The Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project applies an innovative and holistic approach, working closely with field practitioners, coastal communities, and technical experts in five southeast Asian countries. 

This is the first project in the Indo-Pacific region delivering site-specific assessments of seagrass health and threats, and to evaluate the ecosystem services seagrass provides.

Local NGOs and coastal communities at the project sites are empowered to assess seagrass by the project’s technical and scientific experts, who offer technical tools and capacity building throughout the lifetime of the project. They work together to assess the ecosystem services provided by their specific seagrass meadows, such as fishery production and blue carbon.

The information collected during these assessments is used to guide and influence local NGOs, coastal communities and other stakeholders in developing informed policy, ensuring that seagrass, the biodiversity it supports and the services it provides are protected.

To support community-led conservation, the project develops business models that provide sustainable sources of financing to community groups leading seagrass conservation efforts, and encourages communities to share their stories in order to raise the profile and change the narratives on seagrass and dugong conservation.

Download a full Project Infographic here.

Conservation of biodiversity, seagrass ecosystems and their services – safeguarding food security and resilience in vulnerable coastal communities in a changing climate.

This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

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€ 4,780,000

(2019 – 2023)

Project Coordinator

CMS Dugong MoU Secretariat

Implementing Partners

Marine Research Foundation (MRF)

Blue Ventures (BV)

Project Partners




The MareCet Research Organisation


Community Centred Conservation (C3)
Zoological Society of London


Save Andaman Network Foundation (SANF)


Blue Ventures

Technical Partners

Marine Research Foundation (MRF)

MRF is a non-profit research and conservation organization based in Sabah, Malaysia. Established to improve the understanding of marine ecosystems and their associated flora and fauna across southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific, MRF is experienced at carrying out biodiversity assessments and conservation projects throughout the Project region.

As both an implementing and technical partner, MRF will provide training on the delivery of the Dugong Catch and Bycatch Questionnaire and support its delivery in the five project countries, as well as providing regional administrative support to national partners and the Project Coordination Team in Abu Dhabi.

Blue Ventures (BV)

Blue Ventures offers extensive experience in developing community-led business models in coastal communities throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Since 2003, they have built a globally acclaimed conservation ecotourism model that provides reliable income to local communities whilst generating sustainable and secure funding in support of local conservation initiatives. This model has proven to be a powerful and resilient approach to financing and scaling critical marine conservation initiatives whilst generating vital income for community-based tourism partners.

As both an implementing and technical partner, Blue Ventures will support the development of ecotourism business models in Thailand and Indonesia, explore and develop a community-based blue carbon credit scheme, and deliver all project activities in Timor-Leste.

Project Seagrass

Known for their leading research and conservation work on seagrass throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Project Seagrass, led by Dr Richard Unsworth, has over 15 years’ experience assessing and understanding seagrass ecosystem services.

As a project partner, Project Seagrass will provide training and support on delivering seagrass ecosystem service assessments to national partners in the five project countries.

Murdoch University

The Murdoch University Aquatic Megafauna Research Unit has unparalleled knowledge and expertise on the use of unmanned aerial surveys (UAVs) for studying marine mammals, including monitoring the presence, distribution, relative abundance and habitat use of dugongs in relation to seagrass meadows. Dr Amanda Hodgson and Dr Christophe Cleguer are the only researchers in Australia with experience using UAVs for dugong aerial monitoring surveys.

As a project partner they will provide the knowledge and skills training to national partners in all five project countries so that they can successfully apply the technique themselves.

Edith Cowan University

Edith Cowan University has played a leading role in developing blue carbon science in Australia and has experience working on global, multi-institutional and inter-disciplinary research programmes. Within the University, Prof Paul Lavery has 30 years’ experience working on the ecology of benthic marine ecosystems, particularly seagrass ecosystems.

As a project partner, Prof Lavery will deliver training on seagrass blue carbon assessment to the national partners and support them in its delivery in three project countries.


Based in Cairns (Queensland, Australia) under Len McKenzie, Seagrass-Watch is a global seagrass observing network which partners scientists with citizens to accurately monitor the status and trends in seagrass condition. With 20 years of experience, Seagrass-Watch is a world-class leader in seagrass research, mapping, monitoring and education. To date, the Seagrass-Watch methodology is being used at over 408 sites in 21 countries, and an additional five countries are at the resource identification stage.

As a project partner, Seagrass-Watch will support the national partners to assess the extent and health of seagrass meadows, applying an initial mapping phase followed by long-term monitoring.

PT Niras

Introducing first class participatory science to assess seagrass health and ecosystem biodiversity.

The project develops and adapts innovative research methods that empower coastal communities to assess seagrass and dugong distribution, health and abundance, such as the Dugong Catch and Bycatch Questionnaire, drone surveys and the Seagrass-Watch method.

The results of this research will allow us to identify seagrass and dugong conservation hotspots in each country. The project team will then build on this data to engage coastal communities in assessing the ecosystem services provided by their seagrass meadows, such as fisheries productivity and blue carbon storage.

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Working with decision-makers to create a more favourable and data-driven policy environment.

Drawing on the data collected and the assessments carried out in the first phase, the project will engage coastal communities, local authorities, and other decision-makers in developing local, regional and national policies for the conservation and management of seagrass and the biodiversity it supports.

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Diversifying livelihoods by developing community-led business enterprises.

The project will build community resilience and reduce reliance on marine resources through a range of innovative business models. Following an assessment and training phase, the project will develop homestays and other ecotourism businesses, spirulina farming, blue carbon credit schemes, and more, depending on local conditions. These business models will be community-led and shall directly contribute to a community fund that supports and sustains seagrass conservation at each site.

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Raising the profile of seagrass through storytelling and sharing results.

The project will use participatory media as a tool for coastal communities to share stories and change narratives on seagrass and dugong conservation at the local and national level. The project will use a diverse suite of communication tools – including exhibitions, conferences, community events, and publications in scientific journals – to raise the profile of seagrass ecosystems and improve awareness and understanding of the importance of seagrass conservation.

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SES Project Locations