Located in the Western Indian Ocean, the Seychelles archipelago contains some of the most thriving and diverse coastal ecosystems on the planet. Best estimates suggest Seychelles is endowed with approx. 2.1 million hectares of seagrass meadows and mangrove forests spread across the inner and outer islands.
These coastal ecosystems provide a range of services to Seychellois. “Seagrass meadows and mangrove forests are indispensable for Seychelles Blue Economy. They provide coastal resilience against storms and sea-level rise, enhance coastal biodiversity and support local livelihoods”, highlights Seychelles’ former president, James Michel.
Recent estimates from the Blue Carbon Lab suggest Seychelles’ coastal ecosystems are also significant carbon sinks, potentially holding up to 250 million tonnes of organic carbon, equivalent to 920 million tonnes of CO₂e*.
This means that despite being smaller than the city of New York, Seychelles blue carbon ecosystems could be holding 1-3% of the world’s blue carbon stocks*.
If Seychelles’ blue carbon ecosystems were lost, the carbon released into the atmosphere would be equivalent to over 1,500 years of emissions of the entire Seychelles’ population. It is therefore a national priority to safeguard these ecosystems for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
To meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, each country is required to prepare, communicate, and maintain successive Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Early this year, Seychelles made bold commitments in the use of blue carbon ecosystems as a natural climate solution. Within its updated NDCs, Seychelles pledged to increase national protection of its seagrasses and mangroves as an effective nature-based strategy to reach net zero emissions.
Seychelles also committed to the long-term monitoring of blue carbon ecosystems and the accounting of carbon removals (and/or emissions) within its National greenhouse Gas Inventory.
To achieve these ambitious targets and effectively capitalise on all its blue carbon potential, Seychelles has developed a Blue Carbon Roadmap that sets a long-term path to establish a nationwide, evidence-based program geared towards the protection and restoration of blue carbon ecosystems for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Prepared by Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab in collaboration with the James Michel Foundation, the Roadmap proposes a series of social, scientific, governance, and financial actions that should be implemented over the next years.
“Seychelles must strategically advance its research, engage its community, and permeate its legal frameworks with blue carbon” said, Dr Maria Palacios, lead scientist in the project. “There are important knowledge gaps that need to be address by actively involving Seychellois into local research and management decisions.”
The roadmap also highlights financial incentives for blue carbon conservation and restoration should be explored through international voluntary carbon markets and other environmental financing mechanisms.
Seychelles has begun taking key steps to capitalise on its blue carbon opportunities. For example, it is currently expanding its research portfolio around seagrass meadows and mangrove forests aiming to collect on-ground measures of carbon stocks and high-resolution maps of these ecosystems. This will help Seychelles quantify and monitor its blue carbon stocks through time.
Dr Ameer Ebrahim, scientific advisor for the James Michel Foundation, says “children and local communities are increasingly involved in educational and on-ground restoration programs as a strategy to raise awareness and connect them with coastal wetlands”. Strengthening Seychellois’ understanding of seagrasses and mangroves can increase mindfulness towards actions and decisions that affect them.
These, and many more local actions will help position Seychelles at the forefront of international efforts to incorporate coastal carbon within climate change mitigation strategies, while also improving coastal resilience, local livelihoods, and community wellbeing.
* Carbon stock estimates are based on the best available stock data and distribution maps as per May 2022. The estimates may carry significant uncertainties linked to the paucity and low quality of blue carbon datasets. Several projects in Seychelles are currently collecting on-ground data to decrease the uncertainty around these estimates.