Vulnerability of freshwater and estuarine fish habitats in the tropical Pacific to climate change
Gehrke, PC and Sheaves, MJ and Terry, JP and Boseto, DT and Ellison, JC and Figa, BS and Wani, J, Vulnerability of freshwater and estuarine fish habitats in the tropical Pacific to climate change, Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, JD Bell, JE Johnson and AJ Hobday (ed), Noumea, pp. 369-431. ISBN 9789820004719 (2011) [Research Book Chapter]
People living in the tropical Pacific have a strong affinity for rivers - an identity that
is reflected in local languages1. On Kadavu Island in Fiji, for example, river names
describe many of the traditional fishing and subsistence activities, such as:
Nubunisici - 'snail pool'
Waidoidoi -'doi stream'
Wainituva - 'tuva stream'
a pool where edible freshwater snails (sici) can be
where the bark of doi trees, a buckthorn variety
(Alphitonia zizyphoides), can be used to tie bundles of
source of tuva or derris vine (Derris trifoliata) roots
yielding a poison used to stun and collect fish and
Nubuniura - 'pool of prawns' Macrobrachium spp.;
Waikana - 'food stream' a river known to contain edible species, a rich source
Throughout the tropical Pacific, from the large rivers in Papua New Guinea (PNG),
to the small streams on high islands, freshwater fish and invertebrates contribute
to food security. Although the quantities harvested for subsistence are still poorly
quantified2,3 (Chapter 10), awareness of the reliance on freshwater and estuarine
resources is increasing.
There is concern that the freshwater and estuarine habitats in the region that support
these subsistence fisheries, by providing areas and structures where fish and
invertebrates can reproduce, feed, recruit, grow and migrate, may be vulnerable to
climate change. Consequently, the rich culture of people who use these rivers as part
of their daily lives may also be at risk.
In this chapter, we describe the nature of freshwater and estuarine habitats in the
tropical Pacific, their role in supporti ng fisheries, and the critical requirements
needed to maintain them. We then evaluate the vulnerability of freshwater and
estuarine habitats to climate change and consider the interactions between the
effects of a changing climate and existing impacts on these habitats. We conclude by
assessing the constraints to adaptation, the gaps in knowledge to be filled by future
research, and the management interventions needed to help maintain the resilience
of freshwater and estuarine habitats in the face of climate change.
Research Book Chapter
Tropical Pacific, rivers, freshwater, subsistence fisheries, estuarine habitat, climate change, global warming, constraints to adaptation