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Blue Forests Project
by United Nations Environment Programme (United Nations entity)
Blue forests - seagrasses, salt marshes, and mangroves - provide many vital ecosystem services, supporting coastal communities around the globe. They are also recognized as important natural carbon sinks. Blue forests, however, are threatened by overuse and unsustainable practices. The degradation of these ecosystems can also release stored carbon and so contributing to the threat of climate change.

The blue forests concept - the promotion of better coastal ecosystem management by harnessing the values associated with carbon and other ecosystem services - offers hope in the countering of continued coastal ecosystem degradation and the promotion of sustainable management practices by turning their values into revenue and sustainable management options.

Although many advances in the blue forests concept have been made in the last few years, there are still many challenges associated with unlocking the values of coastal carbon and ecosystem services. These include gaps in science, a lack of working examples, and an international community that still does not fully recognize the value of these systems for climate change mitigation or adaptation.

The GEF Blue Forests Project aims to address these challenges by paving the way to coordinated on-the-ground implementation of payment for ecosystem services (PES), carbon market schemes, conservation agreements, or other mechanisms that really work for coastal ecosystems and that are based on those values.

The successful demonstration by this project of working methodologies and approaches for carbon accounting and ecosystem service valuation will enable the GEF and others to further up-scale and replicate the concepts around the world. This project represents a milestone event on how coastal ecosystem management is considered and supported.

The GEF Blue Forests Project builds on existing activities in selected countries (United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, Indonesia, Madagascar and Mozambique) to promote the blue forests concept from theory to practical application. This will be accomplished through targeted research on coastal carbon and the valuation of ecosystem services, analyses of possible policy actions, and information sharing that will help global replication of the concept.

The project objectives are to apply methodologies and approaches for carbon accounting and ecosystem service valuation in blue forests so as to provide evidence-based experience that supports replication, up-scaling and adoption of blue forests concepts by the international community and the GEF.

The project aims to:

Improve the knowledge on carbon sequestration, storage, possible greenhouse gas emissions as well as ecosystem services in blue forests ecosystems and on possible policy and economic instruments that may be applied to sustainable coastal habitat management.

Improve and replicate ecosystem management based on improved understanding of the values of blue forests ecosystems

Improve understanding of ecosystem services and carbon storage and sequestration, possible greenhouse gas emissions, sequestration and fluxes for blue forests ecosystems through targeted research and peer-reviewed literature, with a particular focus on ecosystems lacking knowledge (seagrass and salt marshes).

Improve acceptance and awareness of blue forests values, methodologies and approaches in international policy and markets related to climate change and ecosystem service valuation.
Progress reports
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Community or Locally Managed Marine Areas
  • Integrated Coastal Management
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable fisheries
  • Economic benefits from sustainable tourism
  • Economic benefits from sustainable aquaculture/mariculture
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Scientific, socioeconomic and interdisciplinary research
  • Research capacity development
  • Data access and sharing
  • Training and professional development
  • Scientific cooperation
  • Actions that support SIDS and LDCs
Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
Type of commitment
  • Legal/policy/institutional measures
  • Access to market-based instruments
  • Community empowerment for fisheries management
On-the-ground application of blue forests methodologies for carbon accounting and ecosystem services valuation
Improving the understanding of carbon storage and sequestration and ecosystem services of blue forests
Development of guidance for carbon accounting and ecosystem services valuation for blue forests ecosystems
In-kind contribution
23,268,215 USD in staff time and related support from partner organizations
Financing (in USD)
4,500,000 USD
Staff / Technical expertise
Countries and partners provide staff support and technical expertise to facilitate project work
Basic information
Time-frame: January/2015 - December/2018
UNEP-ROLAC (UN Entity) GRID-Arendal (Other relevant entity) WWF-Mozambique (NGO) Blue Ventures (NGO) UNEP-WCMC (NGO) IUCN (NGO) US Forest Service (Government) Conservation International (NGO) Duke University (Academic institution) Indonesia Marine and Fisheries Ministry (Government) Charles Darwin University (Academic institution) Stockholm University (Academic institution) Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (Government) US-NOAA (Government) South African Institute of International Affairs (Academic institution) Kenya Maritime and Fisheries Research Institute (Government) The Ocean Foundation (NGO) Blue Climate Solutions (NGO) Counterpart International (NGO) University of West Brittany (Academic institution)
Ocean Basins
  • Global
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Blue Forests Project, Communications Officer, gefblueforests@gmail.com,
Arendal, Norway
Other SDGs
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