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Putting Seagrass on the West African map

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A new project on seagrasses was launched today in Dakar, Senegal.

ResilienSEA is coordinated by GRID-Arendal and funded by MAVA, a foundation based in Switzerland with extensive experience in West Africa. The project focusses on four strategies: scientific research, capacity building, information, awareness and advocacy and new policy ideas.

Wetlands International leads capacity building and the Abidjan Convention Secretariat will head the strategy on policy development. GRID-Arendal will run the scientific research and communications strategies and is responsible for overall project coordination.

There are 60 seagrass species worldwide and they live in all coastal and marine areas – from shallow intertidal zones to 90 metres below the surface. The only place they aren’t found is Antarctica. They are one of the ocean’s most important habitats and serve as nursery and feeding grounds for fish, protect coastlines and store carbon, to name a few benefits. At the same time, they are one of the world’s least known ecosystems and in dire need of protection.

The main reason for this lack of protection is the paucity of information regarding some of the most basic aspects of seagrass distribution and health. In areas of the globe where there is more data available, protection levels for seagrasses have increased. However, except for part of the Mauritanian coastline, there has been little work mapping seagrass locations in West Africa.

ResilienSEA will bring together managers and researchers to gather data and create national and regional expertise within West Africa. The project will

  • Evaluate available regional data and create regional and national seagrass distribution maps;
  • Work with national institutions to identify and collate datasets either previously unavailable or with limited distribution, and using these data to improve accuracy of the regional and national maps;
  • Evaluate and communicate the benefits and services provided by seagrass habitats, both to local communities as well as decision-makers at a national and transnational scale.
  • Train national researchers and managers on a wide variety of topics including specific issues such as seagrass health index, vulnerability and threat analysis, as well as conservation finance options, in order to ensure the sustainability of monitoring programmes.
  • Spearhead a variety of targeted communication and outreach activities to build awareness, interest and a sense of responsibility and stewardship towards the habitats.

ResilienSEA will run for the next three years.

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