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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

Sharing knowledge from the world’s most extensive mangrove area

This week, students, researchers and conservationists from around the Western Pacific region have come together virtually to learn about mangrove health assessment from Indonesia, home to 22 percent or three million hectares of the world’s total mangrove area.

Mangrove forests are rainforests of the sea. At 150, 000km2, the Western Pacific region has the biggest extent of the world’s mangroves, with Indonesia ranking number one in the world.  “Mangroves are important for human life as they are the breeding grounds for many economically and ecologically significant marine species, and save people’s lives from natural disasters such as storms, floods, tsunamis and coastal erosion,” Bambang Permadi Soemantri Brodjonegoro, Indonesian Minister of Research and Technology/Head of National Research and Innovation Agency (Ristek/BRIN) noted at the training event’s well-attended opening ceremony held on November 16.

Hosting the training is the Regional Training and Research Center on Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health (MarBEST), a center established upon the UNESCO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)’s initiative to develop national capacity of member states for monitoring the health of marine ecosystems, particularly coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove.

The oldest and largest research institution in Indonesia, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) prides itself in its efforts to increase regional and global recognition of Indonesian research, including on marine biodiversity. “MarBEST is one of our instruments to achieve this,” remarked LIPI Chair Laksana Tri Handoko.

Building on many years of experience of LIPI’s Research Center for Oceanography, and conducted with support of partner institutions, UNDP and Archipelagic & Island States Forum, the week-long training aims to enhance participants’ knowledge and skills on assessing mangrove health – from data collection through field surveys, to analyzing and interpreting data, to constructing and reporting using the Mangrove Health Index.

By describing the health status of mangroves in terms of vegetation and biodiversity, the index could help communities, local governments, and other actors manage mangroves – these treasure troves of resources and protection benefits – more effectively.

In addition to traditional parameters indicating mangrove health, such as canopy coverage and plant density, diameter and height, the LIPI-developed index also considers plastic waste coverage and wood logging frequency in measuring mangrove health. Plastic is a major contributor to marine pollution, and land use changes typically signaled by logging have reduced mangrove area and functions.

To be delivered online through LIPI’s Learning Management System, the learning modules consisting of both live interactive webinars and pre-recorded videos, could be accessed by 30 participants coming from 11 countries. “Covid-19 does not stop us from doing science,” Ocky Karna Radjasa, LIPI Deputy Chair for Earth Science, said. “This training will further strengthen partnerships and ocean science cooperation among countries in the region.”

The fifth training of this kind since MarBEST’s establishment in 2016, the series of trainings has so far strengthened the capacity of more than 150 early career marine researchers from around the Western Pacific region and beyond. “The success of MarBEST as a regional training and research center owes to Indonesia’s unwavering commitment to ocean science cooperation and LIPI’s strong scientific excellence,” Wenxi Zhu, IOC-WESTPAC’s Head of Office remarked. “That and a very unique government-industry-research-NGO collaboration model have ensured LIPI’s remarkable contributions to society.”

An ocean science that fully supports society’s sustainable development goals is precisely what the upcoming UN Ocean Decade (2021 to 2030) hopes to achieve. “We would like to effect a transformation from a science that merely diagnoses problems to one that provides solutions and motivation for action,” IOC Executive Secretary Vladimir Ryabinin said. “A transformation from a research-mode funding base to one that demonstrates benefits to the entire value chain of knowledge generation to knowledge application.”

For more information, please contact Wenxi Zhu, Head, IOC Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) at