Feature Story

Protecting water = protecting the planet

March 20, 2020

Small forest waterfall
Photo: HTWE/Shutterstock

You may know that climate change affects water - floods and coastal storms are particular risks from higher temperatures and disrupted weather systems. But have you heard that water systems and marine life can also be climate remedies?

On this World Water Day (March 22), we are focused on a surprising upside of working to protect coastlines, marine biodiversity, and international waterways: doing so is good for the whole planet. And as GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii said, faced with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, the urgency to protect the environment has never been greater. Here are five examples of this work in action:

Mangroves: the new superstars of coastal conservation
Although they might not look like much, mangroves are part of a “blue carbon” ecosystem that absorbs and stores immense amounts of emissions. The GEF-financed, UNEP-managed Blue Forests Project is helping to boost mangrove growth and provide sustainable livelihoods while combating climate change.

The manicured wetland that sucks up carbon
Researchers in China have found that man-made wetlands with local vegetation and erosion control are able to absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide - giving the world another tool to combat climate change through wetland restoration and management.

Saving Mozambique's seagrass
In Mozambique, seagrass is essential to life: it provides a habitat for underwater critters, boosts businesses for local fisheries, and acts as an “oxygen battery” for the ocean. A GEF-funded, UNEP-managed project restoring seagrass in the Western Indian Ocean is helping protect the marine vegetation and increase carbon sequestration in the process.

Can aquaculture deliver for people and planet?
A recent study shows that the development of shellfish and seaweed aquaculture sectors could benefit marine ecosystem recovery efforts by filtering polluted waters - with a positive effect on surrounding coastal environments and climate change benefits.

Protecting the Altai Mountains and its wetlands
Wetlands purify our freshwater supply, provide habitats for aquatic life, protect us from drought, and store more carbon than any other ecosystem. Learn how a GEF-financed, UNDP-managed project in Northwest China is establishing effective wetlands management for multiple benefits.