Sustainable Development Goal 14 is all about our oceans and the protection of their resources.
It states that we need to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’.
Ocean conservation includes a reduction of marine pollution, specifically debris and nutrient pollution. In addition, there is a need for stricter fishing regulations to prevent overfishing and put an end to illegal fishing across the world.
Sustainable use of the oceans means fishing according to the biological characteristics of each species in order to manage and protect marine life and coastal ecosystems.
As with all of the other SDGs, there is also a need for knowledge-sharing and scientific cooperation between nations. This helps to minimise some of the primary effects of global warming like ocean acidification, which takes place as oceans absorb around a quarter of the CO2 emitted by human activities every year and makes oceans increasingly inhospitable for all marine species.
Crucially, the health of marine ecosystems is not separate from those on land.
What happens in streams, rivers and on coastlines has a massive impact on our oceans, and trees are one of the most important pieces of that puzzle.
How Trees Can Help
Planting trees has a direct impact on the health of oceans and the life forms within.
Trees help conserve and sustain life below water by capturing the CO2 that would otherwise be absorbed by the oceans, significantly reducing rates of ocean acidification.
Trees such as mangroves demonstrate the complex and interdependent relationship between marine and forest ecosystems. Mangroves provide fertile breeding grounds for fish and other marine animals, while acting both as buffers for storm surges and natural filtration systems preventing too much salt seeping into the soil of coastal forests.
It is also the case that what goes into waters upstream will naturally affect organisms downstream.
Studies have shown that conservation and cultivation of native forests on coastlines is substantially more beneficial for marine species in the surrounding seas than the planting of monocultures such as palm forests for industry.
In short, tree planting is only as beneficial as the scientific understanding of the ecosystems that accompanies it.
It is only through the sharing of the latest marine biological research coupled with modern agroforestry techniques that these complex and delicate relationships can be correctly and sustainably managed.
Natural processes are not isolated phenomena.
It is only through an appreciation of the interconnectedness of diverse habitats that we can really begin to take concrete steps towards sustainable conservation and growth, both in our oceans and on land.