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The world’s watersheds are currently facing ongoing anthropogenic threats that endanger their biological value and their ability to provide ecosystem services to countless communities and species.
What is a Watershed?
Coastal watersheds vary significantly from one place to the next, each providing unique benefits to the location in which they are found.
A coastal watershed is a land area where water drains down through rivers and streams, to groundwater, lakes, bays, wetlands, and/or oceans.
Also known as as catchment areas, catchment basins, or drainage areas, watersheds can vary in size from a couple hectares to as large as hundreds of square kilometers.
Why are these ecosystems so important?
Watersheds provide critical benefits to our Ocean Planet both above and below ground. In fact, they can capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide at 10x the rate of a mature tropical forest by sequestering it in the ground for many years.
By storing carbon in the ground in its biomass and soils, watersheds provide improved soil structure and stability that leads to:
- reduced soil erosion
- improved soil biodiversity
- increased nutrient holding and use capacity
- increased water holding capacity
- increased crop yields and profitability
- and improved water quality in runoff into the ocean
Coastal watersheds provide a myriad of other benefits to their neighboring communities. A healthy watershed has the potential to hold coastal landscapes together, preventing sediment runoff from suffocating coral reefs and marine ecosystems downstream.
Watersheds are also high in biodiversity, serving as critical habitats for wildlife and rare and threatened species, as well as providing defense against storms, absorbing flood waters, and deferring wave action from the ocean.
Without healthy watersheds, the risk of pollutant and sediment loading are much higher, which can lead to decreased water supplies, water quality, and potentially devastating effects to the offshore local marine ecosystems.