Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 5

   What do we have?

Imagine an island, fringed by the most magnificent underwater world. Where startled travellers humming in occasionally on small planes, look with disbelief and wonder at fringing reefs that seem to stretch for miles from this low-lying land. Imagine a place where just a decade ago, simple fishermen, in the abundance they enjoyed each day, would bait their fish traps and fertilise their gardens, with freshly caught lobster! To day, the waters are still unpolluted, reflecting the azure of brittle skies above, and mirroring the pale pure sands beneath them. Here, the fishes of the coral reefs are still abundant, though they have been fished for years. The brilliant tones of parrotfish, the reds of snappers, the darker hues of groupers and the multi-coloured varieties of angel fish and sergeant majors are just a few that make up the underwater rainbow that includes countless corals, many coloured sponges, seaweeds and seagrasses.

Boy with an emperor helmet conch

Along the shores, signs of large white sea urchins can be found; some wash ashore still living, when the seas are rough. There is no shortage here, of these creatures that are so highly prized in other Caribbean islands, where they have been over harvested and grow only small and sparsely in polluted coastal waters. But not on this island. In the waters around the reefs the beautiful queen conch, which is close to extinction in many parts of the Caribbean, is still seen in great abundance. At a quiet cove at the end of one wide beach, a wide long hill of conch shells is carefully piled - astonishing reminders of the rich harvest of food and income that the sea has provided. The conchs, most of them large and thick-lipped from age, lie weathered by the salty air and the woman whose husband harvested them, tells of the many other beauties that they have looked upon, in the waters just outside their home.

The boat that has been their means of livelihood for all these years, is double bowed and scarcely four feet long, but the woman tells how they have tussled with a shark, outwitted crafty sea turtles and brought ashore wonderful seaside treasures on this little craft. Inside, amongst the homely clutter, the prize catches are shown by the old lady and her attentive grandson: male and female emperor helmet conchs, huge enough to adorn the head of the most imperious warrior.  

Upon other shorelines, birds fill themselves with fish, swooping and diving for their prey. Pelicans with breathtaking wingspans soar above then plunge into the surf; magnificent frigate birds sail majestically on the air; bridled terns, like red lip-sticked ladies seem to converse quietly amongst themselves on the most seaward sides of rocky promontories. Just behind the sand dunes, other bird life emerges: squat wild ducks appear occasionally and little blue herons, startled by the presence of human intruders, flap off, perhaps perturbed.  

In the shallow salty ponds that form in the gentle depressions just inland, a host of winged waders feed and fly. These are for the most part, amazingly tame. Without a memory of bird hunting on this island, hoards of these birds congregate, especially in the evenings, walking on their elongated legs and dipping their long thin bills into the salty sands, which teem with microscopic life. Sandpipers, plovers and stilts, are just some of the birds you can find there. Most outstanding amongst them are some of the larger birds which, when they take to flight on their starkly coloured black and white wings, look like a crowd of tuxedo-dressed gentlemen on the wing!

Shorebirds at the water’s edge

But here on this island, changes are slowly coming and the clean waters and the pristine reefs, the wide, peaceful salt ponds and the tame shore birds will not remain untouched. The environment is slowly changing; not just through the force of hurricane surges or unexpected rains; long lasting human-induced changes are coming to this environment. Large hotels have already been erected and now in the bays where once only fishermen came, larger luxury vessels are seeking a mooring. On distant sandy cays out in the ocean, yachtsmen weigh anchor, careless of the corals they may smash or the fish that they may spear during a day ’s leisure-filled activities. On the beaches, not only sea urchins or abandoned conch shells are found, for now the litter is not just driftwood and shale but plastic bags and bottles that have drifted in perhaps from some nearby “more developed” island. Uneasy inhabitants wonder how long it will be before the poisonous outcomes of unbridled economic development will scrawl their tired tales of pollution and despoliation on their own island.

Already many of the local gardens have been abandoned for the ease of grocery shelves, packed tight with foreign goods, and the good earth, for the most part, lies fallow. In garbage bags piled beside the houses, the waste that bulges with wrappings and cans, reflects new preferences for imported goods and tastes. In some places, sand is stealthily stolen from beaches to be used in construction, sometimes under the cover of night. As the dunes crumble and the waters gradually wash in, old haunts of Sunday picnickers are being permanently destroyed, while huge houses, take root on the dry hillsides. New roads are being built and now trucks speed loudly where once people walked, in quiet.

This is a true story of an island in the Caribbean, whose natural environment has been peculiarly preserved for much longer than many of her neighbours. But the story of this island stands like a parable for the rest of us in the Caribbean, where strides to economic development have been made at the expense of the same natural resources on which this development depends.

   From a drop to a thousand fathoms
Our Caribbean islands and mainlands share many features. Receiving abundant sunshine, commonly identifiable ecosystems consist of mangrove swamps, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Beyond the reefs, the seabed drops sharply to the ocean depths. Different living creatures inhabit each domain, ranging in complexity from single-celled organisms to the giants of the sea.

“One droplet of sea water under a microscope can reveal a magical realm of tiny flashing bracelets, pendants, needles and anchors. Each infinitesimal creature manufactures its own exquisitely formed house from the minerals in the sea around it, building the shining walls out of the same silica that sand is made of…”

LIFE Nature Library, 1969. The Sea.  

   The tiniest sea creatures
At the elemental meeting of water and sun, the tiniest of living creatures of the sea are to be found. Some of these propel themselves freely through the water like animals, while manufacturing their own food directly from the sunlight, as do all plants. They are called dinoflagellates. Other single celled-plants are actually various types of algae many of which belong to the group of single-celled living creatures called diatoms.  

“The diatom is ‘the meadowgrass’ of the sea, and thousands of kinds of animals, from protozoans to whales, graze its pastures. The diatom reproduces at so rapid a pace that in a month it may have a billion descendents.”

LIFE Nature Library, 1969. The Sea.

   Shrimp in the "flowers" and grasses
Sea anemone

Sea anemones resemble bunches of flowering plants but are in fact small marine animals. Many types of anemones have small creatures living amongst their flower-like tendrils. Some of these relationships represent a type of  “commensalism”, which literally means, “eating at the same table”. The spotted cleaner shrimp is often found associated with a variety of anemones: the corkscrew, the branching and the giant anemone, commonly known as the pink-tipped anemone. Sometimes purple-grey in colour or else green, the arrow shrimp blends in well amongst purple sea plumes or green turtle grasses where it prefers to feed.

   More than a spider's web
A constant criss-crossing of relationships occurs between creatures on the hunt (the predators) and those that fail to escape them and get eaten (the prey). Other relationships occur between animals that live and feed together. There’s a wide choice of menu, that varies with the seasons, times of day or night as well as the health of the entire system that the creatures inhabit. This is part of the living food web.  
   Rooted in the sun

Food webs in the upper ocean are dependant on the sun. As the sun’s heat causes water to rise and clouds to form, ocean currents to swirl and winds to blow to and fro’, so the sun’s light provides “the first morsel of food” in the intricate feeding cycles. Plants – from the tiniest phytoplankton floating in the open ocean to the tallest tree – all contain chlorophyll, the unique substance that makes plants green and captures the sun’s energy; so that through the process of photosynthesis, plants turn water, carbon dioxide and other minerals into food.

It is this energy and biotic matter that passes from one living creature to another. Animals cannot make their own food, so the entire world of consumers, including human beings at the top of the food pyramid, depends on plant life to provide the basic source of their sustenance. Animals get energy from eating plants directly, or by eating other animals that have consumed plants. However, on the ocean bottom around hot vents found on mid-ocean ridges, another form of life does exist which does not depend on photosynthesis. As their energy source, these deep-sea ecosystems use chemical synthesis, produced by bacteria, of hydrogen sulfide, which comes from the earth’s interior.  

   Links in the chain of life

These all form the basis of life in the sea and, along with other plants found there (like sea weeds and turtle grasses), are recognised as the primary producers manufacturing their food directly from the sun. Animals of all sizes and categories belong to the groups of secondary and tertiary consumers depending on how far up they participate in the food chain. A very simple food chain that shows the dramatic stages through which food and energy pass from producer to consumer, can be found in the cold Antarctic region. It starts with diatoms and dinoflagellates. These are eaten by simple crustaceans, such as krill which later are devoured by blue whales.  

During the blue whale’s six month feeding period it grows by 90 pounds a day, consuming up to 3 tons of krill within 24 hours and eating over 500 tons of these two inch long crustaceans by the time their feeding phase is over.

   Feasting at the banquet table

Corals and sea urchins in a tidal pool

In most living environments there are many choices of food on which creatures may feed. Though a food chain gives a good idea of how feeding occurs, from the simplest life forms to the largest, a better picture of what actually happens is that of a food web. Unlikely partnerships occur where alliances happen to enhance the search for food and for survival. Some of these are symbiotic – where more than one creature lives together in a mutually helpful situation. This is the case with tiny organisms called zooanthellae, that live within the tentacles of coral polyps. These microscopic animals give corals their colours, while also finding a safe shelter amongst them.

   Eviction notice?

In recent years, rises in sea water temperatures have been linked with some corals’ expelling of their resident zooanthellae. When this happens, the corals lose their colour in a process not yet fully understood, termed “coral bleaching”.  

Limits beyond the light

But though the sun may seem to be an infinite source of energy and light, its benefits are not limitless. Apart from the fact that some scientists believe that one day the sun may burn out – perhaps millions of years from now – there is another factor. The web of life depends on plants that use the sun. If these primary producers were destroyed, the web of life would collapse. If they are badly damaged the web of life will suffer, on land as in the sea. Plants, big and small, must remain in a healthy condition to keep on making food from the sun. The recycling of this energy through the food web must never end, if all creatures are to continue to live.  

   Munchers of the dead

Within the food web there are also creatures who live on dead or dying things. Their job, although it may seem repulsive, actually provides an important function, cleaning the environment of decaying and dangerous matter and recycling the energy and nutrients within these things, back into usable forms. These “decomposers” as they are called, break down complex plant and animal material into simple elements, like carbon and nitrogen. These can then be reabsorbed by plants. When these are combined with energy from the sun and other needed elements, plants grow and there is a “new” recycled food supply for hungry creatures.

   Zones for specialised living

Food webs occur in specialised locations. These natural habitats are linked systems, so that what happens in one will inevitably impact others. Many of the vital activities which relate to Caribbean people’s livelihoods and survival, depend on these ecosystems.

   Misunderstood mangroves
Red mangroves  

Most people regard them as a nuisance: smelly, filled with mosquitoes, useless for normal agriculture or development. Relatively few may use them to support their livelihoods, gathering oysters, trapping fish, using their wood for timber or tanning, or simply enjoying their quiet beauty or bird life. Mangroves in fact provide an invaluable purpose to whole islands and coastline communities. Their special roots that can grow in brackish and salt water conditions, help trap silt and gradually extend the coastland into the sea. The forests of red, black, white and button mangroves, protect shorelines from tidal changes and hurricane surges. When floods occur from inland rivers, their roots help to slow silt-laden waters, so providing protection for organisms that would otherwise be damaged, in the nearshore area. Water purification, peat formation and the conservation of soil as well as groundwater, are included amongst the physical functions of the mangrove swamp. Without them, coastal erosion, loss of property and land can result.

Mangroves provide an entire world for communities of living creatures that spend part or all of their lives in them. Many sea creatures come here to spawn. In the quiet still waters of the mangrove swamp their young can grow in a protected area, which is abundant in suitable food. Part-time visitors include lobster, shrimp and various fish species.

Many decomposers continuously feast on the decayed mangrove leaves. Barnacles, oysters, worms and some crustaceans all dine on the sodden mangrove forest floor. Microscopic organisms, finish off the task of recycling the energy and nutrients that first were manufactured in mangrove leaves.  

In contrast, a variety of birds come and go according to migratory cycles or patterns of feeding, mating and nesting. Many of these waterfowl provide attractions for locals and tourists, who enjoy viewing wildlife.

Winged giants of the blue lagoon
On the quiet island of Barbuda, the half-forgotten sister isle of Antigua, an awesome colony of magnificent frigate birds is thriving. Numbering in the hundreds, these birds roost resplendently amongst the mangroves. Little economic activity has disturbed their ancient habitat. These birds were named by land-sick sailors of a by-gone age, travelling in frigates, who watched their soaring flight on wings that might reach as wide as seven feet. They now re-create ancient seasons of mating and nesting. Males inflate large red balloon-like pouches beneath their bills, to catch the eye of potential mates, in this spectacular courting ritual. Visitors may travel quietly amongst this colony of birds, in small shallow draught boats guided slowly through the water. In this mangrove swamp, other wonders can be seen like the curious upside-down mangrove jellyfish that looks like some miniature garden swirling on a tiny lost planet. Other pleasures may include lunching on fresh lobster, chosen from a stash of live creatures from the blue lagoon.  

A many sided giver  

Like some magnanimous benefactor, the mangrove habitat benefits the land on its inshore side, the seas and reefs on its ocean side as well as a host of creatures that live within its intricate system of leaves, trunks, branches and roots. Merely as a place of re-creation and enjoyment, this habitat is vital to our existence.

Short term vision

“Developers” and others with eyes set on short term economic gains, without a sense of their overall function, see mangroves as being better suited for sites of garbage dumps, rice cultivation, land reclamation – even road building and housing or airport development. In so using mangroves, they fail to calculate longer term economic, social and cultural losses.  

   The beds where turtles feed

As open pastures give a grazing ground to cows and goats and sheep, and a place where seed-eating birds chirp and jump and eat, so the seagrass beds of the nearshore waters provide a grazing area for numerous creatures. Producing their food from direct interactions with the sun, these flowering underwater plants flourish and provide a food supply for various life forms.  

Young conch
Grazing in these grasses are tiny snails that cling to their leaves and spectacular conchs such as the roostertails, the tritons and the beautiful queen conchs. Prickly sea urchins like the slate-pencil urchin can be found here or the edible West Indian sea egg. Flat sand dollars often feed here too along with grub-like looking sea cucumbers. Some star fish will be among the feeders.  

Sea urchinsSand dollars

But perhaps the most welcome visitors are those mysterious migrants, the sea turtles, who are known to traverse the oceans of the earth repeatedly, throughout their long lifetimes but choose these shallow beds of turtle grass, as one of their favoured places to feed. Jellyfish, another favourite turtle food, may sometimes float into these areas, providing an extra treat. Altogether, these seagrass beds with their inhabitants, form yet another critical habitat linked to the ocean.
Life on the seagrass bed  
   The kingdom where coral reigns
The Caribbean Sea, is seen by biologists, as a virtual desert, when compared to the seas and oceans of more temperate countries. The clear blue waters and white sands are tell-tale signs of low productivity when compared to dark coloured waters of other seas with rich productivity. But coral reefs are the exception. Here in these spectacular underwater domains, live thousands of creatures, in an intricate web of life.  

In terms of structure, reefs may be one of three varieties. Fringing reefs, run adjacent to the shore. These can be seen at Speyside, Tobago or off Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. Barrier reefs form further offshore, with a deep lagoon between the sea and land. The Great Australian Barrier Reef is the largest of its kind in the world, but in our own region the spectacular reef off Belize, provides an outstanding example. Buccoo Reef in Tobago is also a barrier reef. Other reefs may form independently of any mainland area, typically on a raised underwater “mountain” and breaking the surface to form a near circular coral formation. Such reefs are known as atolls and are common in the Polynesian islands of the South Pacific as well as the Indian Ocean islands such as the Maldives.  

Whatever their structure, they are all equally fragile. It is thought that reef building creatures called coral polyps have taken centuries if not millennia, to build reefs the size we see today. Varieties of corals grow in differing areas of the reef, for instance the tall elkhorn corals on the deep ocean-side reef walls and the huge mounds of brain corals on the shore-side sea bed. Some, like the finger corals, even colonise shallow inter-tidal pools on rocky seaside cliffs. A dazzling array of corals can be found, for instance the many types of star corals. Getting to know and name the coral types is a challenge in itself.  



Spotted nurse shark

Soft and hard corals

The reefs are a scene of never ending colour, movement and life. Myriads of species swim and snoop and graze throughout the day and at night a different bevy of creatures come out to forage for food. Like mangrove swamps, coral reefs also provide a nursery function for some creatures, including many species of commercially harvested fish and shell fish. They also protect the shoreline, particularly from huge ocean swells associated with hurricanes, and provide a source of sand for many beaches. Here the action between predator and prey is stealthy and swift and all is done with blazing colour and intriguing camouflage.   

Parrot fish

Parrotfish nibble at the reef itself, processing tiny bits of coral and passing them out as sand. This sand is then moved by the waves to the beaches. Parrotfish come in a variety of bright colours and have sharp teeth that seem to be fixed in a permanent neat smile. Other toothy reef creatures are the varieties of moray eels that lurk in their crevices and shoot out a sharp mouth to snatch the unsuspecting passerby. At night these reefs are often cruised by sharp-toothed barracuda. Several other reef fishes sport an amazing array of spots and bands and daubs all of bright colours. The tinier creatures of the reefs are by no means outdone with their brilliant markings. Sea stars and sea whips, sea eggs and conchs, may also travel between seagrass beds and the reefs. Sponges of spectacular shapes, sizes and colours and swaying sea fans, gently moving tube worms and many tentacled anemones, root them-selves at points on the reef’s floor or in other niches.



Dwellers from the wider ocean come to visit, often in search of food. Groupers and snappers may seek out smaller fishes here to eat. Sharks may also come searching. Some larger creatures such as the friendly manta rays may stay permanently close to the reefs, as they do at Speyside, Tobago, if the habitat remains healthy and they are left unharmed. For human visitors, the reef provides a place to fish for food but also to relax and enjoy its beauty, find pleasure in boating, swimming, diving or snorkeling and generally to refresh the soul.


   Out in the open seas

Fewer creatures inhabit the wide oceanic realms. Here where the waters are deep, seagrasses cannot take root, for they could not get light enough to grow at such depths. Instead the dinoflagellates, provide the ocean’s free floating “sea meadows”. Some fishes complete their life cycles here, including the “pelagics” that swim near the surface like dolphinfish and flying fish and the “demersals” like red fish, snapper and grouper that feed nearer to the sea floor.

   The darkening world below

Fascinating life forms are found in the graded margins that go from half exposed beaches to the often, unseen darkest depths of the ocean. Many of these zones have been given intriguing names from Greek mythology including the neretic, bathyal, abyssal and hadal realms. Each of these areas is now known to support life – some in ways previously thought to be impossible.

Song for Ivor the Diver

Oh how I long, to swim out to sea
Breakers out there – beckoning me
There I can float, in pools blue and green  
Bob like a boat, in worlds so oft’ unseen

Not known to those who stay in the bay
Are treasures below, washed by the waves so gay
Gulping the air, now I make my descent
All here is dear, corals magnificent!

Then underwater there, silence surrounds me
And I will have no fear, of creatures around me
Shark smiles as he goes by, following a tuna
And reef fish dash away, from barracuda

Turtles appear at last, flippers are flapping
Feeding on turtle grass, on this bright morning
Octopus stops to think, if I might harm him
Gives me a splash of ink, as he’s departing

Long spotted moray eel, smiles from his crevice
He will not bite my heel, I won’t alarm him
Parrotfish, brittle star, prickly sea urchin
I would stay with you, but to the shore I’m turning

by Joy Rudder, from “The Anguilla Collection: 1992”  

Moray eels on the reef  
   The beauty that is backdrop

“...walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers, they never primp and shop, but have you ever seen colour and design quite like it?...”  

The Message, Eugene Peterson.

“And he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and months and almost over a year to Where the Wild Things Are...”

Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak.

“ There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot...”

A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold.

It is easy to forget, in a world of buses and buildings, computers and communications, fast foods and supersonic transportation, that our lives still ultimately depend on things that we did not make ourselves. We may be unaware of what is happening in a jungle or on the deep sea bed, on high mountains or tiny islands, in the upper levels of the atmosphere or on the surface of the planet where we walk, but all of these spheres can be affected by our actions and in turn they influence the quality of life we know. Another name for all of life on earth, on which our existence depends is biological diversity, the amazingly varied, delicately balanced, life-giving complex of all that is here. Estimates of the number of species of living things that exist on our planet vary from a low of 5 million to a high of 100 million. To date 1.7 million species have been identified, 90% of these in tropical forests. But current rates of deforestation alone, suggest that two to eight per cent of Earth’s species will disappear over the next 25 years. Then also there are the losses on other parts of land and in the seas. At least 40% of the world’s economy and 80% of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources.

A law that cares for life
The Convention on Biological Diversity

At the First United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972, the Governing Council of the newly formed United Nations Environment Programme identified the “conservation of nature, wildlife and genetic resources as a priority area.” This was the beginning of international law-making that would seek to protect everything that lives: from the giants of land and sea – gommiers or great redwoods and grey whales and walruses, to crop seeds and chromosomes and microscopic genes. This law seeks to protect not just individual threatened species but the entire ecosystems within which they dwell. Two decades later, in 1992, at the historic “Earth Summit” – the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, after lengthy technical and legal preparations, the Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It entered into force on 29 December 1993. The conservation of biological diversity is now recognised as essential for global sustainable development. It balances requirements for conservation with sustainable use. It spells out both rights and obligations of its participating countries concerning scientific, technical and technological cooperation.

From the giants of the sea to the 
microscopic creatures they consume, 
Convention on Biological Diversity  
seeks to protect all that lives in earth 
and air and sea  

Sun, clouds or too much rain?  
Blanketing our earth with care

Another international agreement which seeks to guide our progress in planetary proportions, is the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Drought in sub-Saharan Africa, late-forming monster hurricanes hitting the Caribbean islands and the North and Central American coasts, severe droughts alternating with winter storms in northern countries all point to the phenomenon of climate change. Weather always varies and disasters do periodically occur but in recent decades scientists have been cautiously beginning to note that something alarming, new, profound and potentially permanent is underway. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been established that is carefully noting the trends.

Where we choose to live as we seek to make out livelihoods has often made the effects of these severe weather changes even worse – for instance, poor people who had erected thousands of flimsy shacks on muddy unstable hillsides in Honduras, felt the fatal impact of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 which killed thousands, followed by the floods of the next year which bore away many hundreds more. As one publication questioned, regarding the pattern of carnage normally left in the wake of natural disasters worldwide, were these Acts of God or acts of man? (Natural Disasters: Acts of God or Acts of Man; Anders Wijkmon & Lloyd Timberlake; An Earthscan Book, New Society Publishers, Philadephia, PA 1984)

Intense climatic events are often necessary in our planetary place: fires in eastern mountains or central prairies of North America though potentially life threatening are also the sole means by which some tree and shrub species can be regenerated. Tropical hurricanes in sweltering summer months serve to disperse heat and energy to northern latitudes. But soberly, scientists now see that man-made impacts are drastically altering flows of energy between the sun and our planet in both directions with dire effects. Greenhouse gas emissions include carbon dioxide (CO2), a by – product of our domestic and industrial uses of coal, oil and natural gas; methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) which are produced in huge quantities in industrial-scale livestock rearing and rice cultivation. Together, these with other greenhouse gases are changing the quality and capability of earth’s atmosphere. The results of these occurrences include global warming, sea level rise, an increase in severe weather systems and predicted shifts in climate and vegetation belts in years to come. These would be largely unfavourable to humans as well as other living creatures, resulting in widespread failure of crops, loss of life, hunger and even for some species, extinction. 

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the centrepiece of global efforts to combat global warming. Adopted in 1992 at the Rio “Earth Summit”, its ultimate objective is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (man-made) interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Rice cultivation, Guyana: one of
the non-industrial processes that 
produces gases  

A Conference of Parties oversees this complex Convention which attempts to persuade all world players to participate, sharing responsibilities equitably between rich countries and poor. The rich, whose industrial activities largely worsened the problem and have done the most harm are asked to make the biggest changes and bear the greater financial responsibilities; the poorer countries, which lack resources and are just making fledgling efforts towards industrial advancement, are given time to strive for sustainable development and are asked to give financially, in proportion to their resources. The Global Environmental Facility is the financial mechanism that co-ordinates the financial arrangements necessary, which run into billions of dollars. The Convention also has related legal instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol, (adopted in December 1997), which strengthens the international response to climate change.

Related international legal systems preceded this Framework Convention and continue today, to deal with specific issues; these include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, adopted in March 1985 and its subsequent Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer adopted in September 1987.



Choose a habitat in your area for exploration from the list described: mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs.


Coastal zone managers and conservationists in many islands and on mainland coasts, are beginning to identify special nearshore areas that they want to preserve.


While much is now known of our living resources especially in the areas close to land and in shallow sea beds, a world awaits to be discovered, at the deepest bottom of the sea. Careers in the 21st century may well take workers to live for extended periods on the deep sea bed.

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