Monday 5
How does social change in coastal communities influence social learning?
Anne Leitch, Katrina Brown, Ywenn de la Torre, Helene Rey-Valette
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Sète
The contribution of resilience thinking to the challenging future of atoll countries: the case of Kiribati (Micronesia)
Esméralda Longépée  1@  
1 : Institut du Littoral et de l'Environnement - UMR LIENSs 7266, Université de la Rochelle-CNRS  (UMR LIENSs 7266)  -  Website
Université de La Rochelle
2, rue Olympe de Gouges 17000 La Rochelle -  France

This communication will address resilience in atoll social-ecological systems (SESs) focusing on the case of the Republic of Kiribati (South Pacific, Micronesia). Kiribati is an independent State since 1979 counting 100,000 inhabitants living in isolated and scattered low-lying islands. Atoll states have fragile environments that are highly threatened by global issues, especially climate change and urban growth (Barnett & Adger 2003; Yamano et al. 2007; Spennemann 2006). Over the past millennia, the atoll communities of Kiribati have developed natural resource management systems that have enabled their survival. However, over the past decades, globalization has caused rapid changes, especially regarding lifestyles and relationships of atoll communities to their natural environment (Storey & Hunter 2010; Thomas 2003). The ability of Kiribati inhabitants to live in atolls is threatened by climate change (Barnett & Adger 2003). In this context, can SESs, such as the atolls of Kiribati, still be resilient?

This communication will represent an attempt to highlight the behaviour and dynamics of atoll SESs, using conceptual models. Two atoll SESs of Kiribati was analysed: the urban atoll of Tarawa and the rural atoll of Beru. Causal loop diagrams were used for exploring the system's dynamics and try to determine critical feedbacks (Sterman 2000). The trajectory of atoll SESs was likewise analysed with the help of the adaptive cycle metaphor (Gunderson & Holling 2002). The most significant cross-scale influences were considered, especially the role of powerful foreign countries and international organizations on the atolls of Kiribati. These conceptual models were based on: a survey conducted in 2011 with the inhabitants of Tarawa and Beru; interviews with practitioners of both atolls; analysis of statistical data from census of population; analysis of aerial photographs.

The set of models was combined to identify the factors that determine the resilience of atoll SESs in Kiribati. These factors can help to define possible pathways into the future of Kiribati. Indeed, in the context of possible collapse of Kiribati because of climate change, it is expected that atolls will no longer be able to support inhabitants. Uncertainty about when the atoll SESs will shift to an alternate regime has to be considered. The challenge for adaptation strategies for Kiribati and the other atoll states is to deal with different time scales: short-term, medium-term and long-term. What time for adaption or transformation? What time for migration?


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