The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of life—from health and livelihood to education, mobility, food systems, and many more. Society, however, became more inattentive to environmental and climate-related issues.
To bring the focus back to addressing the intersectional problems we face concerning our environment and the prevailing climate crisis, we established Oceanus Conservation (Oceanus), a non-profit environmental organization that aims to reintroduce the importance of ecosystem restoration and protection of our marine habitats.
Advocating for nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change, Oceanus strives to promote the conservation and restoration of blue carbon habitats, which refer to ecosystems that store carbon, such as mangroves, seagrass, and marshlands.
Mangroves, in particular, are considered one of the most valuable ecosystems in the world as they have extremely high carbon storage and these ecosystems have a great capacity to take up and store carbon from the atmosphere. They are four times more effective carbon sink compared to terrestrial forests, which is an additional way to reduce reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Aside from its benefits to the planet, it also provides many ecosystem benefits to wildlife and the communities such as the provision of a nursery for fisheries, protection from storms, reduced coastal erosion, and ecotourism livelihood.
Our team at Oceanus follows a multi-faceted approach to restoring degraded blue carbon forests, such as mangroves. From a technical process, we map out restoration areas and collect baseline data, which includes conducting a biophysical assessment of a project site before providing ecosystem-based restoration training for the local communities.
For social action, we build trust and relationships with the partner communities and the respective local government unit (LGU) for institutional support, as well as enhance the participation of the public, most especially students and youth organizations. Furthermore, we ensure that the communities we work with are benefiting from the economic aspect of our restoration initiatives by providing incentives for planting and establishing nursery sites for mangrove restoration. The mutualistic relationship of restoration and livelihood for the communities is one of the values we uphold at Oceanus.
Our current project sites are Looc, Salay, Northern Mindanao, and Aringay, La Union. We have partnered with and assisted them for the past year with the planting, monitoring, and restoration of mangrove species in their area. Since we started the mangrove restoration project in September 2021, we have planted a total of 4,689 saplings at these project sites.
The mangrove area in Barangay Looc in Salay, which was located just a few kilometers near the road, was degraded due to several typhoons that battered the area in the past months. The restoration site in Barangay Aringay in La Union, on the other hand, is within an enclosed area of an abandoned fishpond.
Through our experiences in working on these sites, we realized that there is truly no one-size-fits-all approach to mangrove restoration. This is why each project site needs prior biophysical assessment and community training.
We have set plans to broaden our restoration sites and include mangrove areas in Mindanao, namely Cagwait, Surigao del Sur, and Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay. Our goal is to restore 10 hectares of degraded mangrove forests by planting diverse mangrove species to increase ecosystem benefits and working together with the local communities all over the country and share best practices of restoration.
Another initiative we have is the Project Smart Buoy for Coral Reef Monitoring (SCORE). Through this project, we have deployed the first-ever smart buoy in the Philippines to collect sea surface temperature data in real-time and correlate it with biological data, such as coral reef health.
Moreover, we also promote ocean education and awareness among kids in coastal areas through our Ocean Literacy Project. We create ocean bilingual storybooks that focus on the importance of marine habitats and the actions we can do to protect them from the impacts of climate change. Our two storybooks are distributed all around the country. They were translated into Icelandic and are now available in Iceland.
We at Oceanus endeavor to increase the awareness, knowledge, and participation of the youth and the local community in ecosystem restoration and education. By fostering the involvement of our communities on ocean and climate-related issues and solutions, we hope to pave the way for healthier marine biodiversity, increased climate resilience for coastal areas, and thriving communities across the country.
About the authors
Camille Rivera is a Climate Reality Leader, marine conservationist, and educator. She is the co-founder and director of Oceanus Conservation aiming to restore blue carbon ecosystems in the Philippines. She has a background in marine biodiversity and conservation at Ghent University and a postgraduate in Alfred-Wegner Institute in Helgoland, Germany.
Angela Mariz Obsina is the communications and advocacy officer of Oceanus Conservation, and also a marine biology student. She focuses on the social media platforms and other communication media of Oceanus, community engagement, and the Ocean Literacy project.