Feature Story

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Sargassum is free-floating brown macro-algae that lives in the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. In the open ocean, the floating seaweed provides important ecosystem services by acting as habitats for a diverse group of marine animals. It provides food, shade, and shelter to many types of specialized fish, crustaceans, and turtles. When it reaches the coastline, it provides fertilizer for the plant ecosystems that protect the shoreline from erosion and promotes biodiversity of marine bird and wildlife.

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Only a land-based species could have called this planet Earth, since more than 70% of it is covered by sea. All life originated on the oceans and still depends on them. They regulate the climate, absorb much of the carbon that humanity emits, and produce the main source of protein for over three billion people. The ecosystem goods and services they provide are estimated to be worth US $12 trillion.

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While the idea of an island may call to mind the image of a beach paradise, for the world’s 51 Small Island Developing States this is all too often a fragile idyll.

Small, often economically at the mercy of their larger neighbours and world markets, and at the forefront of the reality of climate change, many of these states face a raft of challenges to their ongoing sustainable development. And while it may seem counter-intuitive, among the first of these is water.

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Palau, an archipelago of over 576 islands in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, many of which are endangered or can be found nowhere else on the planet.

The environment forms the basis of Palau’s culture and economy, with much of the population reliant on natural resources, either for subsistence or insofar as they support tourism, the nation’s largest income source.

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South Africa’s agricultural sector is responsible for devastating impacts on the environment.

Most South African farms are privately owned, commercial operations, a fact that has somewhat naturally led to a one-dimensional approach to management: they’re out to make a profit. Many of these farmers leave their livestock to graze unattended in large camps, sometimes for months at a time. While the costs are low to the farmers, this system – known as paddocking – has significant negative impacts on the health of South Africa’s land, especially in arid areas.

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“When I was a boy, the lake was beautiful,” Bernardo San Juan says. “In the early 70s we would picnic here and swim in the lake. We would just bring a pot and some rice, we would catch fish to cook and drink the lake water. Today, it’s a different story.

Today, in fact, the lake is hardly visible. Instead, vast swathes of the water around the lakeside Filipino town of Cardona are a sea of green, fish pens and navigation channels alike clogged by an impenetrable mass of water hyacinth.

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The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is a natural economic area bound together by the Mekong River basin that includes parts of Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and China. Covering over 1 million square miles, the GMS is home to more than 300 million people, and numerous flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. 2,500 new species have been discovered since 1997, and 115 in 2016 alone.

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In Liberia, farmers are experiencing extreme weather like never before. With heavy rain and strong winds, eroding coasts and degraded soils, Liberia’s most-vulnerable communities face ever-increasing risks from climate change.

For centuries, Liberians have relied on traditional knowledge for farming. They knew it would be wet in the last half of the year, dry in the first.

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The Government of Zambia is activating climate actions across the country to achieve its contributions to the Paris Agreement. Not only will this work protect the nation’s environment and contribute to reducing greenhouse gases worldwide, it will also provide the foundation to end poverty, hunger and inequality in a place where 6 out of 10 people still live below the poverty line and don’t make enough money to meet basic food requirements.

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Two oceans, three distinct languages, six Small Island Developing States (SIDS): the nations of Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, São Tomé & Príncipe and Seychelles are geographically dispersed, but they have come together to improve the management of water resources.