Coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses are crucial for life above and below water. These aquatic habitats do everything from house fish, to store carbon to protect communities from storm surges. But all three are under threat from a combination of climate change, coastal development and pollution. In the last 30 years the planet has lost up to 50 percent of its coral reefs and many more of these wildlife-rich ecosystems remain under threat from climate change.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) have launched a grant program that will provide US$ 80,000 to projects that support the conservation of these three marine habitats. The grants will focus on initiatives that lead to the “sustainable management and protection of vulnerable marine and coastal ecosystems. The new grants build on an initiative launched in 2017, the Small Grants Programme. Under that drive, five projects received grants of up to US$ 60,000 to protect coral reefs and related ecosystems from climate change.
The first project developed spatial information layers for climate change vulnerability and anthropogenic stress. The information was then incorporated into conservation planning for the Sabah and Terengganu states in Malaysia; The second project supported the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef by developing innovative financing mechanisms to repair the coral outcrop after hurricane damage; The third funded project tapped into the climate change mitigation potential of mangrove ecosystems in Kenya, leveraging sustainable financing streams through the voluntary carbon market. It built on another award-winning project in Gazi Bay, Kenya; The fourth project developed a seascape genomics methodology to assess conservation priorities and apply it to the UNESCO-listed reef system of New Caledonia. It focused on improving coral reef conservation strategies against bleaching in the French territory, which comprises dozens of islands in the South Pacific; The final project offered certification of peer trainers in the management of coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and beaches in marine protected areas of the Western Indian Ocean.
The new grants come at the outset of the UN Decade on ecosystem restoration (2021 - 2030), which aims to repair degraded ecosystems in an effort to fight climate change, enhance food security and preserve biodiversity. They also put a spotlight on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 - 2030), which seeks to ensure that ocean science supports national actions to sustainably manage underwater ecosystems and contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition II - 2021)