Did you know that Maldives currently faces an imminent threat from climate change, sea-level rise, and storm surges. With its highest natural peak barely reaching 3 meters above sea level, the entire country is highly susceptible to the impacts of these environmental challenges.
In response, strategic plans are being crafted to combat biodiversity loss and adapt to climate change, with a particular focus on nature-based solutions, including the conservation and restoration of mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs.
Today we will be taking a special dive into these wonders of the Maldives’ coastal treasures – specifically the Seagrass and Mangroves. These unsung heroes are not just stunning to look at; we would say they’re the VIPs of marine ecosystems, and we’re about to spill the tea on why they’re essential for our planet.
Seagrass might not be the headliner in Maldives’ marine show, but it’s the unsung hero keeping the underwater party alive. Despite missing the limelight in brochures, plays a crucial role in supporting marine life. Mangroves, often underestimated, are essential players in coastal zone management.
Mangroves, often overshadowed by the coral reefs and beaches in Maldivian narratives, play a pivotal role in preserving the country’s coastal resilience as well. Traditionally valued for providing wood for boat and house construction, these woody plants have become essential players in the comprehensive coastal zone management strategies. Although mangroves constitute only a small fraction of the total area of tropical forests, about 1%, they are highly productive ecosystems rich in biodiversity.
Seagrass and Mangroves are not just pretty faces. They act as natural barriers, protecting the Maldives from beach erosion and storm surges. They also serve as nurseries for vital fish species, and help create unique ecological havens that can host a plethora of species, contributing to the overall health of coastal ecosystems.
Seagrass ecosystems can be described as being indispensable to the Maldives’ marine environment, as they act as a natural barrier against beach erosion, providing a crucial defense mechanism for a nation with its highest point barely reaching 2.4 meters. These underwater meadows serve as nurseries for commercially important fish species, a food source for endangered green sea turtles, and contribute significantly to the global fight against climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
Mangroves on the other hand, create unique ecological environments that host a plethora of species, from bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates in sediments to fish, plankton, and crabs in the channels. Serving as crucial nursery habitats for juvenile fish and offering refuge to a diverse range of fauna, mangroves are indispensable to the overall health of Maldives’ coastal ecosystems.
Its sad to say that despite them being such advantage to our environment, the beauty and ecological importance of Maldives’ seagrass meadows and mangroves face unprecedented threats
Globally, a football pitch size of seagrass disappears every half an hour, and in the Maldives, the tourism industry has inadvertently contributed to the degradation of these ecosystems. Some resorts, in pursuit of pristine beaches, have actively removed seagrass meadows, either by smothering them with plastic tarp or sand, or by physically uprooting them from the seabed.
Development activities, including harbor dredging and land reclamation, as well as improper waste disposal, have left a lasting impact on these vital habitats. Beach erosion, a pervasive issue, and uncontrolled waste disposal pose serious threats to mangroves. Despite the challenges, conservationists in the Maldives are launching campaigns to raise awareness about the rich biodiversity of mangrove ecosystems and their critical role in the country’s future.
In response to detrimental practices, the Maldives Underwater Initiative and Blue Marine Foundation launched the #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass campaign on World Seagrass Day 2019. This initiative aims to reshape perceptions within the tourism industry, demonstrating the coexistence of seagrass and tourism. By collaborating with 37 resorts, representing over a quarter of all Maldives resorts, the campaign has successfully rallied support to shield more than a million square meters of seagrass, equivalent to over 90 football fields.
A monumental win for conservation, the #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass campaign not only heightened awareness about the ecological significance of seagrass meadows but also prompted resorts to collectively pledge to safeguard these vital ecosystems. The campaign spotlighted the rich biodiversity of seagrass meadows, emphasizing their role as habitats for various fish species and crucial carbon sinks.
Taking the spotlight in mangrove conservation, the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) program in the Maldives focuses on bolstering district and local-level ecosystem management. MFF’s priorities encompass supporting sustainable coastal livelihoods, enhancing the resilience of coastal communities, and raising awareness about the economic value of coastal ecosystems. This program actively promotes co-management among key stakeholders, striving to address resource use problems, constraints, and conflicts linked to mangroves.
At the national level, the Maldives is at the forefront of adopting a pioneering Integrated Coastal Management approach. With ambitious targets to achieve carbon-neutrality and active planning for climate change impacts, the government aligns its priorities with MFF. The program integrates climate change considerations into its strategies and actions, ensuring a comprehensive approach to coastal management that reflects the urgent need for protection and preservation.
Want to learn more about seagrass and mangroves book now to join us on one of our Our Marine Conservation and Educational Tours! Dive into the heart of Maldives’ marine diversity, discover the interconnectedness of seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral systems, and become an ambassador for these coastal wonders. This experience not only promises an adventure into the unique beauty of our natural environment but also contributes to the ongoing mission of safeguarding these coastal guardians for generations to come. Let’s explore, protect, and preserve the invaluable Seagrass and Mangroves in the Maldives together!
Here at Secret Paradise, our focus is on crafting conscientious and sustainable local island experiences across the archipelago. In 2022, we were recognized among the Top 10 Sustainable Initiative Tour Operators by Wanderlust. Additionally, we received commendation in the ‘Meaningful Connections’ category at the 2020 World Responsible Tourism Awards and found ourselves long-listed in the ‘Best for Engaging People and Culture’ category in the 2015 World Responsible Tourism Awards.
Our distinction as a local island tour company lies in our genuine commitment to promoting Maldivian culture, respecting local communities, and placing environmental preservation at the forefront. Through educational initiatives and the practice of responsible tourism, we aim to make a positive impact, all while humbly safeguarding the natural beauty of our cherished country for the enjoyment of future generations.