Friday, July 8, 2011

Blue Carbon Photography Contest (Announcement)

Grassroots organizations involved in coastal and marine conservation are invited to participate in UNEP/GRID-Arendal’s Blue Carbon Photography Contest. Selected photographs are intended for use in a special image-based publication for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa (COP17), and for an online image resource - the Blue Carbon Photo Library.

The theme of the contest “Life on the coasts - Blue Carbon” focuses on the importance of a healthy marine environment in coastal livelihoods.

UNEP/GRID-Arendal is looking for iconic images in two categories – People & the Environment, and Coastal & Marine Ecosystems. Examples include coastal and underwater scenes, community based restoration and conservation projects, our connection to healthy coastal ecosystems (e.g. fisheries, tourism), and how a changing ocean and climate impact the daily life of people and communities living along the coast.

As long as there is a clear affiliation with a grassroots organization, all professional and non-professional photographers worldwide are welcome to submit. Organization logos will also be highlighted in the special publication. Blue Climate Solutions has offered a digital underwater camera as a prize for the best image. Additional sponsors are welcome (click here).


For Announcement and Competition Rules see:
(see Photo Contest pages)


To submit your images, please see the Competition Rules and send all submissions to:

Personal Release forms are required for all images that include recognizable subjects and children (see Competition Rules).


The deadline for submitting pictures to UNEP/GRID-Arendal is SEPTEMBER 30, 2011.
Finalists will be announced in October 2011.

After reviewing the Competition Rules, you will be fully prepared to enter the contest.

Good Luck to everyone!

Blue Carbon & Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management

Just yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend a great presentation by Tundi Agardy on coastal ecosystem based management and a new guide produced by UNEP. Definitely useful for the blue carbon concept and recommended reading! Thanks Tundi, and all the other authors, and UNEP. -Steven

Taking steps toward marine and coastal ecosystem based management - An introductory guide by UNEP

This guide by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) seeks to assist countries and communities to take steps towards making marine and coastal ecosystem-based management operational, from strategic planning to on-site implementation. An important aim of this guide is to facilitate the implementation of UNEP’s overarching Ecosystem Management Programme and new Marine and Coastal Strategy in countries and regions in line with its Medium Term Strategy 2010-13.

Healthy marine and coastal ecosystems provide many valuable services ranging from food security, resources for economic growth and recreation alongside tourism and coastline protection. They are also recognized as crucial reservoirs of biodiversity at a time when the loss of species on both land and in the sea is an increasing cause for concern.

The Marine and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) guide outlines operational considerations in an accessible language, drawing upon practical experiences and lessons across the globe from tropical coastlines to temperate estuaries and polar ocean ecosystems. An important message is that this is an incremental process and there are different paths toward EBM. Cross boundary considerations and working with neighbours and even countries far away will be an essential component.

The target audience of the guide includes planners and decision-makers in local, national and regional governments and communities across a broad spectrum of interests and uses. The guide is not a technical manual or textbook. Rather, it is an introduction to EBM principles and applications, providing an overview of core elements and pathways to getting started.

This guide is intended to complement UNEP’s work, such as the Green Economy, providing guidance on making changes in the way we interact with ecosystems, as well as the Blue Carbon Initiative, which explores the potential for mitigating climate change by investing and re-investing in healthy coastal ecosystems that capture and store carbon.

EBM offers a valuable solution for harnessing marine and coastal ecosystems in adapting to climate change and other potential disasters and can prove to be a valuable resource in assisting coastal countries and communities to move from theory to practical ecosystem-based management of oceans and coasts.

The guide is divided into the following chapters:


Section I. Making The Case For Marine and coastal EBM
  • Why is change necessary?
  • Defining EBM
  • How is EBM an improvement on current management?
  • EBM is science-based
  • EBM can grow from existing legal and regulatory frameworks
  • EBM embraces the precautionary approach
  • Costs and benefits of EBM
Section II. Examining the core elements of EBM
  • Core Element 1: Recognizing connections within and across ecosystems
  • Core Element 2: Applying an ecosystem services perspective
  • Core Element 3: Understanding and addressing cumulative impacts
  • Core Element 4: Managing for multiple objectives
  • Core Element 5: Embracing change, learning, and adapting EBM
Section III: Moving toward EBM
  • Visioning Phase: Establish a Foundation for EBM
  • Identify target geographic area and key concerns
  • Build interest, expand participation, and create settings for sectors to come together
  • Develop a common understanding of the ecosystem
  • Take stock of existing management practices
  • Set overarching goals
Planning Phase: Chart the EBM Process
  • Assess the ecosystem
  • Evaluate EBM governance options, and create legal frameworks to support multi-sectoral management
  • Identify measurable objectives
  • Prioritize threats, evaluate management options, and examine trade-offs
  • Choose management strategies for EBM implementation
Implementation Phase: Apply and Adapt EBM
  • Monitor, evaluate, and adapt
  • Continue to communicate and educate
  • Secure sustainable financing for EBM implementation over time
Concluding thoughts

Download the guide from below (size 10.07 MB):
Taking steps toward marine and coastal ecosystem based management - An introductory guide by UNEP (2011)

See also:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seagrass blues

Seagrass blues

29 June 2011, by Andrew J Wight, Cosmos Online

Broken sea grasses float over a degraded coral reef

The world's seagrass meadows are under threat and with them, species diversity and economic activity - but there's another reason to care about their fate.

SQUISHY AND LARGELY hidden, seagrass meadows may have a more difficult time grabbing headlines than their coral reef cousins, but researchers are now finding that preserving these forests of the sea may have a vital role in the climate change puzzle.

If you were to look out over Port Phillip Bay as it laps against the Melbourne shoreline, you are close to some of the most diverse marine habitats on the planet - and that's just a small part of Australia's seagrass meadows.

Along our 32,000km coastline, there's some 90,000 square kilometres of sea grass meadows, each made up of individual seagrass plants: mainly large, leafy and sun-loving.

Out of the 72 known seagrass species, Australia has 26 of them, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth, such as the endangered Posidonia sinuosa of Western Australia.

Seagrass meadows provide homes, food and nurseries for many marine creatures, in particular serving as feeding grounds for dugongs and western rock lobsters (Panulirus Cygnus) and breeding grounds for many commercially important fish species.

They are also important for water quality, filtering water and serving as an indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem, but the health of the meadows themselves has become of increasing concern.

In a recent study, 15 of the 72 known species of seagrasses were listed as 'Endangered', 'Vulnerable' or 'Near Threatened' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Seagrass researcher at the University of Technology Sydney, Peter Macreadie says there are multiple factors that make seagrass vulnerable, but the biggest threat is the creation of anoxic dead zones by algal blooms.

"Seagrass are plants that grow on the seafloor, so when nutrient runoff is taken up by the algae, the algae become dense and it blocks the sunlight from reaching the seagrass."

There is also direct damage done by humans via dredging or by boat propellers. If some plants are disturbed in the middle of a meadow, the 'hole' will actually get bigger and bigger, eating away the meadow from the inside. "We know we've lost 30% of the world's sea grasses already," says Macreadie.

Many seagrass scientists are now concerned about changes in water temperature caused by the apparent effects of climate change, he added. "Seagrass is changing its range and distribution, but they can only tolerate a certain set of temperatures."

Paradoxically, seagrass may be part of the solution to this threat.

"When we think about carbon sinks, most of us think about tropical rainforest like the Amazon," says Macreadie. "But seagrasses, mangroves and salt marshes cover 1% of the seafloor, but are estimated to sequester 70% of the ocean's carbon."

The first Blue Carbon report came out in 2010 and detailed how coastal ecosystems, including seagrass sequester carbon. According to Macreadie, it is estimated that seagrass beds can store for carbon for thousands of years, as opposed to the dozens of years of terrestrial plants.

"Like any plant, seagrasses go through seasons and left undisturbed, a typical plant could last for years and years. But unlike, say a rainforest, when seagrass shed their leaves or die, the leaves, roots and rhizomes don't decompose readily. That litter gets buried beneath the seagrass meadows and layers start to form."

Research groups from Europe have found that this layer of fibrous material gets locked away in deep sediments, and the amount of carbon sequestered can be estimated.

"We can age these cores and we're finding seagrasses up to 6m deep stored for thousands of years," said Macreadie.

It is hoped that by showing the capacity of seagrass to store carbon, they will be better candidates for funding and awareness in the same way that forests are conserved for their biodiversity and carbon storage capacity. There are, however, some hurdles to overcome.

The combined threat of increased pollution, increased population pressures from humans and their slow regeneration time means world is struggling to hold on to the seagrass it has, let alone expand their current range.

Past director of the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute, Gary Kendrick says restoration can get expensive.

"I've been working on a five-year restoration project and the chances of full recovery are still slim, as restoration is high risk and high expenditure. The seagrass restoration itself can cost anywhere from AU$8,000 a hectare to hundreds of thousands of dollars per hectare," he says.

"There are studies of a field that cost $1 million a hectare to restore. That's about ten times what it costs to restore a forest. It is much easier to conserve the seagrass habitats we already have in the first place, rather than trying to restore them after the fact. In Australia you can count the research groups on one hand, but the awareness of the importance of seagrass is growing."

What Kendrick hopes to do in the next five years is to bring together Australian groups in a research centre. "Rehabilitation is going to cost, so we'll look at what are the big threats to the seagrass and how do we best counter them?"

Mick Keough, at the Department of Zoology at the University of Melbourne, who has recently received funding to identify key seagrass habitats in Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay says the situation is improving for seagrass in Australia. "Some state governments, Western Australia and New South Wales in particular have strong emphasis on protection of seagrass."

But he adds that while seagrasses are seen as important by government, public perception is a real problem. "They aren't as charismatic as the reefs, but their role in nutrient cycles are a really important part of the ecosystem. I don't think anyone sees them as a pest anymore, but the don't have the same passion as they might for the barrier reef."

Researchers need to understand how disturbances affect seagrass habitats and the processes that are important for their recovery, Keough adds.

"Within the Bay, many species are found predominantly in seagrass meadows, and some species actually rely on seagrasses for survival in part of their life cycle," he said.

So when you step on that squishy piece of seagrass on the beach, don't curse: without these humble plants, our seas would be less rich with life, our water more turbid and our climate more turbulent.