WHITENED REEFS

Women roped into war on bleaching

In many resource-based livelihood systems, women have poorer access than men to financial resources, land, education, health, and other basic rights

In Summary

• Mass bleaching of corals in 2016 led to a study that has prompted concerted action.

• Corals bleach when they are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light or nutrients, which makes them expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues.

Commuters on board MV Kwale
Commuters on board MV Kwale
Image: FILE

The Indian Ocean has gone through some turbulent times as the world suffers global warming and the seas get polluted. This is manifested in many ways, including coral bleaching.

Corals bleach when they are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light or nutrients, which makes them expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues.

Many tropical species rely on corals for food, so their degradation hurts fish supply and subsequently livelihoods. And now researchers say women have a role to play in reversing the trend.

 
 

The third global coral bleaching event started in the North Pacific in the summer of 2014 and continued for a record three years, only dissipating in 2017. It affected the Western Indian Ocean between January and May 2016 and was the strongest bleaching event to occur in the region since 1998.

This is according to last year's report developed under the scientific coordination of Cordio East Africa, with the support of the Indian Ocean Commission, through its Biodiversity Project funded by the European Union.

The objective of the report was to provide updated information on the status of coral reefs in the region after the 2016 mass coral bleaching event. It showed that after the bleaching event, hard coral cover in the region declined by 20 per cent and fleshy algae cover increased by almost 35 per cent. 

This was another significant acute loss in living coral and represents a similar, though not quite as dramatic, step-change in benthic composition to what happened after the 1998 event (25 per cent loss of coral cover, 2.5 times increase in algae).

The status of coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean region was most recently updated in a regional report of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network published in 2017. It included data recorded up to 2015. 

GENDER INEQUALITY

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ) report says gender, along with sociodemographic factors of age, wealth, and class, is critical to the ways in which climate change is experienced.

 
 
 

"There are significant gender dimensions to impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Gender dimensions of vulnerability derive from differential access to the social and environmental resources required for adaptation," the report said.

 

The report said in many rural economies and resource-based livelihood systems, it is well established that women have poorer access than men to financial resources, land, education, health and other basic rights.

Further drivers of gender inequality stem from social exclusion from decision-making processes and labour markets, making women, in particular, less able to cope with and adapt to climate change impacts.

Women are now being engaged in protection of coral reefs as they are the ones who suffer the most. Corals reefs restoration and mapping are critical if sustainable fishing was to be achieved.

The aim of restoration is to stimulate coral recovery as a climate change adaptation to restore coral reefs' ecological and economic values.

Edited by Tom Jalio