The people of Inhambane are standing up for their estuary by using DNA-based monitoring with NatureMetrics. They have big plans to describe and protect coastal biodiversity in their local area.
Picture this, nestled into the coast of Mozambique is a town called Inhambane, and it’s surrounded by an estuary with mangrove forests and seagrass beds. There are many reasons to support the environment here and not least is to protect the fisherman’s livelihoods in Inhambane and neighbouring villages.
The people of Inhambane noticed that the species living in their waters were changing after decades of their local “ocean rules” being ignored or lost. According to the Inhambane Bay Community Conservation Network (IBCCN), the village elders of Inhambane, known locally as Mukhedzisseli or “the watchers”, historically managed where fishing was allowed to take place and they would close off certain areas to protect fish resources. With local rules no longer being taken seriously, the local people welcomed help from local NGOs OceanRevolution and Bitonga Divers to try and protect their local species.
The people of Inhambane live on the East coast of Africa in Mozambique. People rely on local marine life for coastal livelihoods such as fishing. They proposed no-take MPAs in nine areas of the estuary, forming the Inhambane Bay Community Conservation Network (IBCCN) (images from Google Maps, www.BlueParks.org and NatureMetrics).
The late Tim Dykman contacted NatureMetrics to share the story of the Inhambane people. He wondered if NatureMetrics could contribute to their understanding of biodiversity in the estuary, and he was keen to set up long-term DNA-based monitoring in the proposed MPAs.
These DNA-based services can be quicker and more cost-effective than traditional methods and can give a more complete picture of the biodiversity than may have been previously possible. Building evidence for the species in the estuary would provide a baseline to support the establishment of MPAs, and would allow the community to then monitor any changes in these species into the future.
Tim was keen to see how this DNA-based monitoring could help the people of Inhambane, and his vision is now becoming a reality.
In September 2019, a team from NatureMetrics visited Mozambique to join the people of Inhambane in planning their DNA-based monitoring in the estuary. They were successfully awarded an Innovate UK R&D grant for innovation funding, and have begun the planning phase.
During this first trip to Mozambique, the local people got hands-on experience in how to collect environmental DNA samples from their estuary. The NatureMetrics team also met with key stakeholders, and together they began planning the project.
The NatureMetrics team visited the people of Inhambane, and they began planning their projects. The locals were also trained in how to collect and filter eDNA samples from their estuary.
Phase 1 of the project, which involves setting a baseline of the local biodiversity and building some initial reference databases for local animal groups will be completed in 2020. Beyond this, the team are hoping to secure funding for phase 2 where they will roll out the methods to provide the people of Inhambane with a long-term monitoring solution.
With this project, the people of Inhambane are going to be able to generate high-resolution data for their local estuary, including which species are living where and how they’re changing over time. This sort of evidence will hopefully be welcomed by the government, and it may not be long before this community-based initiative can enhance and protect their network of MPAs.
Over the coming year, we will keep you updated as we start generating the exciting first results from this community-led DNA-based monitoring project.