Conservation of biodiversity, seagrass ecosystems and their services – safeguarding food security and resilience in vulnerable coastal communities in a changing climate
As of: August 2020
Objective and activities
Seagrass meadows are an essential food source for the highly endangered dugongs. They are also important carbon reservoirs. Ecosystems are declining due to coastal development, deforestation, non-sustainable resource usage and environmental destruction. However, information on the state and condition of seagrass ecosystems is currently lacking, and the project contributes to reducing these knowledge gaps. It also aims to promote the integration of seagrass ecosystems into participative decision-making and alternative business models, to ensure the productivity and sustainability of seagrasses and the associated biodiversity in the Indo-Pacific. To date, there is not enough data available to develop a sustainable financing strategy for the protection of seagrass meadows in the five target countries. The bottom-up approach of the project enables local communities to provide such data to the relevant decision makers.
State of implementation/results
- The project kick-off meeting was held in the final week of January 2020, with the participation of representatives from all Implementing, Technical and National Partners.
- The project will use research methods (e.g. Seagrass-Watch and the Standardized Dugong Catch/Bycatch Questionnaire) that can be implemented by local communities in the five sites, and capacity building activities are ongoing.
- The project started the development of business models integrating seagrass ecosystem services, including homestays and spirulina aquaculture, which can provide an additional source of revenue to sustain conservation actions taken by local communities.
- The project is actively engaging with local communities and political partners, building relationships, raising awareness of the project, and starting to discuss seagrass conservation and policy.
- A National Partner representative from Philippines attended the Ninth Sirenian Symposium in December 2019 to highlight their local dugong conservation efforts and how the IKI Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project will help contribute to this.
- In concert to the Global Workshop and Meeting of Signatories mentioned above, Thailand also intend to host an Expert Workshop on the appropriate conservation measures for dugongs and seagrasses in the Koh Libong area (Thailand). This will complement the IKI project activities in Thailand and may also act as a replicable model for site-specific conservation workshops in other countries across the dugong’s range.
- Political momentum for dugong and seagrass conservation continues to be particularly strong in Thailand, with potential to resonate in the project’s region thanks to the global recognition of two dugong calves, Marium and Jamil, who were rescued and cared for by the Government in 2019. However, the plight of Marium, who died due to an infection linked to plastics in her digestive track, highlighted ocean pollution and plastics an emerging threat to dugongs that had not previously been a priority of the Dugong MOU. The project seeks to address this risk where possible.