IORA Blue Carbon Hub as an Early Career Visiting Professional in 2022

By Tainã Loureiro

I am pleased to tell a bit of my story and share my experience at the IORA Blue Carbon Hub as an Early Career Visiting Professional in the 2022 cohort. My name is Dr Tai Loureiro, I have a background in Biological Sciences, and my scientific endeavours keep an eye on the UN 2030 Agenda. My research focus includes aquatic ecology, ocean accounting, environmental-economic accounting, climate change and biological invasions. I am passionate about science communication and knowledge diffusion for non-academic audiences, and I support equitable partnerships in science as an epistemological perspective to provoke societal change, combining the conservation of natural environments with sustainable development.

After finalising my PhD in Brazil, I moved to South Africa, where I co-developed transformational environmental solutions for various countries in the Western Indian Ocean in collaboration with an international network of researchers and government partners. Working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town, South Africa) and as a Research Associate for the Global Ocean Accounts Partnership, my goal is to produce impactful research that goes hand in hand with implementing ocean accounts across countries in the Global South.

During my time in Perth, I had the opportunity to design and develop a project aiming at reviewing the variables, metrics, and indicators used to assess the condition of seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and salt marshes. Working in close collaboration with Dr Mat Vanderklift was crucial for producing high-quality outputs. He is a leading expert in coastal ecology and blue carbon research and has deep knowledge and experience in bridging the science-to-policy interface. Dr Vanderklift provided valuable feedback, instigated me to think outside the box, and invited me to discuss my project in various forums with national and international experts. Our work, in partnership with Professor Ken Findlay (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa) and Professor Salomão Bandeira (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique), will result in an academic paper and a technical guidance to support the implementation of ecosystem accounts and ocean accounts in the Indian Ocean region.

Outside the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre in Perth (the headquarters of the IORA Blue Carbon Hub) with my son.

This is a very exciting topic as blue carbon ecosystems have a critical ecological, social and economic role due to their ability to store carbon, contribute to climate change mitigation, protect the shoreline, improve water quality, support livelihoods, and provide shelter, food and other resources for various species. Notably, assessing the condition of these ecosystems is essential for multiple reasons, such as:

  • the provision of ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration rates
  • the definition of management strategies and priorities, including ecosystem restoration
  • the identification of links to pressures, ecosystem resistance, and resilience, contributing to the understanding of the effect of natural and anthropogenic drivers of change
  • guiding blue carbon financing decisions as those depend on risk analysis and the measurement of outcomes
  • underlying the achievement, monitoring and reporting of local and international policy objectives (such as the Aichi Biodiversity targets or the Sustainable Development Goals
  • enabling the development of ecosystem condition accounts that are critical for the implementation of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EA) recently adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission and Ocean Accounts.

Despite the multiple benefits of assessing blue carbon ecosystem condition, the methods and indicators for doing so are generally not well documented, and even fewer guidance materials or tools are applicable to African states. In response to this critical information gap, our project identified the methods currently being used, with a focus on their applicability to ecosystem condition accounts. This review will support the development of a Blue Carbon Ecosystems Condition Diagnostic Tool to guide such assessments by states with constrained resources, providing a framework to guide the selection of biotic and abiotic indicators aiming at an integrated assessment of the overall quality of mangroves, seagrasses, and tidal marshes.

Being able to access the CSIRO and UWA libraries was critical to perform the review. However, the work extended beyond compiling a list of indicators. We realized that the definition of some terms, such as condition, baseline, pristine ecosystem, reference status, pressure, impact, and so many others, had variable uses within the literature. Such dissonance regarding concepts and definitions can be particularly challenging when aiming at the systematic compilation of environmental economic accounts. In this context, the project collaborators and I had important discussions to streamline the definition of terms and approaches in the context of this work.

I am confident in saying that the IORA Blue Carbon Hub has one of the best research-focused facilities compared to other institutions I worked in Latin America, Europe, and Africa. CSIRO colleagues such as Lauren Hardiman and Mark Wilson created a welcoming environment and enabled me to focus on my project without having logistic issues.

The diversity of this year’s cohort in terms of the geographic location of participants shows how attractive the Early Career Visiting Professional fellowship is. Connecting with colleagues from Bangladesh, Tanzania, Indonesia, South Africa, and Thailand was fantastic. I could learn about their research, culture, and food – but most importantly, I made good friends.

Together with other Early Career Visiting Professionals (left to right: Karizki, myself, Mussa and Mir).

I am sure that the Early Career Visiting Professional program will thrive in the years ahead, increasingly attracting young and prominent intellectuals with a common goal of building sustainable futures. I hope sharing my experience will encourage more women to participate in the following years. I recognise the institutional efforts in supporting candidates with diverse backgrounds, and I could not have engaged in the fellowship without IORA’s awareness of accommodating my needs.

Tainã Loureiro

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

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