Project Seagrass

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The theme of the 2024 World Ocean Day is catalyzing action for our ocean and climate 

This recognises the fact that the health of the marine environment, including our globally declining seagrass meadows, requires significantly stronger local, national, and international action from both government and corporate leaders. 

In this article we consider collaborative approaches available to Governments to fulfill their responsibilities to seagrass conservation in light of recent commitments made at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). 

Multi-sector partnerships for seagrass conservation 
In February 2024, parties at the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) COP14 in Uzbekistan passed a resolution that recognises the role that seagrasses play in supporting migratory species. This is the first time that seagrass’ important role for migratory species has been recogised within a global context with the resolution requiring signatory states to report on their progress towards seagrass-related biodiversity goals.  

The resolution presents a significant opportunity for signatory states and one which will require a collaborative and cross-sector approach given the requirement for governments to report on the location of seagrass meadows, the migratory species utilising them, and the threats facing these important habitats. 

The scale of this work will require significant investment which working in isolation is likely to render unachievable financially. Governments could instead opt for the creation of multi-sector strategic partnerships in deliver their reporting requirements and leverage sufficient funding towards this work. 

One approach available to Governments could be to develop strategic partnerships with NGOs and scientific institutions to develop ecosystem service credits or other new financing systems. These marine credits could subsequently be sold as offsets to corporations or governments whose activities are having a detrimental impact on our marine environment which would in turn fund the work required to reverse this damage. 

However, the effectiveness of any credit system would rely upon its responsible implementation and strong regulation.  Seagrass meadow ecosystems play host to complex interactions between local communities and nature (social-ecological systems). Conservation finance solutions must therefore benefit these communities directly rather than channeling funding to businesses or third parties.  

Dugong feeding on seagrass, Great Fringing Reef, Red Sea Credit Anett Szaszi Ocean Image Bank

Dugong feeding on seagrass, Great Fringing Reef, Red Sea
Photo Credit: Anett Szaszi, Ocean Image Bank

A Dunlin (Calidris alpina) stands with its head tucked into its wing
Knot (Calidris canutus) Photo Credit: Emma Butterworth

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) Credit: Emma Butterworth
Photo Credit: Emma Butterworth

Knot (Calidris canutus)
Photo Credit: Emma Butterworth

The need for effective seagrass mapping to inform approaches 
One of the major challenges facing seagrass conservation and restoration is the availability of seagrass maps upon which the successful implementation of approaches such as ecosystem service credits will depend. 

Progress and developments continue to be made with mapping methods including satellite remote sensing and underwater vehicles however the current picture remains far from complete. Utilising the local knowledge of indigenous people, citizen scientists, and researchers to build on existing data and create reliable maps will be essential to working towards the resolution’s mapping goals. 

Working in partnership will enable COP14 signatory states to make steps towards global net gain for seagrass. 

You can read more here.