Project Seagrass

Lorem Ipsum is simply dumy text of the printing typesetting industry lorem ipsum.

Benjamin Jones

Chief Conservation Officer

This year’s World Environment Day campaign focuses on land restoration, under the slogan “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration.”

Loss and degradation of coastal marine ecosystems, compromise the delivery of important ecosystem services to human society. Yet turning the tide on these losses and working towards a net gain in biodiversity is a challenge, not least because coastal marine ecosystems are exposed to threats occurring both in the ocean and on land. Land use change, through conversion of native terrestrial vegetation for agriculture, urbanization, and industry increases runoff and sedimentation, causing degradation of coastal ecosystems such as seagrass meadows 

Swathes of evidence from across the globe reveal that anthropogenic activities from the land are some of the largest drivers of seagrass loss. For example, research from the Philippines has revealed that land use is more important than marine protection for tropical seagrass condition, and our own research has revealed the agricultural drivers of seagrass degradation across the British Isles. Yet for the most part, conservation prioritisation for coastal ecosystems is traditionally centred around protecting intact habitats from ocean-based stressors (e.g., fishing). If we are to conserve seagrass, we need to look beyond the ocean, and to the land. And this year’s World Environment Day is a key reminder of that. 

To conserve seagrass, should we be protecting habitat on land, protecting habitat in the ocean, restoring habitat on land, restoring habitat in the ocean, or a mixture of these actions? Answering this question is extremely difficult, not least when data is absent, histories of change are blurred, priorities for monitoring and management change and the nature and extent of threats to seagrass are unknown. In these instances, we believe that it is vital to understand which threats local stakeholders observe or perceive as being most persistent. Interweaving indigenous and local knowledge, and other expert witness knowledge as alternative data sources, is key. 

Our land. Our future. 

Seagrass meadows in the Wakatobi National Park (WNP), Indonesia are exploited for their rich fish and invertebrate communities – faunal communities that provide food security and livelihoods across the National Parks islands. Yet, with a growing population, the area of seagrass habitat is decreasing, and plant species composition and health is declining.  

Working with our local partner, FORKANI, and after a series of focus groups with local stakeholders, it seemed clear that the issue and threat they felt was most dominant, was sedimentation; the removal of mangroves and primarily forest areas had lessened the ability for land to absorb and store water. Built on indigenous and local knowledge, FORKANI, in collaboration with Project Seagrass, developed an incentives programme designed to provide fruit trees to farmers and landowners to facilitate stabilisation of river banks and reduce sediment deposition to the coast and at the same time improve the continually worsening problem of water storage. 

Now, over 5000 trees have been planted along riverbanks across the National Park by FORKANI, as well as school groups and government ministers.  

Nusi, a member of FORKANI, tends to trees in a nursery.
Teenagers and school groups taking part in tree planting.

Photo: Nusi, a member of FORKANI, tends to trees in a nursery.

Photo: Teenagers and school groups also took part in tree planting.