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.
ResilienSEA project team visits the seven implementing countries
Grey Heron in Banc d’Arguin National Park, Mauritania. (Credit, PNBA)
Seven countries. Three languages. Little knowledge about an important resource. Mapping and protecting the vast seagrass beds along the coast of Western Africa is a challenging task.
That’s the goal of the ResilienSEA project which GRID-Arendal is leading.
The project will increase knowledge about the location and state of seagrass meadows in West Africa by collating all available data. It will fill in the gaps of missing data in order to increase protection levels and better manage seagrass in the region.
It’s not a job that can be done remotely. It requires bringing together managers and researchers from the seven implementing countries – Mauritania, Senegal, Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone – to build capacity and increase expertise.
Seagrasses are a vital marine habitat that provides multiple ecosystem services, serving as nursery and feeding grounds, protecting coastlines and storing carbon, among many other benefits. They are also one of the world’s least known ecosystems and face multiple threats, mainly from human activities. Knowledge about seagrass distribution and health is poor, especially in Western Africa. This lack of information is one of the key reasons for seagrass’ insufficient level of protection.
Between July and October, ResilienSEA’s project manager, Tanya Bryan, and Mallé Diagana, the regional coordinator, visited all seven countries taking part in the project. Mrs. Bryan explained that “these country visits were paramount for the project as not all partners were able to attend the inception workshop. We were excited to meet the stakeholders and to see the enthusiasm they are bringing on board. This bodes well for the success of the important work to be started next year”.
While meeting on the ground with various partners, they collected existing maps, publications and reports on seagrass beds that aren’t always publicly available. For example, the team was excited to find two publications from the University of Cape Verde that identify for the first time the presence of two species (Ruppia maritima, Halodule wrightii) in Santiago island.
Another important objective of these country visits was to start identifying pilot sites in each country where local partners will start mapping seagrass distribution, identify the species and monitor their status for a twelve-month period. Tanya and Mallé also talked to local partners about planning and organization needs for regional workshops to be held in 2019; specifically, a technical workshop to be held in the first quarter of the year where country representatives will be trained on seagrass ecology, species identification and the threats these vital ecosystems are facing.
These meetings also led to the formation of national teams that will implement the project in each country. Mohamed Lamine Sidibé, Director of the Marine and Coastal Areas Directorate (CPMZC) in Guinea, said “We are very excited to be one of the seven countries chosen to implement the ResilienSEA project, the first of this magnitude in Western Africa. As the national team leader for Guinea, the CPZMC will strive to work with other national institutions to increase our knowledge about seagrass in our pilot site, in order to enhance their protection.”
Fishermen in Conakry, Guinea. (Photo, Tanya Bryan)