• Investing in Blue Natural Capital to Secure a Future for the Red Sea Ecosystems

      Cziesielski, Maha J.; Duarte, Carlos M.; Aalismail, Nojood; Al-Hafedh, Yousef; Anton, Andrea; Baalkhuyur, Faiyah; Baker, Andrew C.; Balke, Thorsten; Baums, Iliana B.; Berumen, Michael; et al. (Frontiers Media SA, 2021-01-15)
      For millennia, coastal and marine ecosystems have adapted and flourished in the Red Sea’s unique environment. Surrounded by deserts on all sides, the Red Sea is subjected to high dust inputs and receives very little freshwater input, and so harbors a high salinity. Coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangroves flourish in this environment and provide socio-economic and environmental benefits to the bordering coastlines and countries. Interestingly, while coral reef ecosystems are currently experiencing rapid decline on a global scale, those in the Red Sea appear to be in relatively better shape. That said, they are certainly not immune to the stressors that cause degradation, such as increasing ocean temperature, acidification and pollution. In many regions, ecosystems are already severely deteriorating and are further threatened by increasing population pressure and large coastal development projects. Degradation of these marine habitats will lead to environmental costs, as well as significant economic losses. Therefore, it will result in a missed opportunity for the bordering countries to develop a sustainable blue economy and integrate innovative nature-based solutions. Recognizing that securing the Red Sea ecosystems’ future must occur in synergy with continued social and economic growth, we developed an action plan for the conservation, restoration, and growth of marine environments of the Red Sea. We then investigated the level of resources for financial and economic investment that may incentivize these activities. This study presents a set of commercially viable financial investment strategies, ecological innovations, and sustainable development opportunities, which can, if implemented strategically, help ensure long-term economic benefits while promoting environmental conservation. We make a case for investing in blue natural capital and propose a strategic development model that relies on maintaining the health of natural ecosystems to safeguard the Red Sea’s sustainable development.