The world’s watersheds are currently facing ongoing anthropogenic threats that endanger their biological value and their ability to provide ecosystem services to countless communities and species.
What is a Watershed?
Coastal watersheds vary significantly from one place to the next, each providing unique benefits to the location in which they are found.
A coastal watershed is a land area where water drains down through rivers and streams, to groundwater, lakes, bays, wetlands, and/or oceans.
Also known as as catchment areas, catchment basins, or drainage areas, watersheds can vary in size from a couple hectares to as large as hundreds of square kilometers.
Why are these ecosystems so important?
Watersheds provide critical benefits to our Ocean Planet both above and below ground. In fact, they can capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide at 10x the rate of a mature tropical forest by sequestering it in the ground for many years.
By storing carbon in the ground in its biomass and soils, watersheds provide improved soil structure and stability that leads to:
- reduced soil erosion
- improved soil biodiversity
- increased nutrient holding and use capacity
- increased water holding capacity
- increased crop yields and profitability
- and improved water quality in runoff into the ocean
Coastal watersheds provide a myriad of other benefits to their neighboring communities. A healthy watershed has the potential to hold coastal landscapes together, preventing sediment runoff from suffocating coral reefs and marine ecosystems downstream.
Watersheds are also high in biodiversity, serving as critical habitats for wildlife and rare and threatened species, as well as providing defense against storms, absorbing flood waters, and deferring wave action from the ocean.
Without healthy watersheds, the risk of pollutant and sediment loading are much higher, which can lead to decreased water supplies, water quality, and potentially devastating effects to the offshore local marine ecosystems.
However, despite all watersheds do for us, they are repeatedly degraded across the world by human activity, land use, deforestation, and high population growth. Additionally, climate change has continuously exacerbated the degradation of watersheds and is currently putting communities both upstream and downstream at risk.
By restoring coastal watersheds around the world, we are not only preventing carbon from being released back into the atmosphere but also providing sustainable benefits for local communities who depend on these areas for survival
A UNIQUE GEOGRAPHIC SETTING
Several SeaTrees projects, including the Southern Cardamom (Cambodia), Paramos Y Bosques (Colombia), and Cacheu and Cantanhez (Guinea-Bissau) projects have focused on “Ridge-to-Reef” watersheds, where water travels from the tops of mountains to the lakes or the sea, i.e., the water travels from “ridge to reef.”
Other coastal watersheds, like those at our Maliko and Laniapoko SeaTrees projects on Maui, Hawaii, have been abused and neglected for several years, resulting in damage to the land and neighboring ecosystems.
Through SeaTrees restoration efforts, native species are planted back into the watershed, trash is removed, and ecosystems are protected to ensure long-term survival.
To learn more about our coastal watershed restoration projects, please visit the following pages on our website.