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Wildlife Conservation Society, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines

Wildlife Conservation Society, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines

Securing a sustainable future for the coral reefs of the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), formed in 1895, is a science-based non-profit organisation with a field presence in more than fifty countries. In Southeast Asia alone, WCS has supported governments and local communities to design, support, and manage over 34,000 km2 of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs). 

Coral ecosystems are exceptionally valuable ecologically, culturally, and economically. They provide up to one billion people with coastal protection, food security, and tourism revenues.  Unfortunately, climate change is increasingly bleaching and killing reefs, which in addition are harmed by destructive fishing practices, pollution and coastal development. However, research has shown that some coral reefs are more resilient to climate change. It is therefore critical to identify and protect these refugia to sustain the future of these vital ecosystems. 

The Foundation is therefore supporting a new WCS programme in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea that will identify and protect coral reefs that have shown better tolerance of, or have more capacity to recover from, rising sea temperatures. The programme will also explore local financing mechanisms to manage MPAs effectively. Lessons learned will inform other reef protection programmes regionally and globally. 

The programme will:  

  • Expand research with technology. WCS will collect, analyse and share reef data using innovative MERMAID technology, identify and prioritise climate-resilient reefs, and improve a connected network of MPAs.  
  • Strengthen effectiveness of MPAs. Working with governments and community partners, selected MPAs will integrate climate-resilient reefs in their management plans.  
  • Identify, design and catalyse local financing solutions. To ensure that the biodiversity of reefs is protected and that coastal communities benefit, the programme will explore the design and application of community-managed savings and credit associations, and other fit-for-purpose innovative funding vehicles.  
  • Use research to inform management and policy. The programme will share data and learnings with international and regional experts, local partners and involved governments, with the aim of scaling up solutions regionally.  

The Foundation is an anchor investor in this programme, enabling its launch. The programme is collaborative and will involve numerous official partners in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as local communities, local officials, scholars, and NGOs. For the Foundation it is an opportunity to work closely on a critical marine ecosystem adaptation issue.  

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Photo credit: WCS/Emily Darling 

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