Kiunga, Kenya, Western Indian Ocean
Kiunga Marine National Reserve (KMNR) is located at the northernmost stretch of the Kenyan coastline (40°07’ E, 2°00’ S) at the confluence of two major ocean currents (the north-flowing East African coastal current and the south-flowing Somali current which creates nutrient rich upwelling). The reserve extends over 50 km in length by 3-5 km in width (from about 1°42.25’S 41°31.78E to 2°2.58’S 41°14.80’E). It covers 25,000 ha (250km2) and provides a refuge for sea turtles and dugongs.
The coral reefs found within KMNR are comprised of mainly patch reefs, with fringing reef in the northern part. These reefs are home to over 50 genera (4 of which are globally-rare), 150 identified coral species, as well as over three hundred species of fish. Additionally, seagrass beds form the most extensive wildlife habitat in the KMNR, and are located from the low tide level to about 10m depth. Mangroves also provide critical habitat for varies species, serving as forage and resting areas for sea turtles and nursery grounds for juvenile fishes. These mangrove-dominated environments equate to about 20,000 ha, approximately 30% - 40% of Kenya’s mangrove stock.
These areas have been disturbed in the recent past by bleaching events including the 1998 El Niño event, and harmful algal blooms (i.e., red tides in 2002). Climate change, El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related events, and human causes such as over-fishing, are also a threat to this area.
The primary goal of the reserve is to safeguard the biodiversity and integrity of physical and ecological processes of KMNR, for the health, welfare, enjoyment and inspiration of present and future generations. Although resilience principals were not initially taken into consideration during the design of the reserve in 1979, they have since played a major role in the management of the reserve. In 1998, the mass bleaching event triggered interest in the effects of climate change, and subsequently resilience principles were incorporated into the management plan. Currently, coral reef resilience monitoring is being implemented due to the development of an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) methodology.
In 1998 the ENSO-related bleaching event generated a partnership between Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for monitoring. These partners focused on monitoring bleaching (using a Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network methodology), while a wider team of 20 local fishermen monitored other coral reef ecological indicators such as fish, invertebrate and benthic populations, as well as the use of fishing gear. In 2006, a monitoring partnership with KWS began monitoring coral disease, using a World Bank Targeted Research Group methodology. Most recently (in 2008), monitoring of coral reef resilience began in partnership with IUCN, CORDIO and KWS. The resilience monitoring methodology was developed by the IUCN Climate Change and Coral Reefs Working Group, and has been applied by the following participants: World Wildlife Fund (WWF), KWS, IUCN, and CORDIO East Africa. Indicators monitored include coral size class, herbivorous fish populations, coral condition and other wider resilience indicators such as oceanographic, anthropogenic and ecological factors. These various monitoring programs have guided management interventions by forming the benchmark for a zoning plan, and by enhancing co-management of natural resources due to increased fishermen participation and knowledge.
Numerous factors have made management of the reserve challenging. Due to the area’s proximity to the Somali border, it is difficult to enforce management schemes, patrol the area, and have the community appreciate sustainable resource exploitation in an area of constant lawlessness. WWF and KWS have therefore worked to promote environmental education and awareness programs that co-manage natural resources with the local community. The areas remoteness also makes management challenging because of logistics, high operational costs, and the difficulty of recruiting and retaining skilled and dedicated personnel. To address these issues, WWF and KWS have partnered with conservation and research organizations to carry out regular monitoring to both share costs and attract expertise. Kiunga reefs are ecologically marginal due to a natural barrier provided by major rivers separating them from other Kenyan reefs, and the influence of high nutrients from upwelling off Somalia. Therefore, the Kiunga reef system has not recovered from the 1998 bleaching event as quickly as other reefs along the Kenyan coast. With the assistance of partners (WWF and KWS) the goal has been to reduce anthropogenic impacts (i.e., fishing) by encouraging sustainable gear and practices, thus improving the reefs ability to withstand natural disturbances.
The integration of resilience principles in the management of the KMNR has improved management of resources due to increased knowledge of the reserve and its resources. Additionally, co-management has been enhanced and relationships with the local community have improved. Lastly, the level of awareness of coral reef conservation within the local fishing communities has increased. This has changed the attitude of fishermen, who now recognize the importance of conserving their environment for the future and are now less likely to use destructive fishing gear.
- Functional partnerships between government agencies and NGOs are critical for effective management and cost reduction.
- Community buy-in is critical to establishing resource ownership and raising awareness/knowledge of environmental/climate change issues within the local community.
- It is recommended that resilience studies and principles be understood and communicated among scientists, resource managers and resource users.
- It is critical to reduce the human impacts on reserves so to provide a foundation for resource managers to better mitigate against the impacts of climate change.
- Raising the profile of climate change is critical so that managers can help the community understand the real and present threat to natural resources,
- Working to increase community understanding of the importance of taking a resilience-based approach to management is critical to management success.
99 (80500) Lamu
Tel: +254 42 633 456
CORDIO East Africa
P.O.BOX 10135 Mombasa 80101
Tel: +254 733 851656