By Student Delegate Samantha Morrison
The Seychelles has been successful in creating a network of protected areas and reviving endangered avian species. Continued research on seabird distributions and habitats could lead States like the Seychelles to have better-informed planning for marine protected areas and ocean governance.
Seabirds are considered a fundamental component of marine ecosystems and serve as valuable indicators of ecosystem health. They spend the majority of their lives over the ocean, returning to land to breed and care for their young. Because seabirds move across entire oceans, effective conservation of their habitats requires international cooperation.
With over a hundred small islands and rich tropical seas, the Republic of Seychelles (Seychelles) is an idyllic location for seabirds to flourish. In fact, the Seychelles small islands are nesting grounds for numerous species of seabirds. While the Seychelles makes for an ideal location for seabirds, seabirds continue to suffer, and are threatened throughout their entire life cycle from overfishing of prey, pollution, and climate change.
Seabirds can be found within coastal ecosystems such as seagrass and mangroves, and are particularly sensitive and vulnerable to changes in ocean climate. Thus, seabirds could be an informative and cost-effective tool to indicate the status of ocean and coastal habitat health. As States begin to integrate oceans into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), it is important to identify vital parts of marine ecosystems, including seabirds. In turn, monitoring the response of seabirds to climate change, particularly how seabirds interact in these coastal wetland habitats, may support developing countries in their efforts to determine the level of ocean health and employ mechanisms to integrate oceans into their NDCs.
The health of our oceans plays a critical role in climate change mitigation. Coastal ecosystems absorb excess water and act as both a buffer against rising sea levels as well as a carbon sink, storing carbon pollution within their vegetation. By taking in carbon, oceans and coasts naturally reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the atmosphere. Thus, preserving coastal ecosystems, particularly seagrass, mangroves, and saltmarshes, increases the resilience of our oceans to climate change. When damaged, coastal wetlands may emit a significant amount of carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
Observing seabirds could assist States in determining the effects of various disturbances and pollution occurring in the oceans and potential damages to coastal ecosystems. Additionally, because seabirds may breed in the same area each year, their responses to their habitats may be particularly useful in documenting any changes in ocean health and implementing effective ocean conservation measures, while reducing the effects of climate change.