The Ocean Governance project in which MedPAN is involved to reinforce synergies with other networks of MPA managers beyond the Mediterranean aims to enable biodiversity conservation by involving national authorities/stakeholders and local communities in the restoration of degraded marine and/or coastal ecosystems. One of the project’s four components is devoted to the restoration of degraded marine and coastal ecosystems in South-East Asia, with a focus on coral reefs and mangroves.

The Sulu Sulawesi seascape is home to one of the world’s most richly diverse marine environments

The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape covers more than 900 000 km² / Source: mpatlas.org

Spanning 900 000 km² of waters between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape supports more than 500 species of reef-building corals and 2 500 species of marine fish; five species of sea turtles (green, hawksbill, olive ridley, loggerhead and leatherback) and at least 22 species of marine mammals, including sperm whales and dugongs. The mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs that form its habitats and coastal ecosystems are rich and productive, as are its soft-bottom and pelagic environments.

Like many marine ecosystems, however, this seascape faces considerable threats. Increasing demand from a growing local population and internationally have depleted its ecological resources beyond the capacity for natural recovery. Changes in land-use, urbanisation and mining have depleted and destroyed coastal ecosystems; run-off, siltation and dredging have affected seagrass beds and coral reefs; and destructive fishing methods and gear have damaged reefs, stripped the sea-bed and depleted marine populations.

Improving dialogue between stakeholders that share common marine and coastal resources in South East Asia

The Ocean Governance project will gather partners from different countries or regions to test best practices and document them scientifically while engaging with stakeholders and local communities to communicate on the importance of effectively managed marine and coastal ecosystems for local economies.

“The purpose of restoration is to build resilience into existing habitats by reducing local threats and allowing the habitats to recover and, where needed, stimulate artificial recovery to bring back or accelerate habitat and associated species,” said Purificacio Canals, the project’s team leader and President of MedPAN. “Of course, it goes without saying that restoration can only commence once current threats to the ecosystem have been addressed and reduced.”

Once the sites are selected, the next steps are to develop management plans and restoration action plans for each and agree on these with national and local authorities and institutions, local partners and civil society. A monitoring and evaluation system will be set up for each site with workshops to follow up on activities, document progress (percentage of live coral cover, rates of coral recruitment, fish diversity and abundance) and mitigate any issues.

restoration project
Photo credit: WWF Malaysia/ Eric Madeja

Read more about the restoration project.