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1.1 Understanding Ridge to Reef Concept

1.2 Steps in Ridge to Ridge Planning Process

1.3 Ridge to Reef Case Studies

1.4 Environmental Assessment Process

1.5 Understanding the R2R Watershed or Region

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Recommended Reading

Canoy, M.E.S. and Roa-Quiaoit, H.A., ed., 2011. Ridge to Reef in the Philippines: A
showcase of nine emerging and merging initiatives. Xavier University Press,
Cagayan de Oro City.

Crowder et al., 2006. Resolving Mismatches in U.S. Ocean Governance. Science 4

August 2006: Vol. 313 no. 5787 pp. 617-618.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic

Resources of the Department of Agriculture, and Department of the Interior and
Local Government. 2001. Philippine Coastal Management Guidebook No. 3: Coastal
Resource Management Planning. Coastal Resource Management Project of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Cebu City, Philippines, 94 p.

Hawai`i Office of Planning, 2010. Hawai’i Watershed Guidance, Hawaii Office of

Planning, Honolulu, HI.

McLeod, K. L., J. Lubchenco, S. R. Palumbi, and A. A. Rosenberg. 2005. Scientific

Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management. Signed by 221
academic scientists and policy experts with relevant expertise and published by the
Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea

Olsen, S.B, Tiruponithura, V.P., Richter, B.D., 2006. Managing Freshwater Inflows
to Estuaries: A Methods Guide, US Agency for International Development and The
Nature Conservancy.

United Nations Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan/Priority Actions

Programme. Conceptual Framework and Planning Guidelines for Integrated Coastal
Area and River Basin Management, 1999.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, 2012. Simplified Resource

Manual to Support Application of the Protocol on Strategic Environmental
Assessment, United Nations Publication ECE/MP.EIA/18.

United States Geological Survey (USGS), 2011. From Ridge to Reef—Linking

Erosion and Changing Watersheds to Impacts on the Coral Reef Ecosystems of
Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean. Fact Sheet 2011-3049, May 2011.

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ü Understand the principles of Ridge to Reef management and the basic steps
in developing a Ridge to Reef plan.

ü To understand the ways in which the R2R concept has been implemented in
other locations and the variability that exists between R2R plans.

ü Develop a common understanding of the direct link between watersheds and

both uses and users of the watershed and those downstream communities
impacted by uses of the watershed.

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1.1 Understanding Ridge to Reef Concept

Origins of Ridge to Reef

“Ridge to Reef” (R2R) is a philosophy or approach to natural resource management.
The R2R approach integrates the management of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and
marine ecosystem within a watershed or basin. The R2R approach is based upon
the premise that all the ecosystems within a watershed are closely linked and
interdependent. The R2R approach suggests that the health of an upland forest
ecosystem in a watershed may be inextricably linked to the health of the coral reef
that sits offshore miles and miles downstream. The R2R philosophy originated in
Pacific Island cultures. In many of these cultures, land traditionally was divided in a
way that allowed access to upland, lowland and nearshore habitats and resources.
In some cases, land was divided from one ridge line to the next. Thus, people
developed an understanding of how to manage upland, lowland, as well as
nearshore reef ecosystems (in other words, they managed resources from the ridge
down to the reef). The rationale behind this land management structure was likely to
sustain livelihoods by allowing communities access to all the resources in a
watershed (forests, arable land, freshwater species, marine species). A by-product of
this land management approach was that people developed an understanding of
multiple ecosystems within a watershed, as well as an understanding of the
connection between upland, lowland, coastal and marine ecosystems.

Case Study: Ridge to Reef Tradition in Hawaiian Culture

“Ahupua`a, the traditional Native Hawaiian political division of land that encompasses various elements
of the `āina, which often (but not always) ranged from mauka to makai, from the tops of the mountains
to the sea. Although the term ahupua‘a is often used interchangeably with watershed, they are not the
same. Ahupua‘a is a political land division, whose boundaries often do not coincide with watersheds.
However, this does not mean that we cannot garner important knowledge from the relationships that
developed within and among ahupua‘a.

For example, those sharing resources with each other learn the value of integrating care for natural
resources with cultural, human, and spiritual resources. Traditional Native Hawaiian principles and
practices are being applied by community stewardship alongside contemporary watershed
management efforts throughout Hawai`i. Lessons from these efforts are providing valuable insights for
improved management of Hawaii’s watersheds.” (USGS 2011)

Alterations to the landscapes of remote Pacific islands are a legacy of human arrival over the past
1,500 years. These alterations increased dramatically since substantial European contact in the 19
century. Habitats have been transformed by invasive species, wildfire, agriculture, and the grazing of
animals. These changes swept across the watershed, making lowland, coastal and coral reef
ecosystems more vulnerable to erosion, sediments and pollution (USGS 2011).

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Case Study: Ridge to Reef Tradition in West Papua
In many parts of Indonesia, such as in Papua, the most appropriate management area for a R2R
plan may be defined by local community tenure boundaries, rather than government jurisdictional
boundaries. For example, communities in Kaimana, West Papua, have traditional ownership over
areas extending from the tops of steep forested mountains down to the reefs and open waters
below. They already use this land/sea area as a connected system, spending part of the year along
the coast making their income as fishermen and other parts of the year harvesting products from
upland forests.

An R2R planning process implemented on a large scale could involve the

reorganizing of national natural resource management agencies in order to integrate
watershed, coastal and marine management. Most commonly, the R2R process is
implemented on a smaller scale in the form of an individual R2R plan for a particular
watershed or basin, and that will be the focus of this training course. The modules in
this training course are designed to step participants through development of an R2R
watershed plan from start to finish.

It should be noted that, in some cases, the financial and political resources
necessary to develop a formal R2R plan for a watershed or basin may not exist. In
such cases, the processes discussed in this training could be used on a small scale
by MPA managers simply to assess activities occurring in a watershed, identify
voluntary actions that could be taken to address negative impacts from those
activities, and identify potential partners that could help implement those actions.
The result of such a process might simply be an internal list of issues and potential
actions that MPA staff could work to implement. The step-by-step process discussed
in this training could be scaled up or down in order to suit the situation.

Value of Ridge to Reef Approach in Protecting Coral Reef Ecosystems

Contemporary western societies’ approach to natural resource management has
heavily compartmentalized resources and relied upon fragmented governance of
those resources (Crowder et al. 2006). Resources are managed separately by
different agencies. Freshwater fisheries are managed by one agency. Marine
fisheries are managed by another. Water quality and water quantity are managed by
other agencies. The coastal zone is managed by yet another agency. The agencies

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that manage these resources are often governed by separate national and local
environmental legislation that dictates what they can and cannot work on and
regulate. Western societies traditionally approached conservation on a species by
species basis, listing individual species as threatened or endangered and then trying
to recover that single species. In turn, many developing countries developed natural
resource management frameworks that resemble the western approach.

However, this fragmented governance approach to managing natural resources does

not work well when it comes to more complex environmental impacts that are the
result of multiple stressors in multiple ecosystems (e.g. sedimentation on coral reefs,
or overfishing of highly migratory species such as tuna). No single agency has the
ability to tackle all of these issues. There is a growing awareness of the intimate
connection between the watershed and coastal zone (including nearshore reefs) that
has led western societies to look toward more integrated approaches to natural
resource management, such as the Ridge to Reef approach, which are rooted in
indigenous practices.

Many of the current threats to coral reef ecosystems in the Coral Triangle are
complex in nature; and an integrated approach like Ridge to Reef will be required to
address these threats. Coral reefs by their nature exist at the downstream end of
watersheds. However, their physical position in the watershed means that coral
reefs can experience the cumulative effect of negative impacts that occur upstream
in the watershed. Pollutants from land-based activities such as agriculture, and
urban development – unless they are addressed upstream – can migrate
downstream and eventually impact coral reefs. Frequently, coral reef and marine
protected area managers are unable to address these types of upstream impacts on
their own. For example, an MPA manager has no authority or jurisdiction to make
recommendations on terrestrial farming practices. In addition, the actions an MPA
manager can take, such as implementing a no-take fishing zone or requiring that
snorkeling operations implement Best Management Practices, would not be effective
in addressing an upstream problem such as fertilizer runoff.

Sedimentation on coral reef. Source:

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The goal of a comprehensive and coordinated R2R planning process is to address
the problem of fragmented governance of natural resources in watersheds and the
coastal zone.

The R2R process is designed to bring all natural resource managers in a watershed
together, along with communities, the private sector and a host of partners, to
address natural resource management issues in a watershed that are complex and
cover a wide geographic region.

If initiated with cooperation among national, regional, municipal and local authorities
(Crowder et al. 2006), an R2R plan can help to resolve the issues caused by
fragmented governance of watershed and coastal ecosystems. If implemented
effectively, an R2R plan can improve protection for coral reefs as well as benefit the
communities that rely upon these reefs to sustain their livelihoods.

Components of an Effective R2R Approach

There are some broad characteristics that an effective R2R plan will possess.

An effective R2R plan will,

• be based upon the precautionary principle;

• be interdisciplinary;
• rely upon integrated governance;
• rely on the principles of ecosystem-based management;
• be built upon traditional management practices;
• rely upon strong community engagement
• be fluid and adaptive

Precautionary Principle
The “precautionary principle” is a concept that originated in the 1980s in Europe.
Although controversial in some applications, the central idea is that a cautious
approach must be taken in situations that pose serious or irreversible threats to
human health, human societies, or the environment. The probable benefits of action
must be cautiously weighed against the likely costs of inaction, so that a responsible
course of action can be taken in the face of uncertainty (Olsen et al.)

The term ‘interdisciplinary’ means “of or relating to more than one branch of
knowledge”. An R2R plan by nature will require experts in many branches of
knowledge come and work together effectively. In the process of developing an R2R
plan, experts who have a strong understanding of coastal, nearshore and upland
ecosystems (and their geologic, physical, chemical and biological components) will
need to work together and communicate effectively with each other, as well as with
experts in sociology, economics, archeology, cultural anthropology and public policy,.

In order to communicate effectively, these expert participants will need to develop a

better understanding of each other’s fields of study. For example, MPA managers
and coral reef scientists will need to become familiar with watershed science, how
watersheds work and how the effects of activities in a watershed travel downstream.

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Likewise, terrestrial and freshwater managers and scientists will need to develop an
understanding of coastal and reef ecosystems.

Integrated Governance
Early and strong support from government is critical to implementing an R2R
approach. In order to develop and implement a successful R2R plan, a multitude of
national, regional and local government agencies will need to work together (i.e.,
integrate). As discussed earlier, management of natural resources is almost always
fragmented. An R2R plan may identify the need for increased riparian buffers but
MPA managers will likely not have the jurisdictional authority to promote a new
riparian buffer policy. The agency responsible for riparian buffers will need to be
involved and open to discussing potential changes to its programs and policies.

One of the first steps in developing an R2R plan is to open lines of communication
with the national government and assess whether national political support exists for
the R2R process. Ideally, a national government will mandate the full cooperation
and coordination between all levels of government in the planning and
implementation of an R2R plan. In turn, those government agencies may need to
resolve jurisdictional issues that inhibit an integrated approach.

Agencies may be wary of an R2R process because of the additional work entailed in
trying to integrate governance of natural resources. It may be useful to point out to
government representatives that many agencies, communities and other partners
that have participated in an R2R process found that an R2R approach allowed them
to pool resources (staff, financial and other) in order to focus their efforts on longer-
term, complex environmental and natural resource problems that they would have
been unable to tackle on their own. (source 10?) Additionally, integrating
governance should optimize policy interventions across the geographic extent of a
watershed (or system of sub-watersheds) to reduce potential conflicts, bridge
potential gaps in authority and streamline potential policy overlaps, all of which are a
source of frequent frustration for natural resource agencies.

Ecosystem-Based Management
A successful R2R plan will rely heavily on the principles of ecosystem-based
management. Ecosystem-based management is “an integrated approach to
management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans (K.L. McLeod
2005). In particular, ecosystem-based management:
• emphasizes the protection of ecosystem structure, functioning, and key
• is place-based in focusing on a specific ecosystem and the range of activities
affecting it;
• explicitly accounts for the interconnectedness within systems, recognizing the
importance of interactions between many target species or key services and
other non-target species;
• acknowledges interconnectedness among systems, such as between air,
land, and sea; and
• integrates ecological, social, economic, and institutional perspectives,
recognizing their strong interdependencies.

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Thus, by its nature, the R2R planning process – because it addresses an entire
watershed and seeks to understand and integrate management of upland, coastal
and nearshore ecosystems – is an example of ecosystem-based management.

Traditional Management Practices

R2R plans, where applicable and when appropriate, should be built on the traditional
natural resources practices of the region. Traditional practices are usually those used
by indigenous people of a region; and they usually incorporate an extensive
knowledge of the natural world, gathered and practiced over generations when
survival depended on sustainable use of both the land and sea for both current and
future generations.

Traditional approaches that

can be applied to watershed
management may include:

§ integrated and place-

based approaches the
highlight linkages
between land and sea
and unique features of
specific ecosystems;
§ recognition that
resource use is
integrally linked with
responsibility for and Source:
care of the
§ spatial or temporal management of resources, such as the sasi system and
other best management practices developed at appropriate scales of
management and consistent with natural processes (Hawai’I Office of
Planning 2010).

In any R2R plan, traditional management concepts need to be understood and

utilized within the context of the current diversity of human, cultural, socioeconomic,
environmental, and natural resource conditions (Hawai’I Office of Planning 2010).

Community Engagement
Community involvement in the development and implementation of an R2R plan is
critical, and strong community leadership is essential to the success of an R2R plan.
Leaders will need to keep their communities motivated as they face the financial,
political and technical challenges of implementing an R2R plan. Community
members should be intimately involved in determining the goals and objectives of the
R2R plan, prioritizing issues to be addressed in the R2R plan, and assessing the
success of the recommended actions in the R2R plan. While it can be challenging to
build community support for and engage community members meaningfully in an
R2R plan, the rewards can be big. Through the R2R process, communities become
more active stewards of the watershed and nearshore ecosystems upon which they
rely. Building and implementing an R2R plan can be a powerfully uplifting
experience and achievement that helps to unify and strengthen communities (Hawai’I
Office of Planning 2010).

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Adaptive management is a systematic approach for improving resource management
by learning from management outcomes. In many ways it is a philosophy of natural
resource management in which one makes management decisions, continuously
monitors the effects of those decisions and then makes changes to those
management decisions based upon the monitoring results. Adaptive management is
an iterative process through which resource managers learn from their mistakes and
are able to continuously make changes in the way resources are managed. It is a
fluid process in which new information is always coming in and influencing
management decisions. Given the rigidity of most governance structures
responsible for natural resource management, adaptive management is hard to
implement. However, there are sometimes opportunities to incorporate an adaptive
approach to managing resources within the context of R2R plans. For example, an
R2R plan may include formation of a scientific advisory panel that reviews water
quality or other monitoring data on a yearly basis and makes management
recommendations based upon this data.

1.2 Steps in the Ridge to Reef Planning Process

R2R planning efforts can be highly complex or quite simple, depending upon how
they are designed. The basic steps in the R2R process are outlined below and they
correspond to the R2R training modules.

1. Engage stakeholders
Engaging stakeholders is perhaps the most important step in the R2R
planning process, which is why it is addressed first in the training. The
process of engaging stakeholders involves first developing the partnerships
and building the teams necessary to lead the R2R process; then developing a
formal, public plan for involving partners, stakeholders and the interested
public; and finally conducting a formal, public scoping process to find out
what R2R issues are most important those partners, stakeholders and
members of the public.

2. Conduct watershed assessment

The goal of the assessment is to evaluate the health of a catchment and to
understand how natural events and human activities may be affecting the
catchment. Assessing the resources within a catchment can involve mapping
the catchment, compiling existing information and literature on the catchment
and collecting new data. An assessment of the coral reef ecosystem should
be conducted at this time if one has not already been done. This step can
occur concurrently with the public scoping process, if resources allow.

3. Develop R2R management actions

A draft R2R plan should be developed, and should include preferred
management actions as well as alternative actions. The plan should also
include an environmental assessment of both the preferred and alternative
actions. Once it is complete, the draft plan and environmental assessment

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should be published and a public comment period should be conducted,
along with any required formal consultations with agencies and governments.

4. Implement R2R management actions

Once comments are received, the draft plan should be revised. Formal
endorsement of and support for the plan should be sought from all relevant
governing authorities. Implementation of the plan officially begins when the
final R2R plan is published and adopted. The final plan should be made
publicly available, along with formal responses to comments received during
the public comment period. Additionally, strategies for implementing the plan
should be developed and published either with the final plan or separately.

5. Evaluate R2R management actions

Once the plan is in the process of being implemented, undertake any
monitoring requirements that were established in the plan. If no monitoring
plan was developed, identify several measurable indicators of success that
could be used to determine the relative effectiveness of the R2R plan.
Report on a regular basis to rt to partners, stakeholders and interested public
on those indicators and on general progress being made to implement the
R2R plan.

1.3 Ridge to Reef Case Studies

When developing an R2R plan for your watershed/region, it can be very helpful to
look at other examples of R2R plans. The R2R process can be carried out in any
number of ways. In some cases, such as in the Solomon Islands, the R2R
philosophy has been used specifically to focus on identifying priorities for land
conservation. Rather than trying to address all issues of watershed management,
they have developed Ridge to Reef Conservation Plans for islands. In West Maui,
the Ridge to Reef philosophy has been implemented in the form of a large Ridge to
Reef Initiative, which has led to the creation of a watershed assessment and
characterization of the Wahikuli-Honokowai watershed, with several other watershed
management plans.

In the case of the Solomon Islands, the R2R Conservation plans are around 40
pages and were developed over the span of a few months to a year. In the case of
West Maui, the Wahikuli-Honokowai Watershed Plan is hundreds of pages and was
developed over several years.

When developing an R2R plan it is important to think about the scale and scope of
the project and how large a project is feasible. If it is not feasible to develop a large,
comprehensive R2R plan for a watershed(s), perhaps it would be feasible to form an
R2R initiative that directs development of smaller plans and projects.

Below are some links to existing R2R plans and initiatives. Electronic copies of
these documents will also be provided with the training materials.

West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative

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Ridges to Reefs Conservation Plan, Isabel Province, Solomon Islands

Ridges to Reefs Conservation Plan, Choiseul Province, Solomon Islands

Ridge to Reef in the Philippines: A showcase of nine emerging and merging


Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development of the Great River Watershed, Jamaica

1.4 Environmental Assessment Process

When developing a large planning document such as a R2R plan, most countries will
require an environmental assessment of the plan be conducted. Environmental
assessments are themselves planning documents that are intended to guide and
inform decision-making, so it is important to initiate the environmental assessment
early on in R2R plan development. Even if not a legal mandate, it is a good idea to
conduct an environmental assessment of any large R2R plan, especially if it is
anticipated that that R2R plan might be publicly controversial.

The environmental assessment process was created because governments were

frequently taking actions (for example, building a bridge) and developing large and
comprehensive plans (such as transportation plans) without considering effects of
those plans on the ecological, socioeconomic and cultural environment. Thus, the
idea behind an environmental assessment process was to analyze government
actions to see what environmental effects could occur as a result and also involve
stakeholders and the public in considering those effects.

It is challenging to conceptualize developing two planning documents at the same

time: an environmental assessment and an R2R plan. If done effectively, the two
processes occur simultaneously and without duplicative effort. The first step is to
choose an environmental assessment framework to follow.

There are two common types of environmental assessments: the Environmental

Impact Statement (EIS) and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Some
countries will require one type of document or the other. Other countries may allow
agencies to choose which type of assessment they would like to conduct. Generally
speaking, the framework for an EIS is geared more toward assessing individual,
singular actions, such as constructing a road or building, whereas SEAs are more
useful for assessing the effects of broader scale plans and programs. It is
recommended that R2R plans utilize the SEA process if possible.

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Even if an EIS is typically required for management plans, governing authorities may
be accepting of an SEA because the standards for an SEA are as comprehensive, if
not more, than an EIS. Many countries are moving toward requiring SEAs for
management plans so it is important to contact the agency in charge of reviewing
environmental assessments and acquire the most up-to-date regulations.

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