These “blue carbon” ecosystems are extremely effective at storing carbon
– mangroves and coastal wetlands store 50 times more carbon than tropical
forests by area.

D. & Grimsditch, G. (eds) The Management of Natural Coastal Carbon Sinks
(IUCN, 2009).


West Africa already faces significant difficulties in coping with climatic variability and recurrent extreme weather events. Droughts, floods and other weather extremes seriously affect local people – particularly the poor – and disrupt growth and poverty reduction processes.

According to scientific predictions, climate change is expected to further increase poverty levels and make its eradication more difficult as it directly affects poor peoples’ livelihoods and assets upon which they rely. It is also likely to impede the prospects for poverty eradication unless countries such as Burkina Faso and Senegal – where this EPIC component is based – become more organised in their approach to poverty reduction at national and regional levels.

All signs point to a strong, and urgent, need to reduce vulnerability at the community level. Achieving this, however, is dependent on adequate policies and institutional frameworks, as well as the active involvement of as many stakeholders as possible, especially those people living in rural areas who are most exposed to these dangers and risks.

Project locations for EPIC’s interventions have been identified through a number of approaches, projects and analyses, and will focus on areas such as Burkina Faso’s Northern Province which has been exposed to successive extreme events in the past few years. This intervention builds on recognised needs by IUCN and its partners – from community leaders to policy-makers – across the region.

In seeking to demonstrate solid scientific principles and approaches, while at the same time shaping and re-inforcing already ongoing and/or planned activities, key activities to be undertaken include:

An assessment of the consequences of recent extreme events from an environmental and poverty-related context, together with the observed/recorded responses of local people and institutions; Analysis of the consequences of climate change and meteorological extreme events on local targeted poverty reduction strategy aspects; An inventory of endogenous strategies of adaptation to climate change in selected areas; and Collation of best strategies from the region; and
Dissemination of new climate change adaptation mainstreaming tools, approaches and dialogues

This project will be led on the ground by IUCN’s Regional office for Central and West Africa, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Local partners such as the National Committee for Urgency Needs and Rehabilitation (CONASUR) and its decentralised committees in the Northern Region of Burkina Faso, as well as the responsible ministry for climate change adaptation in Senegal will form major alliances, together with local communities on the ground inI the selected areas of intervention.

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Large areas of mangroves have been cleared for aquaculture – particularly shrimp production – in the tropics and sub-tropics. Apart from the loss of valuable ecosystem services – mangroves are important nursery grounds for many commercial fish species – clearance of mangroves has now left many coastal communities exposed to tropical storms such as cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons, storm surges, and salinisation of soils and fresh water supplies, which renders them unfit for human consumption or use.

Shrimp aquaculture is a “boom and bust” industry which has resulted in an estimated 250,000 hectares of shrimp ponds now being abandoned in former mangrove habitats in Asia. As they exist now, they are commercially unproductive. These ponds do, however, have the potential to be returned to functioning ecosystems that could begin once again to act as bio-shields to some of natures vagaries. In time, and through careful management, they could, also once again, become productive ecosystems, providing important goods and services, one of which would be greater protection to inland communities from storms and flooding.

This project, undertaken by Mangrove Action Project, is located in Trang Province, southern Thailand and builds on former experience that ranges from community-based approaches to ecological restoration and livelihood recovery to successful mangrove replanting schemes.

Ecological mangrove restoration will be accomplished using hydrological restoration to restore mangroves in former shrimp ponds, through the following activities:

  • site surveys of abandoned ponds, including reference studies of any nearby mangroves in order to establish what mangrove species might have been present in the past;
  • design of  a hydrological restoration plan;
  • restoration of natural hydrological flows;
  • establishment of a mangrove nursery for small-scale planting in vulnerable areas as well as for awareness raising and environmental education;
  • supporting livelihood diversification; and

community capacity building in natural resource management


Most predictions of climate change in the Himalayas point toward more precipitation north of the Himalayan crest, as well as more frequent extreme events, flooding events, drought and landslides.

Predictability of natural processes has allowed the mountain populations of the Himalayas and the lowland populations of the Koshi and Ganges rivers to adapt to seasonal fluctuations of water flows and mountain climatic conditions. Of late, however, with less seasonal predictability and increased numbers in extreme events, local capacity to prepare for, and recover from climate change impacts is decreasing.

Large and small hazard events are already a main cause of mortality – second only to epidemics – for mountain populations in Nepal and a major impediment to rural development. Due to the dispersed nature of mountain hazards, especially landslides and flash floods, little attention has been paid by NGOs or government agencies to reducing such risks. Also, in parallel with the decentralisation of power and budgets, new road construction is booming, often being undertaken by communities themselves who lack any technical knowledge. Bio-engineering measures, which are cost-effective and easily adapted to the local context, could significantly reduce landslides along roads but are rarely incorporated in road construction in Nepal.

This initiative builds on an existing baseline of research and links with specific partners and communities. Support from EPIC will enable ecosystem-based approaches to become integrated within planning and decision-making services in Nepal, ultimately making a positive and lasting contribution towards community security and welfare.

The project will be undertaken in the Koshi River basin, eastern Nepal. Selected communities are from the Middle Hills, in the Dharan-Sardu watershed and in Katahare village, Sunsari District, both of which lie at an altitude of between 400-800m.

Anticipated activities include the following:

a)     a focused study of landslide-affected communities of the eastern Middle Hills to better understand coping mechanisms for increasing resilience to landslides and flash flooding;

b)     participatory methods for assessing resilience, vulnerability and risk of landslide-affected communities;

c)     pilot examinations to explore the extent to which landslide stabilising techniques – using local plants such as bamboo and broom grass – might reduce the occurrence of landslides, while providing livelihood opportunities to local communities;

d)     build local institutional capacity to provide guidance and implement resilience-building measures, by supporting the expansion of women’s forest user and savings groups, which are gaining significance as a force for community-based development; and

e)     develop educational and training materials on landslide risk aimed at local government, schools and community forest users.


This component of EPIC is being conducted by IUCN-Nepal, The University of Lausanne and  a range of local partners, in conjunction with communities in the Dharan-Sardu watershed and Katahare village.



A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Salween River valley is one of the world’s richest areas in terms of plant biodiversity. This natural wealth, together with the safety of people living in the valley is, however, under threat from massive soil erosion and landslides, mainly triggered by road construction.

As part of a policy to improve rural infrastructure in Yunnan Province, many new roads are being established across the province to link formerly isolated towns and villages. The social and environmental consequences, however, are enormous but at present are poorly regulated.

Together with severe weather events which are predicted as a consequence of climate change, current construction work will lead to more and more catastrophic events and sediment pollution of this once pristine river valley.

Given the threat of future landslides to downstream communities this project has been designed to demonstrate the negative impacts of poor infrastructure planning on social, economic and environmental systems. Based on consultations and on-site mapping, carefully considered bio-engineering approaches will be identified and put into practice, the intention being to help address the identified threats, while allowing construction to proceed. It is thus a scenario of arresting further and potentially irreparable damage, and demonstrating appropriate and affordable best practices of disaster risk reduction.

Working with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, local communities and other partners, key activities of this project will include:

a)     field site mapping and modelling to simulate slope stability under a range of criteria;

b)     identification of native plant species which are able to play a key role in stabilising slopes;

c)     training of young scientists and engineers;

d)     building local capacity to implement and manage reforestation and related activities; and

e)     transfer of results and knowledge to local stakeholders as well as key ministries, donors and policy makers.

Responsible for this project are the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Montpellier, France, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Kunming Institute of Botany, Yunnan, in collaboration with local villages and communities.




Snow avalanches threaten towns, people and transport systems in many mountainous regions throughout the world. A growing body of scientific evidence, however, shows that forests have in some instances the potential to prevent an avalanche from starting, which immediately makes them a valuable protective measure.

In addition to the many ecological benefits which healthy forests can play in mountain ecosystems, taking advantage of their protective role also has significant economic savings as expensive alternatives in the form of snow retaining structures may no longer have to be considered.

The protective capacity of mountain forests, however, varies with the type and structure of the forest – the age of trees, the extent of their root development and the species, for example, as well as other climate and geological factors. Different strategies may though be used to optimise this protective function in some instances, including good management of the forest resources.

For optimal management of mountain forests for disaster risk reduction, three important requirements need to be met:

  • good information needs to be available on local forest-avalanche interactions;
  • forest management practices are integrated into avalanche dynamics models and risk analysis; and
  • appropriate strategies are developed to manage different mountain forest ecosystems in
  • particular parts of the world.

This project is being implemented in contrasting environments in Chile and Nepal, where avalanche risk features high among people’s concerns. Preliminary models will be chosen from work in the Swiss Alps and other mountain chains where similar phenomena occur, this being adapted to the local contexts in each case. Close consultation will be held with at-risk and
vulnerable communities, local government departments and national and regional scientists.

Among the key activities anticipated through this work are:

Understanding the risks in the specific locations, including people’s vulnerability
to snow avalanches;
Promoting recognition for, and use of the role of, vegetation in avalanche models; Building local capacity so that actions which are started can continue after the project is completed; and Informing scientists, planners, policy- and decision-makers of lessons learned and best practices through the use of appropriate modelling for snow avalanche-forest scenarios.

This initiative is being conducted by the WSL-Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, SLF, SwitzerlandIUCN in Nepal and Chile, government research authorities, local NGOs and involved communities.