Islands are particularly vulnerable to climate change, including with regard to water resources and food production. In 2016, World Wildlife Fund France (WWF) launched a pilot study to assess the functioning levels of existing water collection protection zones in New Caledonia by defining a forest ecosystem function based on the loss of water-quality-related ecosystem services. The project relied on existing data and offered a reliable methodology based on satellite imagery analysis to assess and monitor this forest ecosystem function. Given existing data in the territory, three indicators provided information on these criteria: erosion risk (soil stabilization ecosystem service), dominant landscape type (moisture-buffer ecosystem service), and forest fragmentation (ecosystem resilience = sustainability). A decision tree then allowed the functioning levels to be characterized based on the interconnection of these three calculated indicators.
This project addressed the following SDGs: SDG 6 - Clear water & sanitation, SDG 11 - Sustainable cities & communities, SDG 13 - Climate action, and SDG 15 - Life on land. It aimed to scale-up the pilot phase by updating data sources and improving the process to create a fast and large-scale tool to deploy the methodology over South Pacific countries with similar concerns. Therefore the assessment was carried out on all water drainage basins located above the water catchments supplying the population of New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Wallis, and Futuna (and the project was scaled to Fiji as well). In order to scale-up the work at an affordable cost, the methodology relied on free, accessible data such as satellite imagery from Landsat and Sentinel Programs, SRTM topography, and World Climate Rainfall Data.
Local partners were included in the project in order to inform and provide higher-resolution or more recent data when available. The results of the assessment give an overview of forest functionality at the country-scale to contribute to decision-making at a national level, and a closer analysis of specific watershed results will help improve decision-making and actions at the local level as well.
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