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Climate Adaptation for the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR), Latin America

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The Challenge

The Mesoamerican Reef System (MAR) is the largest transboundary reef system in the world and contains the world’s second longest barrier reef. The system stretches across four countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, along more than 1,000 km of coastline and is a hotspot for biodiversity including endangered marine turtles, more than 60 types of corals and more than 500 fish species.

Coastal and marine resources in the Mesoamerican Reef region provide essential ecosystem services, sustain key economic sectors (esp. fisheries and tourism), support the livelihoods of more than two million people and contribute to the protection of coastal communities against adverse effects of climate change. At the same time, these Caribbean coastlines are among the most vulnerable regions worldwide to climate change impacts. 

Using a Natural Capital Approach

This project, known as Smart Coasts, worked to strengthen the adaptive capacity of local governments and communities dependent on coastal and marine areas, in countries bordering the Mesoamerican Reef. It developed a portfolio of climate change adaptation measures for coastal watersheds & marine protected areas, aimed at supporting local communities & the environment. NatCap applied an optimization modeling tool called ROOT for the first time in a coastal environment for this project.  


These co-designed nature-based solutions for each country are now being implemented as pilots. Using the analyses to help target key areas, Honduras is conducting forest restoration in coastal watersheds to address sediment runoff; Guatemala is restoring mangroves; Belize is conducting mangrove restoration and conservation (connected to its Nationally Determined Contributions) as well as developing a national mangrove and coral reef restoration action and a seagrass management policy; and Mexico is conducting dune restoration. 

NatCap also created and held train-the-trainer workshops with WWF in each country. The new curriculum included more than eight modules, to help them take ownership of the science created through the project. WWF is now using the curriculum to train their colleagues.

See this WWF website for more information about the project: SMART COASTS: Climate-Smarting Marine Protected Areas and Coastal Management in the Mesoamerican Reef Region.

For a full list of publications related to this work, see our searchable database.

Related Links: 
Smart Coasts – Climate-Smarting Marine Protected Areas and Coastal Management in the Mesoamerican Reef Region  
Fourth newsletter Smart Coasts Project 

 Funded by the International Climate Initiative.

Project Category: Sustainable Development Planning, Resilient Coastal Communities  
Project Status: Current

Project Overview

Related Publications