Sovereign states in the Caribbean have lower social-ecological vulnerability to coral bleaching than overseas territories

Coral reef social-ecological systems worldwide face major impacts from cli- mate change, and spatial variation in vulnerability is driven by differential exposure to climatic threats, ecological and socio-economic sensitivity to those threats, ecological recovery potential, and socio-economic adaptive capacity. We assess variation in social-ecological vulnerability to climate change-induced coral bleaching, specifically for reef-based fisheries and tourism, of islands throughout the insular Caribbean, thus providing the first region-wide quantitative analysis of island-scale social-ecological vulnerability to coral bleaching. We show that different components of vulnerability have distinct spatial patterns and that variability in overall vulnerability is driven more by socio-economic than ecological components. Importantly, we find that sovereign islands are less vulnerable on average than overseas territories and that the presence of fisheries management regu- lations is a significant predictor of adaptive capacity and socio-economic sensitivity, with important implications for island-level governance and policies to reduce climate vulnerability.

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