BGF#3

Type: Large

SeyCCAT strategic objective: 1

Lead Project Partner: James Michel Foundation

Partners:

  1. Deakin University, Australia
  2. Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment

Summary:

To advance Seychelles’ Blue Economy, it is imperative to explore Blue Carbon opportunities within the region. The SeyCCAT’s grant provides key funds to better understand marine assets (i.e. Blue Carbon systems) that directly mitigate climate change and reduce ocean risks like coastal erosion and sea level rise (as highlighted in the Seychelles’ Blue Economy roadmap; strategic priority #3). Accounting for the ocean’s carbon offsetting capacity can help Seychelles remain a net carbon sink and achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). Further, many of the costs of achieving emission reductions in the energy and transport sector and could be met through international climate financing and Blue Carbon Markets.

Blue carbon ecosystems (i.e. mangroves, seagrass beds, saltmarsh) are among earth’s most efficient carbon sinks, burying carbon up to 40-times faster than tropical rainforests and locking away carbon in the ground for millennial time scales. In addition to sequestering carbon, blue carbon ecosystems provide other important ecosystem services: they support fisheries, enhance biodiversity, and protect shorelines from erosion, extreme weather events and sea level rise.

Our research proposal seeks to explore the Seychelles’ Blue Carbon future, by developing a first-pass assessment of potential Blue Carbon opportunities in the Seychelles and building local capacity and literacy on Blue Carbon (through a series of on-site workshops).

This project is timely given that Seychelles’ Blue Carbon ecosystems have declined dramatically as a result of coastal development, and face added pressures with future climate change (including sea level rise). This project will help put Seychelles at the forefront of international efforts to incorporate coastal carbon within CO2 mitigation strategies, thereby helping to mitigate climate change, while also improving water quality, enhancing natural capital, and contributing to jobs, economic growth and community wellbeing. Importantly, this project will provide new societal and financial impetus for restoration and protection of the Seychelles’ coasts, seeding new environmental markets, and thereby ensuring a legacy of optimal management of coastal ecosystems.

Increased knowledge on Seychelles’ Blue Carbon systems and enhanced public awareness on their ability to mitigate climate change, fully embodies SeyCCAT strategic priority #4. Knowledge gained from this program would also be developed, shared and utilised to advance other SeyCCAT strategic priorities:

• Support the creation of MPAs that protect the health and resilience of Blue Carbon systems as carbon sinks (Strategic Objective #1)
• Promote and incentivise the rehabilitation of seagrass and mangrove systems given their ability to fight climate change (Strategic Objective #3)
• Nurture the establishment of blue economy projects and Blue Carbon markets that can reward businesses that protect and restore the ability of Blue Carbon systems to mitigate climate (Strategic Objective #5).

Objectives of the Blue Carbon Study

Our Chief Scientific Advisor Ameer Ebrahim speaking to the National broadcaster on the objectives of the first Blue Carbon study for Seychelles by the The James Michel Foundation and Deakin university Blue Carbon Lab with the financial support of the Seychelles' Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust

Posted by The James Michel Foundation on Tuesday, 4 February 2020

SeyCCAT funds:   SCR 1, 000, 000

Co-financing:  SCR 945, 000

Duration: 10 months

Project Application Form:

Environment and social management Plan – ESMP_BlueCarbon_20191219

Project Update

Milestone 1 achieved: Literature review: Blue Carbon Research in the Tropical Western Indian Ocean

The research identified 131 studies examining the biomass or carbon stored in the Western Indian Ocean’s (WIO) mangroves and seagrass beds. Of these, 101 contained unique datasets, which were used in the study, 82 were based on mangrove ecosystems and 49 explored seagrass meadows, despite their higher distribution extent. This is likely to be because of mangrove’s higher carbon storage potential and easier access to sites and sampling. Almost half of the studies were published in the last 10 years, showing an increase in blue carbon research interest. Most studies were conducted along the mainland East African coast and only 4 in the Seychelles: 1 on mangroves, 3 on seagrass meadows.

The main conclusions from the report:

  • This literature review highlighted the tropical WIO is a blue carbon hotspot with significant carbon stocks being stored in its diverse and extensive coastal ecosystems. However, it also revealed that despite the increasing regional interest on blue carbon research, there are still major knowledge gaps to be addressed.
  • The key research gaps include: (1) the lack of blue carbon datasets from seagrass ecosystems, specifically habitat distribution and belowground plant measures; (2) little information on soil carbon stocks on mangrove and seagrass ecosystems (particularly along deep soil profiles); and (3) a significant lack of soil accretion rates (only 3 studies). Given that the majority of the blue carbon stocks are stored in the sediments (Duarte et al. 2005, Mcleod et al. 2011), soil data are critical to fully account for the annual carbon being sequestered by these ecosystems and, be able to incorporate blue carbon ecosystems in the NDCs.
  • Most blue carbon datasets have been collected in the mainland coast of East Africa, leaving a major geographical gap in Small Island Developing States such as Seychelles. With only 4 relevant studies identified within the Seychelles archipelago, there is an urgent need for blue carbon research in the country.