USP’s Institute of Applied Sciences provides coastal expertise in support of World Environment Day
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Her Excellency Ms Melanie Hopkins, British High Commissioner to Fiji being guided by Mr Tomasi Tikoibua, Senior Scientific Officer of the Institute of Applied Sciences Environment Unit in coastal restoration awareness in support of World Environment Day.
The coastal vegetation planting activity was part of an on-going partnership between the Fiji Department of the Environment and the British High Commission.
Her Excellency Melanie Hopkins, British High Commissioner to Fiji said, “there is a need for greater Commonwealth cooperation on both climate and oceans and Commonwealth countries coming together to work on ocean protection can create real change for the entire planet”.
The Deputy Director of IAS Dr Gilianne Brodie, who is also the Faculty of Science and Technology’s Research Group Leader for Biodiversity & Conservation, said it was an exciting time to see the committed partnership of the United Kingdom and Fiji governments in valuing Fiji’s biodiversity and working together towards protecting wetlands and restoring functional natural ecosystems with the utilisation of local expertise.
“Seagrass habitats are nearshore wetland ecosystems considered as one of the world’s most valuable natural resources because they are beneficial to the welfare and daily livelihoods of coastal and small island people particularly in developing countries like Fiji.” Dr Brodie said.
“An understanding of seagrass bed location and health as well as the impact of any seagrass removal on donor beds is vitally important to ensure that the health of natural vegetation remains intact”.
Dr Brodie has strong support for her environmental and capacity building research work. She has several local and regional postgraduate students assisted through the Commonwealth Marine Economics Programme. She is also Co-Investigator on the UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund One Ocean Hub project launched at USP by the British High Commissioner Her Excellency Melanie Hopkins in 2019.
In the Pacific the beneficial value of coastal habitats like seagrasses arises via economic and ecological services such as human food provision (fish and invertebrate), coastal protection, sediment stabilisation, exceptional carbon storage capacity, water purification (via filtration), primary production, pathogen reduction and use as a compost fertiliser or fuel.
In many parts of the world, long-term seagrass losses and degradation are directly related to run-off of nutrients and sediments from human activities on land. Because of this, USP has in recent years, supported several postgraduate students from Fiji, Solomon Islands and Kiribati to better understand seagrasses. These students are working on projects related to habitat mapping via remote sensing, coastal protection modelling, climate change impacts, carbon storage, seagrass health, coastal erosion, reproductive biology and the linkage of seagrass habitat health to fisheries, catchment management, pollution and water quality.
The Institute of Applied Sciences
is currently implementing a Blue Carbon projectwhich complements and supports the coastal and marine habitat restoration concept.
Dr Brodie stated that the wealth of experience and knowledge gained through these projects and research work has allowed the Institute to provide scientific support to the regional governments on initiatives that will benefit the livelihoods of people in the region.
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