Coral reefs are central to the economy and livelihoods of Palau while providing risk reduction benefits. However, climate change is posing a serious threat to the survival of corals. Rise in sea surface temperature and ocean acidification as a result of climate change is causing more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. Future projections also indicate that widespread coral bleaching will occur annually in Palau’s coral reefs by 2040.
To address these challenges, Palau has established marine protected areas along the coast to conserve coral reefs under the Palau Protected Areas Act (2003), which provides the overall framework to protect corals. Yet most corals are unable to cope with rising sea surface temperatures, which can increase the frequency of bleaching events. And conventional coral reef restoration technologies such as direct transplantation have low coral survival rates of 64% and may damage the existing environment. Thus, heat-tolerant corals can be introduced to restore damaged coral reefs as well as build resilience to climate change impacts.
This technical assistance will support the deployment of heat-tolerant corals in Palau to address rising sea surface temperature and assist in building community resilience to climate change. It will also provide capacity building for Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and involve local communities as well as NGOs throughout the process since coral reef restoration technology is still an emerging technology in Palau.
• Develop a strategic coral restoration plan for Palau that addresses climate change threats in a consultative manner (including shorter-term/small-scale interventions, and long-term/ broader-scale interventions, and corresponding monitoring framework)
• Test one technology - outplanting of heat-resisting coral fragments - to be used in the short term on 1 priority site (including the preparation of protocols, management plan and M&E monitoring, and mapping for potential scale up of this technology)
• Identify capacity development gaps and produce a capacity building plan while implementing urgent capacity development flagship actions (building capacity of PICRC and target community)
The technical assistance is expected to strengthen the capacity of Palau´s local stakeholders to manage and outplant heat-tolerant corals. It will also improve the lack of knowledge and understanding of coral reef restoration technology by the community. In the long run, climate financing may be leveraged to scale the technology in Palau and other Pacific Islands, with PICRC as one of the leading institutions implementing restoration activities in the Pacific. The technical assistance will contribute to achieving Palau's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which identifies ocean warming and ocean acidification as major concerns heavily impacting the country's coral reefs.