Restoration in South-East Asia
A large part of the project will be devoted to increasing knowledge and practice of protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems in selected sites of marine protected areas in South-East Asia. The aim is to enable biodiversity protection through the restoration of (degraded) marine and/or coastal ecosystems involving national and local communities.
To achieve this, the project will:
- bring together partners from different countries and regions to promote the exchange of experience around the shared goal of marine and coastal restoration;
- test best practices, which are not yet applied in a specific country or region, and document this scientifically; and
- engage with various stakeholders and local communities aiming at communicating the importance of effectively managed marine and coastal ecosystems for local economies.
The three restoration sites will be in the Coral Triangle, an area in the western Pacific Ocean with the highest concentration of marine species on the planet. More specifically, the sites are located in the Sulu-Sulawesi seascape, one of the most diverse and productive marine ecosystems in the world, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Image: Marine Conservation Institute (2014), MPAtlas [On-line]. Seattle, WA, USA. Available at: http://www.mpatlas.org
Restoration sites and methods will follow current international standards and knowledge, with activities building on lessons learned in the region and worldwide. Activities may include the creation of artificial habitats (e.g. artificial reefs); maintenance of key nursery habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, salt marshes or seagrass meadows; planting of mangrove trees or seagrass.
1. Coral restoration in Tun Mustapha Park (Malaysia)
One restoration site will be in Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) in Sabah, Malaysia. The park is a marine protected area of 898 762 hectares and including over 50 islands and islets across the districts of Kudat, Pitas and Kota Marudu in the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area. The park was created in 2016 with the aim of protecting coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses and productive fishing grounds. TMP is an area of high biodiversity conservation value and provides significant economic services to local communities as well as regional and global markets.
2. Coral restoration in Derawan MPA (Indonesia)
Another restoration site will be in the Derawan Marine Protected Area (Kawasan Konservasi Derawan dan Pulau Sekitarnya), in Berau Regency, Indonesia. The MPA was established in 2016 by a decree of the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia. It covers 285 266 hectares and includes 52 small islands, of which only four are inhabited: Pulau Derawan, Kakaban, Kaniungan Besar and Balikukup. Its waters consist of mangroves, seagrass and coral reef ecosystems. In its management plan, Derawan MPA set a target to increase coral reef live cover and repair coral ecosystems within the limited-use zone and the sustainable fisheries zone. WWF has conducted monitoring of sea turtle nesting in the MPA with local NGOs, and also whale shark surveys, producing a code of conduct for tour operators that organise whale shark excursions in Berau district waters.
3. Mangrove restoration on Balabac Island (Philippines)
The newest restoration site is situated on Balabac Island in the Southwestern tip of Palawan. Balabac has about 63,757 hectares of land area and 489,562 hectares of water area. It is an archipelagic municipality that is home to a diverse range of habitat, including reefs, seagrass and beaches, and its foreshore and deep sea beds are an important migration path for pelagic fishes, cetaceans, and other large marine vertebrates. Most importantly, the area is home to endangered species, for example the dugong and the green sea turtle. Human activities like logging and debarking have degraded the mangrove forests on Balabac Island, and on top of this, the island was hit by a storm in 2017 which damaged a large area of this vital ecosystem. The forests serve as buffers against extreme weather events and make the coast more resilient, effectively protecting its communities. Moreover, they act as nurseries for fisheries and are home to bees that produce wild honey. The Ocean Governance Project, WWF and the Balabac municipality are joining their efforts to restore these critical mangrove forests to ensure a healthy environment and local livelihoods.
Images: (top) Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Credit: Alex Mustard. (centre) Line Fishing of Coastal Community at Tun Mustapha Park. Credit: WWF-Malaysia / Mazidi Abd Ghani. (bottom) Walking a path through mangroves on the coastline, Eastern Samar, Philippines.