Project Preparation Grant: Protecting priority coastal and marine ecosystems to conserve globally significant Endangered, Threatened, and Protected marine wildlife in southern Mindanao, Philippines
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) in its the 7th replenishment (GEF-7), with a view to maintain or improve ecosystem services, land productivity, food security, and to increase the resilience of the land and the populations dependent on it, provides supports to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)’s Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) concept. Similarly, the GEF-7 Biodiversity Focal Area programming responds directly to the GEF7 Four-year Framework of Program Priorities agreed by countries at CBD COP-13, as well as the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, 2011-2020. Specifically, the proposed Biodiversity Focal Area is built around achieving the Four-year Programs three objectives: (i) Mainstream Biodiversity Across sectors as Well as Within Production Landscapes and Seascapes, (ii) Reduce Direct Drivers of Biodiversity Loss, and (iii) Strengthen Biodiversity Policy and Institutional Frameworks. Moreover, the GEF to continue and further enhance means to harness opportunities for leveraging synergies among the Rio Conventions and other relevant multilateral environmental agreements.
In line with the GEF-7 strategic synergistic programming for Land Degradation and Biodiversity, the project “Protecting priority coastal and marine ecosystems to conserve globally significant Endangered, Threatened, and Protected marine wildlife in southern Mindanao” aims to strengthen management effectiveness and address underrepresentation of Marine Conservation Areas designed to conserve Endangered, Threatened, and Protected (ETP) marine wildlife and sustain ecosystem services for human well-being.
The project will contribute to the conservation of globally significant biodiversity by conserving priority habitats and ecosystems to secure viable populations of globally significant ETP MW through the use of MCAs as mechanisms to implement conservation activities. The project will create GEBs by supporting the protection of habitats for, and reducing direct pressures on, a number of ETP MW species, including the dugong, three species of marine turtles, Cetaceans, whale sharks, and manta rays. In addition, important coastal and marine ecosystems and their services will be conserved. Coral reef diversity is high in all of the project sites (e.g. at least 25 genera of hard and soft corals are found in Pujada Bay ); these reefs are critical habitat for numerous marine species, and a significant percentage of people living in the project sites rely on the health of reef ecosystems to sustain their livelihoods and improve their well-being. 18 species of seagrass have been identified in the Philippines (9 in Pujada Bay ); seagrass ecosystems are important nurseries for various marine species, critical food sources for dugongs, marine turtles, and other marine herbivores, and provide carbon sequestration and coastal protection services; their conservation is critical in the face of coastal development and unregulated upland practices that can negatively impact their functioning (i.e. through silt and sediment flows). The health of seagrass beds is directly tied to mega-herbivores like dugongs and marine turtles, which can influence biomass, increase productivity, and microbial nutrient cycling, lead to higher leaf growth and ultimately provide the mechanisms for meadow recovery. The project will help to conserve mangrove ecosystems (including approximately 85 ha of mangroves in Pujada Bay ) that serve as habitat for juvenile marine species, including fish and crustaceans, and as food and income sources for local communities. Mangrove forests are also carbon sinks and have been found to sequester more carbon compared to any other ecosystem; disturbing them will result in high greenhouse gas emissions. The project will also conserve beaches and coastal forests that act as barriers against winds and waves and help to prevent coastal erosion, including in areas that contain nesting sites of marine turtles such as Dahican Beach in Mayo Bay. At the same time, the project will help communities that depend on these ecosystems for ocean-based tourism, fisheries, and other natural resource-based livelihoods to sustain their ways of life and become more resilient to the damaging impacts of climate change.
The project will also support the goals and targets of a number of International Environmental Agreements, including species conservation objectives of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS); the CBD Aichi Targets 5, 6, 10, 11, 12 and 14; and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 14.2, 14.4, 14.7, 15.5 and 15.7. The project also will assist the Philippines in achieving its commitments in Regional Action Plans and Agreements that support GEBs, including the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) Regional Plan of Action (RPOA), and the Comprehensive Action Plans of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Eco-region, in particular the Action Plan for Marine Turtles, Marine Mammals, Sharks, and Climate Change.