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East meets West: Connecting Seagrass Networks

Seagrass conservation has become a topic of growing interest not only to the scientific community, but also to coastal managers and policy-makers. This is not surprising given the important role they play in maintaining biodiversity, supporting food security and providing a myriad of ecosystem services vital to sustaining human well-being.

In West Africa, the potential of seagrass meadows is enormous. Nevertheless, thorough investigations are required to determine their spatial distribution as well as implementing a monitoring system that takes into account the needs and available means in the region. This is one of the main objectives of ResilienSEA project launched in 2018, which aims to support 7 West African countries (Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone) to better manage this crucial but largely overlooked habitat.

The efforts undertaken by the ResilienSEA project are essentially based on building the capacity of people involved in the management of seagrass meadows. This will ensure the continuity of the project’s actions beyond its closure in 2022.

ResilienSEA project team in Guinea-Bissau. Credit: Rob Barnes, GRID-Arendal

As part of our efforts to exchange knowledge and experiences, as well as partner with other regional seagrass networks, ResilienSEA traveled to Mauritius for the 11th Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) Scientific Symposium held from July 1 to 6, 2019. There, the team participated in the workshop organised by the Western Indian Ocean Seagrass Network (WIOSN). WIOSN aims to develop standardised methods for seagrass mapping and monitoring across the Western Indian Ocean region to foster a comprehensive overview of the distribution and dynamics of seagrasses, and inform management. The workshop gave an unprecedented opportunity for our team to learn about the best practices used by WIOSN, as well as global networks, such as SeagrassWatch and the International Seagrass Experts Network.

Workshop participants at WIOMSA. Credit: Western Indian Ocean Seagrass Network (WIOSN)

Seagrass ecosystems are under-resourced, overlooked, and under threat. Our knowledge of the impacts of climate change and other anthropogenic pressures on these ecosystems is limited when compared to other coastal habitats and particularly terrestrial ones. By fostering partnerships among networks that extend across ocean basins, not only can we learn from each other, but also inspire and get inspired to work towards a common goal.

Because #SeagrassMatters

Mohamed Ahmed Sidi Cheikh and Maria Potouroglou

Header photo: Capacity building in the ocean in Guinea-Bissau. Credit: Rob Barnes, GRID-Arendal

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