Coastal areas produce substantial economic, biodiversity gains: Study – Times of India

WASHINGTON: Studies show that a change in the way we view the advantages mangroves have for coastal areas might lead to huge gains in biodiversity and the economy, as well as the protection of millions of people from flooding.
According to a study led by the University of Queensland, present conservation efforts often focus on biodiversity protection while reducing confrontation with commercial interests, while failing to account for the enormous advantages supplied by ecosystems.
Human activities such as deforestation and coastal development, according to Alvise Dabala, now at the University of the Azores and whose master dissertation at UQ formed the basis of this study, have resulted in widespread mangrove destruction around the world.
“They protect infrastructure and communities from storms, sequester carbon, and provide fisheries with nursing grounds, so their rapid destruction is devastating to witness,” Dabala said.
“As it stands, current conservation efforts just aren’t doing enough to take advantage of these services.”
The team is using the United Nations Global Biodiversity Framework, which recommends an increase in protected areas to 30 per cent of the world as the basis of their proposal.
Researchers are recommending an optimised conservation planning perspective that operates within this framework and puts more emphasis on these ecosystem services.
“It’s somewhat of a juggling act, where we have to consider the trade-offs between biodiversity protection, economic conflicts, and ecosystem services,” Dabala said.
“But if done properly, this target has the potential to safeguard Australian Dollar (AUD) 25.6 billion of coastal property value, globally.
“It would also protect 6.1 million coastal-dwelling people against the impacts of flooding, and safeguard over one billion tonnes of sequestered carbon. In Australia alone, we’ve identified priority areas in Northern Queensland, Darwin and East Arnhem in the Northern Territory, and between Pilbara and Kimberley in Western Australia.”
“Expanding Australian mangrove protection would be particularly beneficial for carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation as they stand out as some of the most diverse, carbon-rich mangrove forests,” Dabala added. UQ’s Professor Anthony Richardson said that achieving these outcomes boils down to a shift in perspective.
“In some areas of the world, we recognise that human pressure could be so high that the value of ecosystem services would not compensate for the loss and could result in complications in implementing protection,” Professor Richardson said.
“However, for multiple ecosystems, including mangroves, we’ve quantified the benefits associated with considering the services these ecosystems provide – the figures are undeniable. We know that long-term gains from biodiversity protection are often greater than short-term gains from anthropogenic activities, so this shift in thinking must happen soon.”
Professor Richardson said developing biodiversity and ecosystem services data should be a priority to incorporate into applied conservation plans.
“Implementation of these plans should then follow different conservation practices that target local communities’ needs specifically,” he said.
“Moving forward, decision-makers and other stakeholders need to focus on protected area implementation, management, and monitoring to provide solid conservation outcomes.”

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