Written by Volker Koch, Blue Solutions Initiative
A lot has happened since our PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet platform went online in its current version in September 2016. The number of thematic communities has doubled (more are on the way!) and currently over 380 solutions are published. Over 170 blue solutions have been implemented in marine and coastal ecosystems. These successful examples for conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems come from a wide variety of geographical and cultural contexts and cover a diverse range of spatial scales, ecosystems and themes.
The marine and coastal solution analysis
It was time to take a closer look at our marine and coastal solution portfolio to find out what we could learn from the blue solutions on PANORAMA. Firstly, we wanted to know how solutions are distributed geographically, thematically, what challenges they addressed, who benefitted from their implementation, which Aichi targets and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been supported and at what scales they operate. Secondly, we looked for other characteristics like common building block categories, combinations and sequences that may catalyze success. Finally, we wanted to find gaps in our portfolio and identify themes, ecosystems or regions where we still need to find more solutions.
For the analysis, we considered all solutions from marine and coastal ecosystems, not only those listed in the Marine and Coastal thematic community. This broadened the database considerably and helped improve the meaningfulness of the results. The database was consulted in January 2018 and the analysis does not reflect more recent changes/additions.
What have we got? – The short answer
If you are in a hurry, here is the short answer: We have 175 Solutions from over 60 countries published by over 150 different solution providers including government institutions, NGOs, private sector, academia and dedicated individuals. Most solutions come from tropical and subtropical latitudes; they cover a wide range of ecosystems and topics. Management and planning and sustainable resource use are the most important themes, followed by climate change and ecosystem conservation. Solution implementation varies from local to global and benefits a wide range of stakeholders, species and ecosystems. Almost all Aichi targets and Sustainable Development Goals are supported through solution implementation. The most important ones are Aichi targets 11-Protected areas and 14-Ecosystem services and SDG 14-Life below water and 13-Climate Action. Communication and Awareness Building, Management Planning and Data and Monitoring are the building block categories that are used in most solutions.
Overall, the portfolio analysis revealed an amazing diversity of successful examples for conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems! However, there still remain gaps and we would like to include more solutions from Africa, have more involvement with the private sector and feature more solutions that address challenges related to marine litter, circular economy/resource efficiency and conservation finance, among others.
What have we got? – The detailed version
|Geographical Distribution and Thematic Scope
Now for the long answer: The map shows the geographical distribution of all blue solutions and their thematic focus. Most marine and coastal solutions come from tropical and subtropical regions, reflecting the focus of the Blue Solutions project on developing and emerging countries. 40% come from the Americas, with a fairly even distribution between regions. Asia is second with 31%, with most solutions reported from Southeast and East Asia. Solutions from Africa comprise over 20% of the total, with East and South Africa being the most important. A further 8% of the solutions come from Oceania, and only 1% from Europe. Thematic focus varies by region and there is a high diversity of themes addressed in different parts of the world. Overall, solutions mostly relate to management, planning, sustainable resource use, climate change and ecosystem conservation, which are among the most important challenges for people and communities living in coastal areas.
Solutions are applied in a wide variety of ecosystems, with mangroves (20%), coral reefs (17%), estuaries (11%) and sea grass beds (10%) being the most important. Most solutions are from highly productive coastal ecosystems in tropical latitudes that are intensively used by man. This reflects on their enormous value for humankind in terms of food security, economy and underlines the clear need for their long-term conservation.
Local communities are the most important beneficiaries (21%) of the solutions from the marine and coastal portfolio, followed by government authorities (14%), Tourism (11%) and Fishermen (10%). These four together account for more than half of the total. Overall, there is a large variety of different beneficiaries mentioned, showing the broad positive impacts of solutions from the marine and coastal realm.
Most solutions were implemented at local scale (44%), followed by subnational and national implementation. However, quite a few solutions (11%) work at multinational or even global scales. Several local solutions have been scaled up and are implemented in different countries at the same time.
|Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Goals
About half of the marine and coastal solutions (86 out of 175) report that one or more Aichi targets are supported through their work. The most important targets mentioned are target 11-Protected Areas (12%), 14-Ecosystem Services (11%), 6-Sustainable Management of Aquatic Resources (10%), 1-Biodiversity Awareness increased (9%) and 10-Reduce Human Impacts (7%). Together, these five make up about half of the total. All other 15 Aichi targets are also mentioned.
55 of the 175 marine and coastal solutions supported SDGs through their implementation. SDG 14-Life below water (23%) and SDG 13-Climate Action (16%) were most common, followed by SDG 12-Responsible Consumption (8%), SDG 15-Life on Land (7%) and SDG 1-No Poverty (6%). All seventeen SDGs were reported at least once.
The broad support of Aichi targets and SDGs clearly demonstrates the ample spectrum of themes and challenges covered by the marine and coastal solutions. In the future, the accounting for SDGs in PANORAMA could potentially be used as a clearinghouse mechanism to demonstrate how projects from all over the world support the implementation and compliance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
|Building Block: Thematic Categories and Grouping
The figure shows how often different thematic categories of building blocks (BB) were named and how they are grouped in the marine and coastal solutions. Only five thematic categories make up over 60% of all BB of the marine and coastal solutions: Communication, Outreach and Awareness was the most important BB theme (14%), followed by Management Planning (13%), Baseline and Monitoring (12%), Education and Capacity Development (12%) and Alliance and Partnerships (10%). This clearly demonstrates the important role of these processes for successful solution implementation across thematic, cultural and geographic contexts.
The division into three groups shows which different BB combinations often occur together. One group comprised the BB themes Communication, Outreach and Awareness, Baseline and Monitoring and Technical interventions and infrastructure. A second group consists of Management Planning, Education and Capacity Development and Alliance and Partnerships. The remaining six BB themes were not used as often and comprise a third, less defined group. However, each context and challenge is very specific and a potential solution needs to be adapted to the specific conditions. The groupings mentioned here should therefore not be used as a standard for developing new solutions.
Certain BB themes appeared more frequently at different stages of solution implementation. For early stages of implementation Baseline Data and Monitoring (BB1) was most common, followed by Management Planning (BB2) and Education and Capacity Development (BB3). For later stages of solution implementation (BB4-6), Communication, Outreach and Awareness was the most important theme. The analysis clearly shows a logical sequence from gathering information to planning, capacity development and communication for the marine and coastal solutions on PANORAMA.
Overall, we have relatively few solutions related to waste and resource efficiency, which is widely recognized as a growing challenge for the health and wellbeing of people and ecosystems. One reason might be that this type of challenge is extremely complex and needs to be addressed upstream through long-term and large-scale changes in human behaviour, legislation and resource use. Conservation finance is another theme where we would like to have more solutions. Availability of funds for conservation is quite limited and innovative solutions that have the capacity to open new financing opportunities would be highly valuable. Although we do have quite a few private sector solutions (especially with tourism and fisheries), this theme should also become more prominent and varied in our portfolio. These examples are increasingly important, because they demonstrate that profit can be made while ensuring the long-term economic and ecological sustainability of coastal and marine ecosystems.
Another gap is geographical. So far, most marine and coastal solutions come from the tropics. While this has been the focus of the Blue Solutions project, PANORAMA would welcome more best-practice case studies from temperate and cold latitudes. This would help to broaden the scope of our portfolio and introduce new ideas and approaches to solve problems in marine conservation and sustainable use.
Another gap lies in the relatively small amount of solutions implemented across national boundaries (11%). Local scale solutions are extremely important, relatively easy to implement and finance, and have profound impacts on the wellbeing of people and ecosystems. However, many issues nowadays have large-scale causes and impacts and require international collaboration and transboundary action. Thus, we look for more examples that show how multinational or global solutions work and how large-scale conservation and sustainability is successfully implemented.
Lastly, a clear and verifiable quantitative accounting of impacts would allow PANORAMA to produce aggregated impact measures and be used as a clearinghouse mechanism for the SDGs of the Agenda 2030 and the Aichi targets of the CBD. This is a promising option for future development, but requires a more elaborate quality control and verification process for each solution, as well as changes to the database.
Our analysis/overview of the marine and coastal solutions on PANORAMA clearly highlights the achievements, the broad thematic and geographical scope and the usefulness of learning from existing solutions instead of reinventing the wheel every single time. It also shows that there is not one single recipe for success, but many different options that need to be custom tailored to each particular context. Given the fast growth both in number of solutions and topics/challenges addressed, we hope to see PANORAMA become a standard for collaborative learning and exchange of “approaches that work”, a go-to platform for finding solutions to problems related to sustainable development and conservation.