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Marine Life & Conservation

Sea wall ‘eco-engineering’ can help boost biodiversity

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Slight modifications to sea defences – at little or no extra cost – can boost the level of biodiversity found in intertidal zones, a study has shown.

Researchers found that attaching artificial rock pools to the structures created habitats suitable for mobile creatures, such as starfish or crabs.

They added that they hoped the results would encourage future designs to incorporate “ecological engineering”.

The findings have been published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series journal.

“When we looked into the economics, more than 80% of money that is spent to protect coastlines from climatic changes is spent building new sea walls, increasing the height, stability and length of existing ones,” explained co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist based at the US-based National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

“This is because we want to protect human lives and we also want to protect the important infrastructure.”

“But when we looked at how those seawalls were being built, they were being built according to engineering and financial criteria, not really on their capacity to support marine life.”

Dr Browne, who was based at the University of Sydney for the research, said colleague and co-author Prof Gee Chapman had spent many years examining how plants and animals found in the intertidal area of shorelines were affected by engineering.

“The overwhelming evidence she had was that there were major differences between the types of organisms that you find on seawalls compared with those on natural shorelines,” he said.

“One of the major differences was the absence of mobile organisms – such as limpets, starfish and crabs.”

So the researchers set up an experiment to find out why this was the case and what could be done to mitigate the impact of the structures.

Previous studies had shown that when artificial shorelines replaced the natural ones, there was usually a change of species locally as sedimentary habitat was replaced with hard materials.

“Although many native species live on the hard substratum, they are not usually the same species that live in or on soft substratum,” they wrote.

They suggested that the changes to the composition of organisms living on or near the structure may be the result of the steep sides of the sea defences, limiting the intertidal area available to species.

“Alternatively, the walls may lack important intertidal habitats microhabitats,” they added. “The most obvious are rock pools.”

In order to test the idea whether simple additions to otherwise featureless sea walls in Sydney Harbour would make the structures more biodiversity friendly, the researchers installed a number of large, concrete flowerpots to create artificial rock pools.

They observed: “The size of the pot, its height on the wall and its location affected the assemblages that developed, with greater abundances and diversity of organisms in shallower pots and those at mid-shore levels.”

Dr Browne explained: “We have shown quite clearly that you are able to improve levels of biodiversity by more than 110% and the size of the pot and the location it is situated matters.

“If we are going to be spending more than US $144bn each year to build new [flood defences] or increase the height or stability of existing ones and 80% of those funds on coastal defences, we really need to be starting to think about how we can put these types of ecological engineering approaches into practice.

“The measures can be added to the work with little or no additional cost without diminishing the integrity of the structure.”

 

Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news

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Preserving Paradise: Seacology’s Island Conservation Mission

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Islands are not just pieces of land surrounded by water; they are sanctuaries of biodiversity, cradles of unique cultures, and vital components of our planet’s ecological balance. However, these paradises face numerous threats ranging from habitat destruction to climate change. Recognizing the urgency of protecting these fragile ecosystems, Seacology has emerged as a beacon of hope, championing the preservation of island habitats worldwide while empowering local communities. In this article, we are diving into Seacology’s mission, its global impact, and its generous support for key conservation initiatives in Curaçao.

The Seacology Story:

Seacology, founded in 1991 by Dr. Paul Alan Cox (American ethnobotanist), operates on a simple yet powerful principle: conservation through collaboration. Unlike traditional conservation organizations, Seacology adopts a community-driven approach, partnering directly with island communities to address their needs while safeguarding precious ecosystems.

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At the heart of Seacology’s philosophy lies the belief that sustainable conservation can only be achieved by empowering those who depend on the natural resources of their islands. By working hand in hand with local stakeholders, Seacology fosters a sense of ownership and stewardship, ensuring long-term protection for vital habitats.

A Global Impact of Seacology

Since its inception, Seacology has made remarkable strides in protecting island ecosystems across the globe. Through innovative projects and strategic partnerships, the organization has conserved millions of acres of marine and terrestrial habitat, spanning more than 60 countries.

What sets Seacology apart is its holistic approach, which integrates conservation efforts with community development initiatives. By providing tangible benefits such as clean water, education, and healthcare, Seacology incentivizes local communities to actively participate in conservation efforts, forging a sustainable path towards coexistence with nature.

Curaçao: A Jewel in the Caribbean Crown

Located in the crystalline waters of the Southern Caribbean Sea, Curaçao boasts stunning coral reefs, lush mangroves, and vibrant marine life. However, like many island nations, Curaçao faces a myriad of challenges including overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change impacts.

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In 2024, Seacology’s commitment to island conservation took center stage in Curaçao, where the organization provided generous support for three key initiatives: Reef Renewal Curaçao, Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, and the Queen Conch Hatchery. Additionally, Seacology provided additional funding to advance sustainable fishing practices through educational programs.

Reef Renewal Curaçao

Coral reefs are the lifeblood of marine ecosystems, supporting a quarter of all marine species despite occupying less than 1% of the ocean floor. However, these invaluable ecosystems are under siege from rising sea temperatures, pollution, and destructive fishing practices.

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Reef Renewal Curaçao, a flagship project supported by Seacology, aims to reverse the decline of coral reefs by implementing innovative coral propagation and restoration techniques. By engaging local communities in reef restoration efforts, Seacology is optimistic that their support will enable Reef Renewal Curaçao to continue their important work revitalizingd amaged ecosystems and fostering a sense of stewardship among residents.

Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao

For millions of years, sea turtles have roamed the world’s oceans, serving as keystone species and indicators of ecosystem health. Yet, these ancient mariners face numerous threats including habitat loss, poaching, and accidental capture in fishing gear.

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In collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, Seacology is supporting their efforts to protect Curaçao’s sea turtle populations through research, monitoring, and community outreach. By raising awareness about the importance of sea turtles and implementing measures to mitigate threats, Seacology is aiding Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao to safeguard these iconic creatures for future generations to admire.

The Queen Conch Hatchery

Conch, revered for their succulent meat and ornate shells, are a cultural and culinary staple in many island communities. However, unregulated harvesting has led to depleted populations, jeopardizing both ecological balance and traditional livelihoods.

In Curaçao, Seacology’s support for the Queen Conch Hatchery initiative aims to conserve dwindling conch populations through captive breeding and sustainable harvesting practices. By collaborating with local fishermen and authorities, Seacology is helping to ensure that conch populations thrive while preserving cultural traditions and supporting coastal communities.

The project “Conquer the Future” is investigating the mortality and growth of Queen Conch juveniles, cultured at Curacao Sea Aquarium, after they have been outplanted in the wild. These experiments with small numbers of Queen Conch will take place in both Curaçao (Spanish Water) and Bonaire (Lac Bay). WWF-Dutch Caribbean is the main sponsor of this project, Seacology is the co-sponsor.

Advancing Sustainable Fishing Practices

Fishing is an integral part of Curaçao’s economy and culture, but unsustainable practices have led to overfishing and the depletion of key fish species. Recognizing the need for change, Seacology has provided a grant to the Federation of Cooperative Production (FKUP) to support innovative educational programs aimed at promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Through this initiative, Seacology hopes to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among local fishers. The educational programs focus on teaching sustainable fishing techniques, such as selective gear use, seasonal restrictions, and size limits, which help protect juvenile fish and allow populations to recover. Additionally, the programs emphasize the importance of marine conservation, the impact of overfishing on the ecosystem, and the benefits of sustainable practices for future generations.

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By supporting the FKUP, Seacology is helping to ensure that local fishers have the knowledge and resources to adopt sustainable practices. This not only helps preserve fish stocks and marine biodiversity but also secures the livelihoods of fishing communities in the long term.

WWF-Dutch Caribbean supported in 2023 the first round of the sustainable fishing training organized by FKUP in Curaçao. Due to lack of budget at WWF-DC, FKUP has been looking for another sponsor for this training. They found Seacology to fund more training.

A Beacon of Hope for Island Conservation

In a world grappling with environmental crises, Seacology stands as a shining example of what can be achieved through passion, perseverance, and partnership. By empowering island communities, Seacology not only protects precious ecosystems but also enriches lives and preserves cultural heritage.

As we navigate the uncertain waters of the 21st century, organizations like Seacology remind us that the fate of our planet lies in our hands. Through collective action and unwavering dedication, we can safeguard the treasures of our islands and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

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Summer means it’s time to go ‘Fertilizer-Free for Manatees’ to protect Florida’s waterways

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Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms in both coastal and inland waters

Summer is here, and Save the Manatee® Club is excited to share our Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™ campaign. The campaign aims to underscore that while addressing the overall problem requires a multifaceted approach, the actions of each Florida resident can make a big difference for the health of our waterways.

Starting June 1 and running through September 30, this initiative aims to encourage Florida residents to take a pledge to be fertilizer-free, thereby reducing their contribution to nutrient pollution in the state’s waterways.

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What is Nutrient Pollution?

Nutrient pollution refers to the presence of excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, in water bodies. These nutrients often come from agricultural runoff, wastewater, and the use of fertilizers on lawns and landscapes. While nutrients are essential for plant growth, an overabundance can lead to significant environmental problems.

How Does Nutrient Pollution Cause Harm?

Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in both coastal and inland waters. The Indian River Lagoon, a critical habitat for manatees, has been particularly affected, with devastating algal blooms causing the loss of native seagrass. Seagrass is essential for manatees as it is their primary food source. When seagrass is lost, manatees are at risk of starvation. Tragically, this has resulted in the starvation and death of numerous imperiled manatees since 2020.

Furthermore, the occurrence of red tide, a natural phenomenon characterized by the proliferation of toxic algae, can be exacerbated by excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs from human sources such as fertilizer and wastewater. Red tide not only affects marine life but can also cause respiratory issues in humans and economic losses for coastal communities.

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Photo: David Schrichte

In pledging to be Fertilizer-Free for Manatees, Floridians commit to:

  • Avoid fertilizer use on lawns and landscapes
  • Conserve water by irrigating only when necessary
  • Keep grass clipping out of streets, waterbodies, and swales
  • Learn about Florida-Friendly Landscaping to protect waterway

“Human nutrient pollution from various sources has been a major driver of the harmful algal blooms that have led to a catastrophic number of manatee deaths in recent years,” said Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “The Fertilizer-Free for Manatees campaign aims to educate the public about how their individual actions, which may seem small, can have a cumulative healing effect on the overall health of our Florida waterways. Together, we can all take steps at home to protect imperiled manatees and their essential habitat.”

For more information on the “Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™” campaign and how you can get involved, please visit fertilizerfree.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with the late former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

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