones, and tectonic movements. Ethnic tensions in the late 1990s and early 2000s led to the closure of many farms, which increased people's dependence on subsistence fishing.20 Unsustainable practices such as bomb fishing and excess catching have undermined the health of the reefs.21 In 2007, tectonic movements associated with a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in the Solomon Islands lifted many reefs completely out of the water.5,22

Part of a Larger Pattern

The Solomon Islands lie within the western Pacific Warm Pool, a 5.8 million–square–mile (15 million–square–kilometer) area with some of the warmest ocean temperatures on Earth.17 Since the 1950s, the pool has warmed by 0.4 to 1.8° F (0.2 to 1.0° C).17 The Warm Pool has also expanded significantly: the surface area covered by waters warmer than 84° F (29° C) has doubled in the last 50 years.17

The warming of the Warm Pool has been greater than the warming of the tropical Pacific as a whole.15,17 This differential warming is probably connected to changing wind and air circulation patterns throughout the Pacific, though the dynamics of such changes are still an active area of research.16,23

Throughout the world, mass coral bleaching events have become both more frequent and more intense in recent decades.12 Rising ocean temperatures and other stresses from human activities are causing corals on tropical reefs throughout the Indo–Pacific region to decline by 1 to 2 percent per year.4

What the Future Holds

Because we are continuing to burn coal, oil, gas, and trees, producing more heat–trapping emissions, temperatures in the Solomon Islands are expected to continue to warm. A mid–level emissions scenario24 projects a 3.1 to 3.6° F (1.7 to 2.0° C) rise in ocean temperatures by the end of the century.16,25 Thermal stress in the archipelago, which can cause coral bleaching, is projected to increase as a result.25 With an even higher emissions scenario,26 bleaching could occur every two years in the western Pacific by the middle of this century.27

The designation of Marine Protected Areas cannot protect the archipelago's reefs from rising temperatures, but it can lessen the impact of stresses such as overfishing that are taxing the area's reefs.28 Such designations are on the rise throughout the region, and effectively managed protected areas have been beneficial to the diet of local villagers.28

Credits

Endnotes

  1. Photograph used with permission of Kerrie Kennedy. Available online at http://www.flickr.com/photos/whltravel/4659650785/. Accessed September 11, 2012.
  2. Hoegh-Guldberg, O., H. Hoegh–Guldberg, J.E.N. Veron, A. Green, E.D. Gomez, J. Lough, M. King, Ambariyanto, L. Hansen, J. Cinner, G. Dews, G. Russ, H.Z. Schuttenberg, E.L. Peñaflor, C.M. Eakin, T.R.L. Christensen, M. Abbey, F. Areki, R.A. Kosaka, A. Tewfik, and J. Oliver. 2009. The coral triangle and climate change: Ecosystems, people and societies at risk. Brisbane: World Wildlife Fund Australia.
  3. Veron, JEN, E. Turak, L.M. DeVantier, M.G. Stafford-Smith, S. Kininmonth. 2011. Coral Geographic. Version 1.1. Online at http://coral.aims.gov.au/speciesPages/html/key/coral-geo.html.Accessed January, 10 2013.
  4. Bruno, J.F., and E.R. Selig. 2007. Regional decline of coral cover in the Indo-Pacific: Timing, extent, and subregional comparisons. PLoS ONE 2(8):e711.
  5. Burke, L., K. Reytar, M. Spalding, and A. Perry. 2011. Reefs at risk revisited. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. Online at http://www.wri.org/publication/reefs-at-risk-revisited. Accessed May 5, 2011.
  6. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 2010. Social indicators. Online at http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/socind/hum-sets.htm. Accessed May 10, 2011.
  7. World Resources Institute. 2003. Coastal and marine ecosystems: Solomon Islands. EarthTrends country profiles. Washington, DC. Online at http://earthtrends.wri.org/pdf_library/country_profiles/coa_cou_090.pdf. Accessed May 10, 2011.
  8. Secretariat of the Pacific Community. 2008. Fish and food security. Policy brief 01/2008.
  9. Brewer, T.D., J.E. Cinner, A. Green, and J.M. Pandolfi. 2009. Thresholds and multiple scale interaction of environment, resource use, and market proximity on reef fishery resources in the Solomon Islands. Biological Conservation 142:1797–1807.
  10. Eakin, C.M., J.A. Morgan, S.F. Heron, T.B. Smith, G. Liu, et al. 2010. Caribbean corals in crisis: Record thermal stress, bleaching, and mortality in 2005. PLoS ONE 5(11): e13969.
  11. Donner, S.D., T.R. Knutson, and M. Oppenheimer. 2007. Model–based assessment of the role of human-induced climate change in the 2005 Caribbean coral bleaching event. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104(13):5483–5488.
  12. Hoegh–Guldberg, O., P.J. Mumby, A.J. Hooten, R.S. Steneck, P. Greenfield, et al. 2007. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318(5857):1737–1742.
  13. Brandt, M.E., and J.W. McManus. 2009. Disease incidence is related to bleaching extent in reef–building corals. Ecology 90(10):2859–2867.
  14. Brown, B.E. 1997. Coral bleaching: Causes and consequences. Coral Reefs 16(5):S129–S138.
  15. Cane, M.A., A.C. Clement, A. Kaplan, Y. Kushnir, D. Pozdnyakov, R. Seager, S.E. Zebiak, and R. Murtugudde. 1997. Twentieth–century sea surface temperature trends. Science 275:957–960.
  16. Vecchi, G.A., and B.J. Soden. 2007. Global warming and the weakening of the tropical circulation. Journal of Climate 20:4316–4340.
  17. Cravatte, S., T. Delcroix, D. Zhang, M. McPhaden, and J. Leloup. 2009. Observed freshening and warming of the western Pacific Warm Pool. Climate Dynamics 33:565–589.
  18. Foale, S.J. 2008. Conserving Melanesia's coral reef heritage in the face of climate change. Historic Environment 21(1):30–36.
  19. Tupper M., M.K. Tan, S.L. Tan, M.J. Radius, and S. Abdullah. 2011. ReefBase: A global information system on coral reefs. Online at http://www.reefbase.org. Accessed May 9, 2011.
  20. Lovell, E., H. Sykes, M. Deiye, L. Wantiez, C. Garrigue, S. Virly, J. Samuelu, A. Solofa, T. Poulasi, K. Pakoa, A. Sabetian, D. Afzal, A. Hughes, and R. Sulu. 2004. Status of coral reefs in the south west Pacific: Fiji, Nauru, New Caledonia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. In: Status of coral reefs of the world, 2004. Townsville, Australia: Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Online at http://www.gcrmn.org/status2004.aspx. Accessed May 2012.
  21. Aswani, S., and R.J. Hamilton. 2004. Integrating indigenous ecological knowledge and customary sea tenure with marine and social science for conservation of bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) in the Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Environmental Conservation 31(1):69–83.
  22. Leong, J.A., C. Garrgue, N. Kere, B. Manele, T. Poulasi, J. Raubani, M. Sapatu, S. Sarramegna, H. Sykes, C. Bartlett, S. Virly, and L. Wantiez. 2008. Status of the coral reefs in the south west Pacific: Fiji, New Caledonia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. In: Status of coral reefs of the world, 2008, edited by C. Morris and K. Mackay. Townsville, Australia: Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Online at https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:2H50LNe0ojUJ:www.sprep.org/att/IRC/eCOPIES/ Pacific_Region/376.pdf+%22solomon+islands%22+2002+cyclone+reefs&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid= ADGEESh5ZStI7G6966xiXTNFBG7lDoRXXa2tKH_nC3FGeae7oHXPSiXwImkVtaxFcdHLM59mLc4ElOrhwg 3USIoVLb7KXagG-HCLBrDC_ieovpdLAoi66-T26WBh__oryoriVqV7PmUq&sig=AHIEtbT__NQ0zd Gej2Ok1t_MKtbw-cxS7g. Accessed May 9, 2011.
  23. Vecchi, G.A., B.J. Soden, A.T. Wittenberg, I.M. Held, A. Leetmaa, and M.J. Harrison. 2006. Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing. Nature 441:73–76.
  24. The scenario referred to here is the middle–emissions pathway known as A1B from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  25. McLeod, E., R. Moffitt, A. Timmermann, R. Salm, L. Menviel, M.J. Palmer, E.R. Selig, K.S. Casey, and J.F. Bruno. 2010. Warming seas in the Coral Triangle: Coral reef vulnerability and management implications. Coastal Management 38(5)518–539.
  26. The scenario referred to here is the high–emissions pathway known as A2 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  27. Donner, S.D., W.J. Skirving, C.M. Little, M. Oppenheimer, and O. Hoegh–Guldberg. 2005. Global assessment of coral bleaching and required rates of adaptation under climate change. Global Change Biology 11:2251–2265.
  28. Aswani, S., and T. Furusawa. 2007. Do marine protected areas affect human nutrition and health? A comparison between villages in Roviana, Solomon Islands. Coastal Management 35:545–565.
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