WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts today praised the Government of Seychelles for its ambitious commitments to protect coastal wetlands within its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement.
The archipelago of 115 islands, one of the largest and diverse marine ecosystems on the planet, is home to a wealth of marine species and habitats, including seagrass—which is at the center of growing global interest in the role that nature-based solutions can play in addressing climate change.
Coastal wetland seagrass, mangrove, and saltmarsh ecosystems are often referred to as “blue carbon” ecosystems given their ability to sequester and store significant amounts of carbon—three to five times more carbon than terrestrial forests. The rate at which these ecosystems store carbon is assessed through methods approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), thereby allowing countries to incorporate the protection and restoration of their coastal wetlands as a quantifiable component of their emission reduction efforts.
Seychelles’ NDC includes a suite of bold steps to the protect its seagrass and mangrove ecosystems, including:
Fully mapping the extent of mangrove and seagrass ecosystems and conducting a first-time assessment of seagrass carbon stocks within Seychelles’ waters.
Ensuring that at least 50% of the nation’s mangrove and seagrass ecosystems are protected by 2025 and 100% are protected by 2030.
Establishing a long-term monitoring program for seagrass habitats and including the nation’s blue carbon ecosystems within Seychelles’ National Greenhouse Gas Inventory by 2025.
Coastal wetlands also help communities adapt and become more resilient to a changing climate by buffering storm surges, filtering water, and providing refuge and nursery grounds for a range of species. These benefits to people, biodiversity, and the climate make coastal wetlands a “triple win” solution.
Of the three blue carbon ecosystems—seagrass, mangroves, and saltmarsh—the global distribution of and potential scale of climate benefits provided by seagrass is the least understood. Mangrove and saltmarsh ecosystems are largely visible above the waterline, while the submerged nature of seagrass meadows poses challenges to mapping their location and determining their carbon storage potential.
To support the Government of Seychelles’ ambition to better account for and protect its seagrass ecosystems, Pew is partnering with the University of Seychelles, the University of Oxford, Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), The Nature Conservancy, Island Conservation Society, and a range of local stakeholders. The work is focused on applying the latest remote-sensing methods and carbon assessment techniques to develop a field-validated map of the extent of seagrass meadows and associated carbon stocks in Seychelles waters—a partnership designed to help support the country’s bold ambition to ensure that at least 50% of its coastal wetlands are protected by 2025 and 100% by 2030. The new NDC also recognizes how Seychelles’ ambitious plan can contribute to global understanding of this vital habitat:
“Seychelles’ seagrass mapping and carbon assessment will pioneer new technologies, the learnings of which will be shared to help further advance global understanding of the climate and ecosystem benefits provided by this vital ecosystem.” – Seychelles Updated NDC
Flavien Joubert, Seychelles’ Minister of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, said:
“As one of the first countries to commit to protecting 30% of its waters, Seychelles has a proud history of ocean leadership. We will not however rest on our laurels—our NDC ensures we will remain at the cutting edge of understanding and protecting our blue carbon ecosystems.”
Angelique Pouponneau, CEO for Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust, said:
“The urgency to sustainably manage and make use of our ocean and its resources has long been recognized by the Seychelles Government, especially in its contribution to address the threat of climate change. SeyCCAT is fully committed in this collaboration to raise the status and awareness, of seagrass, both locally and across the globe."
Tom Hickey, senior officer of Pew’s protecting coastal wetlands and coral reefs project, said:
“The NDC is a monumental step in the protection of Seychelles’ seagrass and the global understanding of this crucial ecosystem. The nation’s continued leadership will build on the growing recognition of the role that blue carbon ecosystems can play in addressing climate change.”