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UNSW to embark on the most significant mangrove regeneration project ever attempted in Fiji

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A groundbreaking five-year mangrove research and rejuvenation program Project Halophyte has been launched in the Fiji capital Suva with support from Swire Shipping.

Project Halophyte will develop innovative floating mangrove pontoons and undertake environmental restoration in partnership with local communities along the coast of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu. The collaboration between UNSW Sydney and University of the South Pacific (USP), led by UNSW’s Dr Andrew Dansie and Professor Will Glamore, is being undertaken in conjunction within UNSW’s societal impact framework which seeks to improve the world by progressing environmental sustainability and resilience, social cohesion, health, and wellbeing, and economic prosperity for all.

Project Halophyte will see up to 40 PhD students, early-career researchers, and academic supervisors from Australia and Fiji collaborate with local communities in a long-term project to restore mangrove growth and aquatic systems.

Fiji’s Assistant Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Hon Sakiusa Tubuna announced the international collaboration in the company of the collaborators, including key collaborators from UNSW and USP.

“The research undertaken by UNSW and USP, coupled with Swire Shipping’s altruism is definitely another positive step towards mitigating the impacts of climate change while battling its causes simultaneously. The futuristic vision behind this partnership is set to not only benefit Fiji as the pilot country but also have a positive impact across the region.”

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said, “this important philanthropic investment will play a pivotal role in advancing vital research and expertise in nature-based solutions. Our collaborative efforts with the Fiji and Pacific community position this project as a potential blueprint for creating responsible carbon sinks, with the potential for replication in other Pacific Island Countries and Territories in the foreseeable future.

“Our planet is at a critical point, with the urgency to address the climate crisis intensifying day by day. However, through strategic partnerships like this one, we can tackle these problems together thereby accelerating progress towards achieving a global net zero economy.” Swire Shipping Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Sutton said Project Halophyte reflects his company’s ongoing commitment to support local communities and advancing vital sustainability research efforts in the Pacific.

“Swire Shipping is proud to partner with UNSW, USP and our partners in Fiji on Project Halophyte. This pioneering and transformative initiative harnesses the shared knowledge across the Pacific to address critical sustainability challenges, demonstrating the impact of collective action. “Project Halophyte is a multi-year, multi-benefit initiative that directly aligns with Swire Shipping’s corporate philanthropy pillars: promotion of education, environmental and biodiversity stewardship and community support. The project marks the beginning of a promising partnership, and I am optimistic that it will benefit the local community and pave the way for a more sustainable future for Fiji and the region,” he said.

Dr Dansie said Project Halophyte’s partnerships will enable the research innovation and large-scale intervention needed to address the environmental degradation that is becoming a huge problem for the planet. “We are so thankful to Swire Shipping and the Fijian Government for backing this important project in support of the growing ambition among Pacific nations to tackle climate change,” he said. Prof. Glamore said, “UNSW, USP and Swire Shipping have come together in support of a project with a sustainable vision for the future of the Pacific using nature-based solutions.”

The partnership between UNSW and USP allows each institution to capitalise on their complementary strengths and to understand how mangroves provide ecosystem services that support coastal livelihoods. USP’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research & Innovation Professor Gurmeet Singh said Project Halophyte will enable close collaboration between UNSW, USP and a range of important partners in Fiji so mangrove ecosystems are recognised for the important role they play in environmental management and sustainable development.

“The provision of multiple scholarships will empower USP to cultivate specialised expertise in understanding the critical role of mangroves in mitigating the effects of climate change and fortifying coastal communities against its adversities. I am thrilled and deeply grateful for the collaborative efforts that have made this initiative possible.” Prof. Singh said. Globally, many coastal environments have been degraded due to human activities and climate change. In Fiji, as in many parts of the world, human activities have reduced the coastline’s natural functions and biodiversity.

As one of nature’s marvels, mangroves provide diverse benefits to coastal environments and communities. Project Halophyte will prioritise mangrove restoration, focusing on novel rejuvenation methods and nature-based engineering solutions across coastal, urban and agricultural lands. Project Halophyte will research the best approaches for the region, implement these solutions at scale and measure the environmental, social, and ecological conditions of the outcomes. This will include an assessment of the potential opportunity that blue carbon holds for Fiji and the Blue Pacific Continent. Healthy coastal ecosystems are critical to sustaining life on earth. Mangrove restoration has become an effective strategy to ensure that the critical functions and economic benefits they provide are not irreversibly lost. As part of Project Halophyte, nature-based solutions that integrate mangroves into maritime infrastructure will also be trialled. These novel nature-based solutions aim to create new opportunities for tourism, industry and local communities.
Source: Swire Shipping, UNSW Sydney and University of the South Pacific


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