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Today we’re celebrating Biological Diversity Day, which this year has the theme of ‘We’re part of the solution #ForNature’. This seems like a good opportunity to highlight the SeyCCAT-supported projects that are working towards the 15th UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG15) – Life on Land. Despite the predominant focus being on the Blue Environment, in part due to the inextricable link that Seychelles has with the ocean, over SCR 3 million of SeyCCAT funding has gone to projects working towards a part of SDG15. These include actions to; restore and conserve terrestrial ecosystems, specifically mangroves; increase education and awareness of the threats to biodiversity, and integrate the values of conserving biodiversity into spatial planning.

Mangrove ecosystems are exceptionally important for numerous reasons. Their roots stabilise the coastline by holding the soil in place, protecting the shore from erosion and buffering the land against waves and storms. Their complex root systems filter excess nitrates and phosphates carried by rivers from agricultural uses, cleaning this water before it reaches the sea. They provide habitat to thousands of species at all levels of the food web and at different stages in their life cycles. Indeed, many apex predator species, like the sicklefin lemon shark, depend on mangroves as their nursery ground, where these juveniles can find shelter and food before they move to the open ocean. Not only does this high biodiversity indirectly benefit humans, but mangroves also provide direct benefits and resources to coastal communities.

Deforestation, pollution and land reclamation are major threats to these incredible ecosystems, but several projects are rehabilitating areas that have been damaged. At Pasquiere, on Praslin, a community-based project has been combatting mangrove deterioration that has been caused, in part, by the growth of invasive species, oil pollution and rubbish dumping. Invasive species have now been cleared from over a hectare of land, most of the illegally dumped rubbish has been removed, 26 bamboo seedlings are being planted to help tackle pollutants and 900 mangrove seedlings have been propagated. By the end of the project, they aim to plant 1500 mangrove seedlings in the area and remove all invasive species, as well as replanting and securing the beach crest with native species.

Mangrove seedlings are also being propagated and planted in the Mont Fleuri wetlands, next to the International School Seychelles, as part of a project led by the school and involving the students. Already, through the regrowth of the mangroves, and the quiet period over lockdown, more wading birds and fish have been seen returning to the area. However, the main objective of this project is an educational one. By building a walkway close to the mangroves, children can be lead through and taught all about the rich biodiversity that the mangroves support. This aim of raising awareness about the importance of, and threats to, mangroves, and the steps that the community can take to protect them, is also the driving force behind the SeyCCAT-funded documentary ‘Caiman’.

To implement environmentally sound planning processes for development and climate-change resilience, it is vital to have a full understanding of these key ecosystems. Projects dedicated to mapping and monitoring mangrove habitats, like that on Praslin Island led by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, provide a solid basis for informed decision-making. By integrating the preservation and rehabilitation of mangroves into spatial planning policy, we can safeguard the rich biodiversity within for the benefit of the land, sea and future Seychellois.

Contributed by Lucinda Lintott