By:Dr Sean Porter

Coastal Oceans Research and Development (CORDIO: East Africa) in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently hosted an inception workshop in Mombasa, Kenya to commence assessing the conservation threat status of different coral reef ecosystem types in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). This assessment of the vulnerability of coral reefs of the WIO is being undertaken under CORDIO’s 5-year project ‘’Innovating and sharing knowledge for coastal resilience in Eastern Africa’’ funded by the Norwegian development agency (Norad). The assessment builds on existing regional data sharing and reporting on coral reefs to generate an output targeting decision-makers.

Coral reef experts, from eight different countries in the region, were taught by several IUCN trainers on the various IUCN criteria and methodologies used to assess how threatened an ecosystem is. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems is a global framework for assessing the status of ecosystems. It aims to support conservation, resource use, and management decisions by identifying ecosystems most at risk of biodiversity loss using a unified standard. This is a relatively new technique of assessing biodiversity threat status as traditionally only single species have been assessed.

Dr Sean Porter from ORI will be collaborating with Dr Kerry Sink of the South African National Biodiversity Institute together with CORDIO in assessing the threat status of the Delagoa coral province, in addition to providing regional coral reef technical expertise for the bigger WIO assessment. The Delagoa coral province encompasses the beautiful coral reefs of Sodwana Bay and southern Mozambique. South Africa is currently one of the few countries in the world which has already begun systematically assessing all of its 150 marine ecosystem types using the IUCN red-listing methodology. A healthy ocean is essential to meet the Paris Climate Agreement and keep global temperature rise below 2°C. Coral reefs provide key ecosystem services and benefits to over 500 million people globally. Losing them will be a humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.