Adapting biosphere reserves to climate change
Title: Increasing the adaptability of ecosystems in biosphere reserves in border regions of Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Commissioned by: Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union (EU)
Country: Dominican Republic, Haiti
Lead executing agency: Ministerio de Economía, Planificación y Desarrollo, República Dominicana, Ministère de la Planification de la Coopération Externe, Haïti
Overall term: 2014 to 2022
Haiti and the Dominican Republic are amongst the countries most greatly endangered by climate change. Periods of drought and extreme rainfall are becoming more common. The La Selle and Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo (JBE) biosphere reserves in Haiti and the Dominican Republic respectively are situated in the southern massif on the island the two states share. They are the first recognised biosphere reserves in either country and serve as model regions for sustainable development which prioritises the protection and the environmentally friendly use of natural resources. They are called key biodiversity areas and have been part of the Caribbean Biological Corridor since 2007. The conservation of flora and fauna is extremely important.
Yet these regions are among the poorest on the island. On the Haitian side, 30 per cent of the soil on the reserve can barely be used for cultivation any more because of its poor condition. Many areas have been deforested and a great deal of soil has been lost due to erosion. Biodiversity on both sides of the border is suffering from significant over-exploitation and environmental damage from agriculture. At the same time, the population is virtually unprepared for the changing climate conditions. Due to environmental and climate risks in the border regions of both biosphere reserves, the situation is threatening to deteriorate even further.
Protected ecosystems in the Dominican-Haitian border region of biosphere reserves which are used in an environmentally friendly manner offer local people better foundations for adapting to climate change.
Biosphere reserves are global model regions for conservation, sustainable use and for environmental research and education. The project focuses on these areas in particular as well as supporting biosphere reserve management and local, governmental and civil society organisations in administering their areas. Since 2019, the programme has also been promoting disaster risk management in the Pedernales river basin with funding from the European Union. This area lies in the border region of both reserves.
In Haiti, the project is mainly working directly with smallholder organisations. The project area is highly populated. This is why one key focus is on expanding environmentally friendly cultivation methods in forest areas used for agricultural purposes, e.g. for coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts. Other activities include reforestation to improve links between cross-border ecosystems and helping the Ministry of the Environment to manage protected areas.
In the Dominican Republic, the project is supporting the Ministry of Environment in developing management structures for the biosphere reserve and in the restoration of ecosystems. Civil society organisations receive help for their model projects on the conservation and innovative sustainable use of natural resources.
Since 2019, cofinancing from the European Union has been enhancing transnational cooperation, which had previously been focused primarily on biosphere reserves and the exchange of expertise. This is being supplemented with the issues of river basin management and local disaster risk management. Reforestation in both countries is helping to protect the water resources used by both sides.
- In Haiti, the means of production for more than 600 farming households have been improved, revitalising and diversifying old, pest-infested plots of coffee-growing land using resistant varieties and introducing mixed, drought-resistant cultures.
- The boundaries of one protected area in Haiti have been changed so that it now contains more forest and directly borders a national park in the Dominican Republic.
- More than 500 hectares of dry, mixed and mountain forest have been restored in both countries, reducing the gaps between the forests. Contiguous habitats for several endangered species have been improved.
- In the Dominican Republic, a cross-institutional management structure for the biosphere reserve has been created. The actors are increasingly working on further developing the area in line with the purpose of a biosphere reserve to serve as a model region for sustainable development.
- The UNESCO initiative to give the Haitian and Dominican reserves a common framework through a single cross-border reserve also enables transnational cooperation to be strengthened without losing any unique national characteristics.