In announcing his June 2014 ocean summit, Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to unsustainable fishing, pollution, and climate change. He opined, “How we respond to these challenges is literally going to help determine the future of our planet.”
There are roadmaps for our responses. The Nature Conservancy and other partners are mobilizing nature’s services. Our projects include restoring oyster reefs to enhance community resilience along coasts. They include improving fisheries and protecting coral reefs for conservation and economic benefits.
The potential risk-reducing benefits of nature’s assets are not hypothetical. Salt marsh vegetation, oyster reefs and corals have a significant positive effect on wave attenuation and shoreline stabilization.
Yet there is no one-size-fits-all approach to harnessing nature’s value.
What is effective depends on the details of specific places and the fabric of particular communities. But many efforts to invest in nature share some common features. Collaboration, science, scaling up through leveraging—these features recur in efforts to protect natural systems for their multiple benefits.
Participants in an Ocean Summit in The Netherlands in April emphasized these features through initiatives like the Micronesia Challenge, the Caribbean Challenge, and the Coral Triangle Initiative.
Through the Coral Triangle Initiative, for example, the Conservancy has partnerships in six locations to protect coral reefs. These projects link marine biodiversity conservation, climate adaptation, and improved community livelihoods. We use these site-based experiences to build knowledge, leverage experiences, and attract public and private support for scaling up.
Perhaps our biggest challenges may be those of governance. Conserving and restoring natural systems often are meaningful at scales that transcend political boundaries. For example, protecting coral reefs in the Caribbean requires actions by many island nations.
Thus, we need partnerships that facilitate coordination across boundaries and with the private sector. In response to these challenges, we see partnerships like the Caribbean Challenge Initiative.
Ten participating nations and territories are working together to conserve at least 20 percent of their near-shore marine and coastal environments. These partnerships facilitate conservation investments at regional scales and attract private investment from companies for which healthy oceans and stable shorelines are critical to their financial futures.
Oceans, their ebbs and flows, their deep sea mysteries, and the webs of life they sustain interlink with lands and people. Applying a large-scale framework for analysis and partnerships for action can illuminate these interconnections so that we might manage oceans and coasts to sustain healthy lands and waters, thriving communities, and dynamic economies.
Lynn Scarlett is Managing Director for Public Policy at The Nature Conservancy.
Opinions expressed on Conservancy Talk and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conservancy.