In 2015, Seychelles, along with 195 countries, came together in Paris for the Climate Change Conference (COP21). History was made when an agreement was concluded by all countries present, named the Paris Agreement, to collectively tackle climate change. The target goal was specific; to limit global warming to well below 2 °C, and even aim to a 1.5 °C limit.

Seagrass Meadows

Today, 12th December marks the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement. In line with the Agreement, countries are expected to submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) before the curtains are drawn in 2020. However, with the postponement of the Climate Change Conference (COP26) and COVID-19 related delays, some countries will be submitting the NDC in early 2021; Seychelles is one of these countries.

Seagrasses will, for the first time in February 2021, feature in Seychelles’ climate plans. Scientific research is currently being carried out to establish the extent to which seagrasses mitigate the adverse effects of climate change – or to be specific, how much carbon dioxide it absorbs and stores. Through seagrass mapping (which will be elaborated upon in our next article), the total coverage of seagrass coverage in our waters will be determined and from that, an estimate of how much carbon is actually stored in these meadows will be calculated using a methodology devised by a panel of climate scientists.

Research conducted worldwide has already confirmed that seagrass meadows represent the most important blue carbon store, absorbing carbon dioxide at a rate that is 35 times faster than tropical terrestrial forests. (Translation – seagrass meadows are as important, if not more, as the great Amazon forest, in keeping all living things, including us humans, alive).

But, seagrass meadows do far more than reducing carbon dioxide in our ocean and atmosphere; they also provide critical services to marine ecosystems. From the improvement of water transparency (resulting in vibrant coral reefs), to providing habitat for microbes, invertebrates and vertebrates, often
endangered or commercially important (think of kordonyen (rabbitfish)), their benefits even extend beyond the water and onto the shoreline, where there, they provide protection against erosion.

The results of the research which are being carried out locally will also play a crucial role in enabling us to understand how best we can conserve these marine plants. It is a well-known fact for those involved in marine conservation that seagrass meadows are continuously under threat with each passing year from both human and natural elements. It is estimated that seagrass meadows have shrunk at a rate of 1 per cent every year since the start of the 20th century.

The Coastal Wetlands and Climate Change Project

Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) is undertaking the project which is determining the coverage and carbon storage capacity of Seychelles’ seagrasses. The project is also tackling some of the setbacks such as low human resource capacity and little understanding by the general public and business community of the economic value and importance of seagrass ecosystems. Bringing the topic to the attention of policymakers is also part and parcel of the work SeyCCAT is doing so that seagrass habitats can be included at the national policy level.

Next month: Seagrass Mapping