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New reports explore nature’s valuable services in the Turks and Caicos Islands

News Item 2022

Three technical reports have recently been published which highlight the suite of tools being developed through the Darwin Initiative funded project Technical assistance programme for effective coastal-marine management (DPLUS119). These tools will support the assessment and accounting of natural resources, or assets (often termed 'natural capital’) which benefit people on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).

March 2022 marked the start of the final year of this three-year project, which is being run through an international partnership between JNCC, the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI).

The work so far has looked at examining habitat maps of the seabed surrounding the TCI to identify the natural assets found there and produce the TCI’s first 'natural asset register'  Each natural asset provides a suite of ecosystem services of benefit to the people of TCI and beyond. The linkages found between assets and services are summarised in an 'asset-service matrix’ which assists in mapping where ecosystem services are delivered. Coral is one example of a key natural asset which has been mapped (Figure 1); it provides services such as support for fish stocks, protection against coastal flooding and erosion, and sites for snorkelling.

Figure 1: Map showing the benthic coastal-marine habitat types surrounding the TCI. Habitat definitions from Schill et al. (2020) and bathymetry data from GEBCO2014.

In addition, the project is identifying suitable ecological indicators to monitor changes to the coastal-marine natural assets in the area, with the aim of developing two marine indicators through the project. These tools help us to understand how nature's capacity to provide ecosystem services may change over time and inform responses to this.

These reports provide the foundations of a natural capital toolkit for the TCI and will be further developed during the final year of the project to deliver ecosystem service delivery maps, natural asset status assessments, ecological indicators, and a natural capital decision support tool. A knowledge exchange programme will support the delivery of all outputs to provide partners in the TCI with the skills to independently use, update and expand the toolkit.

The project’s outputs will support the adoption of a natural capital approach in environmental decision-making across the Turks and Caicos Islands, and its inclusion in the TCI Environment Strategy, which JNCC has been assisting the TCI government to develop. The collaborative approach to the project will result in the people of the TCI having the tools to monitor natural capital and inform sustainable management of the marine environment, with the goal of achieving long-term security for both nature and people.

This work builds on and links with other projects led or partnered by JNCC in the TCI to align activities and maximise our impact. This includes the eftec-led Darwin Initiative funded project, Caribbean Overseas Territories Regional Natural Capital Accounting Programme.

You can find out more in the following reports:

Keep up to date with the delivery of future outputs on the DPLUS119 project webpage and by following @JNCC_UK.

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