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Ambitious Environmental Challenge Aims to Restore 40 Major Island Ecosystems

This month a group of organisations and institutions have launched the 2030 Island-Ocean Connection Challenge at the Our Ocean Conference in Palau, which aims to help to restore 40 globally significant island ecosystems.

The Island-Ocean Connection Challenge aims to protect an estimated 600 populations of 250 at-risk wildlife species, with specific focus on restoring ‘champions’ that ‘architect’ the ecosystems, for example:

• Seabird species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

• Highly threatened coral reefs

So far the founding partners and their supporters have secured $50 million out of the $160 million needed to achieve the vision, a strong start to the fundraising. Parties interested in joining the challenge, including philanthropists, foundations, island nations, regional organizations, research institutions, and local, regional and global non-governmental organizations (NGOs), can submit draft membership commitments at www.iochallenge.org.

The challenge will set focus on links between land and sea ecosystems that will help to benefit coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves, alongside other areas. As a result, this should help to protect many threatened wildlife species, with growing scientific evidence showing that restored terrestrial island systems can result in dramatic benefits to surrounding species and marine ecosystems.

For example one study showed that coral reefs in the Chagos Archipelago, that are located near invasive-free islands, showed higher fish production and 48% greater biomass than their counterparts with invasive non-native rats.

Another study has shown that increased seabird nutrients help to promote reef recovery after bleaching events. This is because they have a positive influences on algae and herbivorous fishes. Coral growth rates can also experience growth rates up to four times greater than those without seabird nutrient subsidies. All of these factors have a positive impact on the overall environment.  

Many species help to maintain a flourishing ecosystem, helping to provide nutrients to plants and other animals, which then flow into the ocean and nourish the marine ecosystem. This also helps to boost fish populations and coral reef growth.

We are launching a new era of island restorations and rewilding focused on scaling and deploying collaborative whole-systems conservation plans for optimal impact.” said Wes Sechrest, Re:wild’s chief executive officer and chief scientist.

Some of the groups and organisations already involved are:

• Island Conservation

• Re:Wild

• Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

• The Government of Panama

• Government of Palau

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