Biodiversity – An Assesment of Coastal Regions

Posted by By at 10 March, at 18 : 45 PM Print

Biodiversity – An Assesment of Coastal Regions



Our Planet’s Ecosystems and all the life on it is bound together in a complex as well as a grand symbiosis. The humans depend on ecosystems for sustenance but health of ecosystems in turn relies on us to take care of it. We can visualize our Ecosystems essentially as the productive engines of our planet, that provide us with everything right from water we drink to the materials for sending space probes. Yet, nearly every initiative we take for assessing the health of our ecosystems tells us we are drawing upon them more than ever and even degrading them in some cases at an accelerating pace.

Oceans cover approximately 70% of the surface area of Earth and amount for over 95% of the Biosphere. Marine and coastal habitats include coral reefs, sea grass beds, seamounts, hydrothermal vents, mangrove forests, estuaries as well as soft sediments on the ocean floor deep below the surface.

The Coastal ecosystems that are present on continental margins have been areas of great human interests since they support a rich assortment of aquatic biological diversity that contributes to the economic, cultural, nutritional, social, recreational and spiritual betterment of human populations.  According to FAO, the marine and coastal waters in 2000 produced 86 million metric tonnes of seafood through the harvest from capture fisheries, whereas aquatic plants contributed an additional 11.3 million metric tonnes. On the other hand the Oceans are much more than valuable sources of food and efficient trade routes; they are one of the largest natural reservoirs of carbon as well as biodiversity, having the ability to store over 15 times more CO2 than the terrestrial biosphere and soil thereby playing a critical role in climate moderation. Besides this Oceans also contain deep sea bed habitats that host an astounding 500,000 and 10 million species.  These Deep Sea Bio-systems also play a crucial role in the global biogeochemical cycles due to their oxygen and nutrient regeneration production.


Present Scenario

Marine and coastal biodiversity is currently threatened by the impacts of the ever growing human populace which overharvests and affects the habitats that the diversity depends on. Approximately three quarters of the world’s whole population lives within 60 km of marine coastal areas. This in itself shows that the great risk the activities of humans could have and the potential to influence the coastal ecosystems both on land and in water.

Ms. Apoorva Kulkarni a representative from the Biodiversity Hotspot of Pondicherry (Puducherry) in the Conference also talks about the widespread impacts on both the land as well as the marine habitat due to the Climate Change and states the loss of nesting grounds of turtles, vanishing of beaches & coconut trees as well as the abrupt changes on the local Marine ecosystems as a result of Climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organisation also regularly assesses the state of world fisheries & aquaculture and has reported that of the around half of the major fish stocks have been exploited, 15-18 % overfished and 10 % of stocks have been depleted or are in a state of recovery from depletion.

There also are indirect impacts that the Land based human activities have which threaten the sensitive near shore areas like coral reefs and mangrove forests with pollution, deforestation to name a few activities. As Mr. Patankar, a member of Go4BioDev representing India’s Andaman & Nicobar Island’s rightly pointed out that Coral Ecosystems are critical since almost 60% of the flora & fauna present there is endemic. He further points out that since the Coral’s are one of the weakest Biomes in the world the recent calamities almost wiped out these fringing reefs. These calamities have been attributed to the recent Climate change scenario that in turn has been due to increased emissions and other human activities.

One of the other activities that have been deeply troubling for the environmentalists as well as the indigenous people alike is the rapid urbanization going on in coastal areas. These lead to relocation, loss of both marine and land flora and fauna required for sustenance, decline in the amount of timbre for usage to name a few. The situation is essentially the same for all the tribal communities that sustain on coastal ecosystems and live in islands that have not adopted modern ways.

The representatives of Go4BioDev, Breanna and Simangele also stress about the disappearance of wetlands and the man made pollution which are major concerns in their geographical areas respectively. This again brings us to the humans who have by their activities inevitably led to Climate change.

Thus from these first hand experiences we can see that the contemporary wealth of biodiversity present and ecosystems is not infinite and human activities are greatly endangering the seas and coasts through destructive fishing practices, pollution & waste disposal, invasive alien species, habitat destruction and agricultural runoff. The Global climate change will make the situation worse. The Sea levels are going to rise, temperatures both on land and water are going to increase, the oceans will be polluted and when all these effects culminate as a whole, they will ultimately lead to an increase in the frequency of storms and other natural disasters.



The way to go forward is for the governing bodies to enforce such policies that provide major safeguards for Biodiversity in coastal areas. Currently, Ocean areas are seriously under protected around the globe, with only about 0.8% of the oceans and 6% of the economic territorial seas being in the protected areas. On this front, the countries that have adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity are proactively addressing various Challenges of conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity. Through holistic approach, these countries focus on the proper management of seas and coasts, protected areas, coral reefs & deep sea biodiversity, marine culture as well as monitor the invasive alien species.

Oceans also play an important part economically due to its extensive use by a variety of stakeholders including commercial and artisanal fishers, fish farmers, developers and tourists. This increases the opportunity for foreign exchange. These benefits thus generated can again be reverted back for preservation and all the other measures that in turn promote coastal Biodiversity.

Furthermore advocating sustainability in coastal ecosystems, the FAO has brought the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries in effect. This Code aims to ensure sustainable use of aquatic biodiversity which is capitulated in four International Plans of Action:-

  1. To reduce fishing capacity (to eliminate overfishing);
  2. To combat illegal fishing;
  3. To protect birds from accidental capture in long line fisheries
  4. To improve shark fisheries management.

In the10th Conference of Parties (COP), under the global Convention on Biological Diversity Treaty adopted the Nagoya Protocol in October 2010 in Japan. The Nagoya Protocol was adopted for promoting Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS). It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD of fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The Nagoya Protocol will create greater legal certainty and transparency for both providers and users of genetic resources by covers traditional knowledge (TK) associated with genetic resources that are covered by the CBD and the benefits arising from its utilization. Also sharing is a subject to mutually agreed terms and the benefits may be monetary or non-monetary such as royalties and the sharing of research results.

It also gives the provision for protecting genetic resources by granting the right to access in the hands of indigenous and local communities. Thus, it is important for the concerned parties to get these communities’ prior informed consent, and fair and equitable benefit-sharing, keeping in mind community laws and procedures as well as customary use and exchange.

It can be said that we are on the right path by adopting these treaties and codes, but still have a long way to go in order to ensure the continued biodiversity on Earth.

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