A lot has changed since November 2019, when the ResilienSEA project awarded four seagrass research scholarships to master’s students. However, the recipients’ determination to complete their programs and protect seagrass ecosystems has not.
We follow Dr. Maria Potouroglou during the second of the ResilienSEA national seagrass identification, mapping and monitoring training series organized in seven West African countries.
Day 1: Group departure for the Bijagos Islands
From November 4-8 2019, a national seagrass identification, mapping and monitoring training was held in Guinea-Bissau, in the Bijagos archipelago. The training was addressed to the national team, composed of ten scientists and managers. Facilitated by Dr. Maria Potouroglou, it was organized around the following modules: Overview of seagrasses – biology and ecology; Importance of seagrasses and threats; Mapping and monitoring of seagrasses. After a short brief with all trainers and participants, the group departed for the Bijagos Islands where participants would “dive into” seagrass theory and fieldwork for the next 4 days.
Day 2: Theoretical class at the Bubaque Island and travel to Orango National Park
The theoretical part of the training was facilitated by Prof. Salomao Bandeira, a seagrass expert from Mozambique and member of the Western Indian Ocean Seagrass Network. The participants had the opportunity to learn more about seagrass, how to distinguish the species present in West Africa, and discussed the various services and benefits that these ecosystems provide to people and the environment. With concrete examples from West and East Africa, they learned how seagrasses support essential commercial and artisanal fisheries, hence ensuring food security along both coastlines. They also discussed how seagrass mitigate the effects of climate change, improve water quality, support rich biodiversity, provide cultural and recreational benefits. In the evening, the team travelled to Orango National Park, in order to facilitate the field trips to the pilot site, between the Unhocomo and Unhocomozinho islands.
Days 3-4: Seagrass fieldwork at Unhocomo and Unhocomozinho
The presence of seagrass had been previously confirmed at the pilot site during a ResilienSEA mission in April 2019. For two consecutive days, the team surveyed the whole site but also explored nearby areas. One seagrass species was identified at the pilot site, Halodule wrightii. The participants mapped the site, and collected information on seagrass coverage and canopy height, sediment composition and presence of algae. This information is crucial for the subsequent monitoring of the site that will take place regularly in the coming months.
Day 5: Training wrap-up and return to Bissau
At the end of the training, the trainers considered that “the members of Guinea-Bissau’s national team are well-trained and well-prepared”, and hoped for this training to only be “the beginning of the identification of further seagrass sites in the country, and that others will be discovered during the coming months”.
Dr. Maria Potouroglou
Pictures: Dr. Maria Potouroglou