What's New in Blue?
Eons ago, life on Earth began in the ocean. But in little more than a century, people have significantly altered the form and function of the vast saltwater bodies that hold about 97 percent of the water on the planet, produce more than half of the oxygen we breathe and serve as the foundation of the global food web.
“We all depend on the ocean and are collectively responsible for its well-being,” says Maria Damanaki, The Nature Conservancy’s former global managing director for oceans. “Understanding its value, and thus the cost of inaction, is crucial.”
On a global level, Maria is encouraged by recent United Nations negotiations to establish international governance for the high seas, the parts of oceans that lie outside of any national territory and cover almost 50 percent of the planet. The goal is to ratify a conservation and sustainable use plan for the high seas in 2020.
Around the world, TNC is empowering people to actively engage in protecting the places that define their cultures and support their livelihoods. “We must ensure that conservation remains an indispensable partner in ocean development,” Maria says. “We are contributing our scientific and financial expertise to enable informed, data-driven and measurable decision-making, with the goal of long-lasting impact.”
We all depend on the ocean and are collectively responsible for its well-being.
Discover three exciting marine projects.
INDONESIA: Investing in Blue Carbon
Coastal habitats, including mangrove forests, sequester billions of tons of carbon at concentrations up to five times greater than terrestrial forests, yet mangroves are being lost at a higher rate than any other forest type. Indonesia harbors the world’s largest distribution of these trees and shrubs, which draw in carbon and ultimately store it in the soil for thousands of years. But the lack of clear governance of mangroves, and land conversion for development and aquaculture, are rapidly degrading Indonesia’s mangrove forests. “With partners, we are developing a blue carbon initiative in a province that has high mangrove coverage but also high rates of degradation,” says Ade Rachmi Yuliantri, TNC’s climate resilience manager in Indonesia. “The project will improve the policy framework for mangrove protection and develop sustainable management plans. We are seeing progress. One community was planning to expand shrimp ponds, but after helping them understand the threat to mangroves, shrimp farmers and the local government agreed not to open new ponds.” T Conservancy is also working on a socioeconomic study on sustainable livelihoods to help people find new opportunities that won't harm mangroves.
Kenya: Helping Fishers Help Themselves—and Fish
The coral reefs that stretch along Kenya’s coast serve as the nurseries for a multitude of colorful fish species harvested by the local people. Fish constitute about 17 percent of all animal protein consumed in the world, and as much as 26 percent in developing countries. In recent years, fishers in northern Kenya noticed a decline in smaller fish—and they wanted to help find solutions to benefit the reefs and the marine life they depend on for food. While citizen science and community monitoring are not new ideas, these efforts can fail when the processes are too technical. That’s why TNC scientists and partners took a different approach: they developed a guidebook with colorful illustrations of fish species, which was used to help train 17 reef rangers. “It is exciting to see these rangers from the fisher community independently monitoring their coral reef habitat and fisheries,” says George Maina, TNC’s fisheries strategy manager in Africa. “They are using that information to inform and assess the effectiveness of their management interventions, including the no-take zones they have designated.”
New York and Beyond: Saving the Shore
Today, about 40 percent of the world’s population live within 100 kilometers of a coast. As the planet’s climate continues to change, flooding from sea level rise and hurricanes will devastate coastal communities—and those on Long Island, New York, are a case in point. A decade ago, TNC staff worked with area residents and partners to address coastal hazard issues by mapping sea level rise, storm surge, social and economic assets, community vulnerability and natural resources. The effort was so successful in influencing local policy and informing management decisions that the knowledge gained from it was integrated into a first-of-its-kind online tool that has been used in 17 U.S. states, the Caribbean and Central America, and is now being applied in Australia and Southeast Asia. According to Zach Ferdana, TNC’s coastal resilience program manager, “TNC’s Coastal Resilience program is collaborating with technology partners, including Microsoft, and humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross, in formal partnerships and on-the-ground projects to explore how nature can reduce the risk of coastal flooding. Technology, humanitarian and conservation sectors need to be intricately linked to build climate resilience.”