ResilienSEA in Guinea-BIssau
Guinea-Bissau is bounded by Senegal in the North, Guinea in the South, and the Atlantic in the West. Its territory is predominantly composed of low-lying coastal plains, with vast archipelagos. The largest of all, the 40-islands archipelago of Bijagós and Bissagos, covers an area of 10.000 km2. This unique topography allows for a diversity of ecosystems of international significance. Indeed, 10% of the territory is covered by mangroves, which makes it one of the largest mangrove forests in the world. Additionally, the variety of animal species adds to the exceptional value of this territory. One can find more than 130 species of mammals (e.g. primates), reptiles (turtles, crocodiles) 508 species of birds, a luxuriant halieutic resource, as well as rare and endangered species (e.g. hippopotamus).
With large portion of the territory being low-lying coastal areas, healthy marine and coastal environments are necessary conditions for current and future human well-being. The population livelihood revives around agriculture, notably of rice that is grown in coastal zones, firewood harvesting, and artisanal fisheries. Fish, shellfish and mollusks are the main source of animal protein. In addition, as part of political efforts to modernize the economic system, investments were made in eco-tourism. This implies the construction of many facilities to support this growing activity.
However, coastal and marine ecosystems are increasingly vulnerable. The combination of human pressures and climate change are considerably degrading the environment. Coastal erosion, floods, litter and plastic pollution, decline of fauna and flora have accelerated. The conservation of seagrass meadows can play a significant role in improving Guinea-Bissau’s resilience.
As part of Guinea-Bissau’s commitment to preserve biological diversity and to fight against climate change (through the Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), seagrass conservation is of crucial importance. The state already has a set of frameworks which can contribute toward this goal. This includes the Plan of Environmental Management (2004), the National Strategy and Action Plan for Biodiversity and the National Action Plan of Climate Change Adaptation. To date, twelve Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and three Managed Marine Areas (MMAs) exist. Yet, the state of seagrass in Guinea-BIssau is relatively unknown. Through the ResilienSEA project, the country is conducting further research in order to improve seagrass meadows protection.