Its ability to sustain mankind has been affected by human activities.

Many people might not know the benefits of oceans beyond sandy beaches, vacations and fishing, but they are a life support system. This is perhaps why this year’s World Wildlife Day was dedicated to the conservation of ocean and marine life – a first in the day’s six-year history.

Oceans’ (and marine life) ability to sustain mankind and contribute to sustainable development has been severely impacted by human activities, including unregulated fisheries, pollution and climate change.

“Oceans regulate climate, produce half the oxygen we breathe, provide nourishment for over three billion people and absorb 30 per cent of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, and 90 per cent of the heat from climate change,” says Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme.

To ensure that oceans and marine species are preserved and protected, nature-based solutions that bring together public, private and civil society partners need to be replicated and scaled-up, he added.

Considering the interface between land and sea, mangrove forests are among the most efficient natural carbon sinks. Mangroves can capture and store large amounts of carbon, about three to five times as much carbon as terrestrial forests. But, over the last 50 years, nearly half of these forests have been lost worldwide due to human destruction. Moreover, as much as 40 per cent of the ocean is now heavily affected by over-exploitation of marine species and threats such as pollution, loss of coastal habitats and climate change.

In Kenya, through the Mikoko Pamoja project, scientists from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and coastal communities in Gazi Bay, Mombasa are working to enhance mangrove forest cover. The community has conserved 107 hectares of natural mangrove forest and 10 hectares of plantation mangroves. It is also the first community-based project of this kind in the world to successfully trade mangrove carbon credits.

Ecuador, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania are already using Gazi as a model example and are keen to replicate it in their countries.

Mangroves protect shorelines and coastal communities against storms, floods and erosion.

They also provide habitat for fish and other wildlife and their ability to absorb carbon has them classified as “blue carbon” ecosystems that can be used to meet national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.