Dugong MOU Sponsor WSC 2022 & ISBW14

The CMS Dugong MOU Secretariat (CMS Dugong MOU) were proud sponsors of the World Seagrass Conference (WSC) and 14th International Seagrass Biology Workshop (ISBW14) held from 7 – 12 August in Annapolis, Maryland, USA. The event was hosted by the World Seagrass Association (WSA) and supported by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network (UMCES-IAN). This biennial event is the only international meeting tailored specifically to seagrass scientists, professionals, and students providing a unique opportunity to share work and establish new collaborations.

The overarching theme of the event was “Signs of Success: Reversing the Course of Degradation”, inspired by recent successes in the conservation, resurgence, and restoration of seagrasses around the world. Through a wide range of plenary talks and workshops, participants presented the latest research into seagrass conservation, management, restoration and ecology.

As one of the four event sponsors, the CMS Dugong MOU were provided with exhibit space for duration of the conference. The exhibit was an excellent vehicle for raising the visibility of the work of the MoU: the recently launched Dugong & Seagrass Hub; the Dugong and Seagrass Toolkit, which was developed in partnership with CMS Dugong MOU host, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi; the IKI funded Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project (2019-2023); the Secretariat’s current strategic focus on protecting the last viable population of dugong in the Western Indian Ocean; and the success of the Dugong & Seagrass Conservation Project (2015-2019). The CMS Dugong MOU’s presence at the conference served to reinforce our unique role in contributing to conserving the seagrass ecosystems on which dugong populations depend throughout their range.

Visitors to the exhibit were keen to learn more about dugong, their dependency upon seagrass and the CMS Dugong MOU’s involvement in seagrass management throughout the dugong range. Overall, the booth was a huge success, attracting almost all the 240 conference participants from 30 countries, and receiving 67 new contacts who registered for regular news updates via the Dugong & Seagrass Hub.

The event was also an important networking opportunity, providing a chance for the CMS Dugong MoU team to connect face-to-face with members of the Dugong Technical Group and Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project technical partners, for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Dugong & Seagrass Hub saw an 83% increase in new users, and the affiliated Hub Twitter account received a 1,565% increase in visits and 1,497% increase in tweet impressions.

Len McKenzie, CMS Dugong MOU technical advisor and Secretary of the WSA, facilitated the IUCN Seagrass Species Group: Red List Expert Assessment workshop where it was recognized that possibly the greatest issue the group faces is a lack of funding and stable positions to coordinate efforts.

Lucy Coals from Project Seagrass, a long-standing CMS Dugong MOU technical advisor, presented on the lessons learned from trailing methods of Zostera restoration in intertidal zones. Benjamin Jones, also from Project Seagrass, gave an inspiring talk on the contribution of citizen science and local ecological knowledge to seagrass conservation, focusing on the success of the Seagrass Spotter app which, since its launch in 2016 has gained 3,000 registered users and 4,500 uploads, and forms an integral element of seagrass mapping and data collection under the current Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project.

Establishing Regional Seagrass Networks:

The workshop ‘Harnessing seagrass expert networks to generate better knowledge, management, and restoration of seagrass meadows’, facilitated by Prof. Salomão Bandeira (Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique, and the Western Indian Ocean Seagrass Network), Mr. Mohammed Ahmed Sidi Cheikh (Mauritanian Caisse des Dépôts et de Développement), Iderlindo Santos (Wetlands International Afrique Côte Occidentale) and Marco Vinaccia (Climate Change Expert, Grid Arundel).

The workshop focused on the ResilienSEA Project (2018-2022), which aims to support research and capacity building activities to map and monitor seagrasses in seven West African pilot countries: Cabo Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Of particular note in this session was the launch of, ‘Meadows of Knowledge: Putting West Africa on the Global Seagrass Map’, a new atlas providing a baseline for the status of seagrasses in West Africa as of 2022.

In a prior session, Dr. Lina Mtwana Nordlund, from Uppsala University, had discussed the opportunities for collaborative research to advance the understanding of seagrass fisheries through the Indo-Pacific Seagrass Network (IPSN), of which she is Founding Director and Project Coordinator.

These sessions initiated an ongoing dialogue between CMS Dugong MOU Secretariat, Dr. Nordlund, Prof. Bandiera and Grid-Arendal, acknowledging the potential for collaboration between the respective regional networks to generate better knowledge and management of seagrass meadows.

Potential Collaboration in the Western Indian Ocean:

The Pew Charitable Trust plenary discussed the role of NGOs as catalysts for collaborative seagrass research and conservation, highlighting the role NGOs have in building diverse stakeholder networks. Stacy Baez, Senior Officer for the Coastal Wetlands and Coral reefs Project, summarized the recently completed seagrass mapping and carbon assessment project in the Seychelles, which will provide the country’s first-ever field validated seagrass map and carbon estimate, culminating in the launch of the Seychelles Seagrass Atlas. The project was led by the University of Oxford in partnership with Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaption Trust (SeyCCAT), the University of Seychelles, Island Conservation Society, and the German Aerospace Agency, but designed to build local capacity to carry out the majority of mapping, monitoring and assessments independently.

Noting the many similarities between this project and the Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project, the Dugong MOU and Pew Charitable Trust representatives sought to identify opportunities for future collaboration, networking and sharing.

Seagrass Mapping in Indonesia:

Professor Rohani Ambo-Rappe from Hasanuddin University, Indonesia, is initiating a Packard Foundation funded project to develop a framework on how to map seagrass across the whole of Indonesia, and expressed her interest in learning more about the seagrass mapping methodologies applied under the Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project in Indonesia. We will remain in contact and introduce Prof. Rohani to our project partners in Indonesia.

WSC24 and ISBW15:

At the Closing Reception, it was announced that the WSC2024 and ISBW15 will be held in Naples, Italy and hosted by the Department of Integrative Marine Ecology at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. We look forward to attending once again!

Contact philippa.loates@cms.int, for more information on this event.