Thumbnail image: Nick Dorian/Macaulay Library

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Hello everybody, welcome to this webinar, organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to celebrate bird migration. My name is Osvel Hinojosa, and I’m the director of the Coastal Solutions Fellows program here at the Lab. And today we’re going to talk about our efforts to protect shorebirds along Pacific Flyway in Latin America. But first a few announcements: Closed captioning is available. If you would like to see subtitles, please click the Captions button at the bottom of your screen. And we’re streaming live to both Zoom and Facebook. If you are watching on the Cornell Lab’s Facebook page, please be aware there have been some spam attempts in the comments, so please do not click on any links in the comments unless they are posted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We will start with presentations from our Coastal Solutions Fellows, but we also want to answer questions from the audience. If you are watching on Zoom, you can click on the Q&A button at the bottom of your screen and type your question into the Q&A window. If you see a question already typed in that you like, please up-vote that question by clicking the thumbs up icon. We’ll be answering some questions verbally, and for others we will be typing in our answers, which you will be able to see in the “Answered” column. If you are having technical problems with Zoom, please use the Zoom Chat window for tech help, not the Q&A. Please use the Q&A for content questions and Chat for everything else. If you are watching on Facebook you can add your questions to the comments and my colleagues will share the questions with us. We will try to get to as many questions as we can. And so I will start with a presentation about the Coastal Solutions Program. I will start now by talking about the decline of birds that we have experienced in the last 50 years. We have lost 2.9 billion birds in our lifetimes. And one of the groups that have suffered the most are shorebirds, we have lost 37% of shorebirds in North America in the last 50 years. And as you probably know, these birds breed in North America but they migrate to Mexico, Central and South America during the winter, so they need a network of sites during their lifetime to be able to survive. And as you can see in this image, it shows the abundance of the Western Sandpiper through the year. During the breeding season they use a large area in the United States and Canada and Alaska, but in winter they concentrate in very few places along the coast. So it is really critical to protect all of these sites along the flyway. And in these migrations they face a number of threats. There is coastal development, urban development, industry, agriculture, pollution. So we really need to address these issues working with multiple stakeholders. And when we have been planning these efforts at continental scale, we have been talking to shorebird experts and biologists, but we also have been involving architects and engineers, planners and developers. Different challenges have been identified, but one of the biggest challenges is that, something that happens very commonly in conservation biology, we have scientists, biologists, conservationists working on one silo — in academia and NGO’s — and then we have the architects, civil engineers, planners and developers working in the private sector. And there’s really no connection or conversation happening between these two sectors. So one of the strategies that we have developed is creating the mechanism and the space for these two sectors to collaborate, exchange ideas and find solutions for coastal conservation. But also to cultivate, to develop early career leaders that can understand both sectors, and use the knowledge and tools from these different disciplines to do effective coastal conservation. And this is how in 2018, the Coastal Solutions Fellows program was initiated, as a joint effort between the Packard Foundation and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And our ultimate goal is to improve coastal resiliency along the Pacific Flyway of Latin America, by fostering cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaborations, but also by capacity building of early career leaders. And we see this as a cultivation of emerging leaders, this is a unique opportunity to leverage scientific knowledge with advances in engineering and science for effective coastal conservation. And one of the great things of having this Fellowship at Cornell University is that, of course we have all of the amazing resources at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but we can also use other resources from other great departments, for example, the Department of Landscape Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Atkinson Center. So we have a lot of things to offer to our Fellows and partners. We have six Fellows every year, but they also come with a team of mentors and collaborators and partners. The Fellows come to Cornell for training, and participate in other workshops for career development and capacity building, but they are working in their countries on their side, implementing their projects. So we also think about the network that we are building. In the next five years we expect to have over 150 leaders and experts from different sectors and disciplines participating in this program. And so this is our class of 2019. So, this is a very young program, we only have two cohorts. And this is our class of 2020. So we have Fellows right now from Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Chile. And we have a combination of architects, engineers, biologists and natural resource managers, although every one of the Fellows now has cross-sectoral collaborations in their projects. Today we’re going to have presentations from Varinia Sagastume, Johann Delgado, and Flavio Sciaraffia. They’re going to talk about their projects and what they’re doing in each of their countries. If you want to learn more about our program, you can visit our website, you can send us a message and we will be happy to respond to any questions. And now I’m going to turn it over to Varinia Sagastume, she’s our Fellow from the cohort of 2020. Varinia is a Guatemalan biologist with a Master’s degree in wildlife conservation and management. Since January of 2019, she has been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Guatemala, where she has coordinated shorebird collaboration and monitoring efforts. Varinia, please?

– [Varinia Sagastume] Thank you Osvel, and thank you everyone for being here today. My Coastal Solutions project is with salt and shrimp production in Guatemala. So as you all might know agriculture is one of the main threats to shorebirds along the Pacific Flyway. A good example of how we have been losing habitats and we have seen the modification of coastal wetlands, is the Sipacate-Naranjo National Park in Guatemala. This national park is very important for biodiversity, but is also a place with a lot of salt production. So as you can see in this picture, we can see how habitat for shorebirds has been modified, and many intertidal mudflats are getting lost because of the expansion of the salt production. So this is a good example of how the important habitats for shorebirds are being reduced in our wetlands here in Guatemala. Another threat is agriculture in shrimp production. In Guatemala the main issue is that we are seeing changes in management practices. So we can see how many farms are turning from a semi-intensive system to more intensive or even hyper-intensive systems. The main difference between the systems is yield. You will get more shrimp from intensive and hyper-intensive farms. You need more water in a semi-intensive system, because you need to constantly pump water into the ponds. The intensive systems cover the ponds with plastic so you can keep water longer, but the problem with plastic is they also cover the ground. So many shorebirds wouldn’t be able to access the ground to feed. So as you might see, the potential habitat is higher for semi-intensive system compared to a more intensive system, but the trend of agriculture in Guatemala and other countries in Central America is to go to more intensive practices. However, an interesting thing is that during 2019 we did shorebird counts along the whole Pacific Flyway in Guatemala, and we surveyed 46 sites. As you can see in this map, we covered the whole Pacific coast of Guatemala. It was very interesting to see that one-third, 32% of the sites that we surveyed, were actually shrimp and salt farms, so even though they are a threat to natural habitats, they are also becoming an alternative habitat for shorebirds. So shorebirds are actually using these sites, and we can find them using them as feeding grounds or for roosting. Some species are even breeding in shrimp and salt farms. So the question here is, we have on one side the shorebirds, that need these natural habitats and also artificial habitats that are available now because of modification and the loss of natural habitats, they are now using these artificial habitats as an alternative. They need these places to survive migration. And on the other side, we have the shrimp and salt industry. So the question is, is there a way to find harmony between them? Is there a way to make them both work together? And the solution I propose for this problem is to have best management practices. This is because not all farms have good practices that will benefit birds. If we work together with the producers and the farmers, we can make these farms more shorebird friendly so that they will have better conditions and better habitat for shorebirds. So the objective of my project is to improve the availability and quality of habitats for shorebirds through better practices for salt and shrimp production. The objectives are to quantify shorebird abundance and habitat use during the production seasons, develop a management plan for shorebird conservation, and build capacities to reach agreements for implementation and monitoring with the farmers. So for the first objective, I will be doing shorebird counts in a salt farm and a shrimp farm to see how shorebirds are using these artificial habitats. And I will also explore the connectivity between the farms and the intertidal natural habitats that are nearby. For the management plan, I will put together information from papers and publications, and also work together with collaborators that are also working with shorebirds and shrimp and salt farms. And use the data I get from the field to make a proposal of which practices might be good for shorebirds. But the most important component of the management plan is understanding the needs and what is important for the workers, for the farmers and for the producers. So the workshops are a very important part of understanding what they are willing to do or what they are willing to change and why. We have been proposing some ideas of what we could start doing or changing and improving in these farms. We can think of infrastructure which are, for example, the walls and the ponds that they have in their farms. How can we make them better for shorebirds? Is there a way to take plastic away from some ponds, or during some important time of the year when shorebirds are migrating? Management is also very important, we need to control vegetation in the walls, and also control the water level after harvest. Many shorebirds use the ponds, for example in shrimp production after harvesting, the ponds are empty and the ground is wet. So this is the best time for shorebirds to use this as artificial habitats. So if the shrimp farmers leave water for at least three days it will really improve in the availability of this artificial habitat for shorebirds. We have also proposed an alternative for disturbance, for example there are places where we hunt birds in the farms. We have found — in this picture you can see a bomb, it’s kind of a firework, that they use to make the birds flush, so that they can hunt. So controlling the hunting, or making routes, and temporary closures in places that are important for shorebirds in the farms during nestling or breeding seasons, will help shorebirds in these areas. And also the farms depend on the landscape, depend on the estuary and the natural habitat. So we want to connect the farmers and make them want to protect the natural habitat. And also because they are so connected with the wetlands, all the water they use in the farms comes from the estuary, and the water after using it goes back to the estuary. So, what is the water quality? Can we improve the water quality that will go, after use, to the wetlands? And also control pollution and trash that comes from the farms. So after showing them all this, and through the workshops, we want to get agreements with them, for implementation and monitoring of these practices. And we also need to find incentives for the producers, like birdwatching and tourism in their farms, or sustainability standards and certification, market mechanisms, and many other ways that we can make this have a long-term impact. So what I would like to see after I finish my project, is have a pilot farm where we can start showing others that we can have good practices that benefit the producer and benefit the birds. Then go to local institutions and finally the Pacific coast, so that more people and more farms can have these good practices, and have these bird friendly farms. And finally I would like to thank my team and collaborators, that are working together with me in this project. Thank you everyone.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you Varinia, that was great. Thank you everybody for the questions that you are sending, we are collecting them and at the end of the presentations we’re going to go through the questions and answers from the panelists. And now we’re going to have a presentation from Johann Delgado, he is a Coastal Solutions Fellow from the cohort of 2019. Johann is a civil engineer with a master’s degree in coastal engineering from University of Colombia, and now he is Ph.D. student in environmental and civil engineering here at Cornell University. He concentrates his research on understanding how natural structures, such as coral reefs and mangrove forests protect coastal habitats from the harmful effects of extreme weather events. Thank you Johann.

– [Johann Delgado] Thank you Osvel for having me. Okay. Okay thank you everybody. Today I would like to talk about climate change and its relation with shorebirds, and some processes in the Pacific coast. So our project takes place on a small island called Puta Soldado, off the Pacific coast of Colombia. It’s close to Buenaventura. This city has the main port and concentrates a part of the development of Colombia, especially in transportation of goods, like importation or exportation. So we decided to start this project in this place for different reasons. The first one, the island has created an erosion problem in the last 40 years, like around 600 meters of coastal land retreat. There is also a small community there called Punta Soldado, they have had three relocations in the same period. We know the last one was recorded in 1998, but we don’t know exactly about the other relocations. Related, with the ecosystems, there’s been huge loss of beaches, mangroves and mudflats. They are a critical ecosystem, a critical habitat for shorebirds. We have some surveys from maybe 20 years ago, we have 5,000 shorebirds. This place is particularly important in this sector, but now we are discovering that these transformations in the habitat loss are changing these numbers a lot. So this is a summary of all of our project. We are trying to develop a climate-smart plan for the island, at least to do a contribution for this community. So this plan basically starts to explore the hazards, that in this case are concentrated in sea-level rise, the near-shore ocean currents, and also we are trying to understand how does this sediment transport close to the island. This island is close to the estuary, and we have a lot of inputs of sediment in this area. The next step is to assess the vulnerability and the risk, but in this case it is not only for the community, we are including ecosystems and the land. In the last picture you can see the island is large, but basically the island is a wetland. We have a lot of mangroves in this area, but it is just a small piece of the island that is solid land, it is a place where the community can live and the shorebirds can rest also. Then we’re trying to identify potential solutions for adaptation. We are exploring nature-based solutions, but we know for the future, long-term, we have to plan the relocation especially for the community, and to identify more places for the habitat of the shorebirds. This information we want to create a conversation with the authorities, to prioritize and to plan new strategies. For me this is the hardest part of this project. We have different stakeholders, we have different policies and different levels. Also it’s the moment when we will need to have enough technical capacity to develop the projects. Finally, when we have everything together we can take action, we can develop new strategies for adaptation and to create better conservation in this area. Our first step was to create a good team to work there. As you can see we have different disciplines in this project. We have social sciences, we have environmental science, but also we have to articulate all this knowledge and to produce results and then contribute to the policies. This is a challenge that we have in this project, but this is the way we are organizing our team. This team belongs to different institutions, especially from the National University, the NGO Calidris, the University of Antioquia, and NGO research center in Colombia, C. E. Marin. They are helping us to articulate all the research. So some of the results that you can see here in this slide are related more with the physical processes, here in this picture. You can see the sea level variation in the last decades. When we started this project, we talked a lot about climate change, how the long-term trend of sea level rise will affect the ecosystems. But now we are realizing that the currents of El Nino are affecting more than climate change or more than these long trends. So we have during El Nino events up to 40 centimeters, and this is — making a comparison with the climate change scenarios — is like to be in the future, is like to be in 2050. So we have here a description of what is happening in one of these events. We found the wave direction, the waves are coming close to the island and changing their direction during these events. More changes in the wave heights off shore can be higher than wave heights near shore. We are using numerical models to study these relations and to be conscious of what is happening during these climate scenarios. So understanding all this information, also we are describing what is the change in the morphology of the island and how the habitat for the shore is changing during this period. Also we have some ongoing results. We are planning with this information to create a pilot adaptation solution. It will be basically a wood barrier. We want to protect the coastal vegetation in this part of the island, we are having a recovery. We want to protect this vegetation, and then with some time we can create a new area with reforestation. This is a huge challenge. We want to start with a pilot test, but also the importance of this part is the participation of the community. It is not only to go there and put this infrastructure, it is to involve the community in the process of adaptation and conservation. One of the benefits is the socio-economic: We will need people to develop this test, and we are creating some employment in this area. Also with the capacitation we are including people in the conservation process. They are more in awareness of the situation, related to conservation and climate at the same time. With these tests, we want basically to buy time, to have enough time to plan the relocation for the future. We are avoiding moving all these people to another place with more social problems, and we will have the experience for higher infrastructure or higher developments in this area. So this information is more related to shorebirds. It is not our expectation, but yeah, this is the factual information. Three decades ago we have like 5,000 shorebirds in the area, but now in the last survey we have just like 600. What is happening? This is in my opinion, this is a combination of hazards. So we are exploring in this moment this relation with climate change, but also there is anthropogenic input in the area. As an example, one hydroelectric dam in the area discharges tons of mud. All this sediment covers the estuary. At this moment we don’t know, what is the consequence of this act? And what is the consequence on the shorebirds, or on shorebirds’ ecosystems? Also we have problems with pollution, and interaction with the coastal development in this area. Our project is trying to have impact in the policies, from the state scale to the site scale. So we want basically to answer this question: How can these research results contribute to climate adaptation of Puta Soldado — and later to use these results to contribute to the city’s policies. So we are establishing a governance framework for this project. We are acting basically as creating synergy between all the stakeholders in the area, that include Universities, NGOs, research centers and community orgs, and private sector. So in this moment, we are working very well in this part, but the more difficult part is to get this good interaction with the government. Especially to impact the environmental policies and to get funding to develop these climate adaptation projects. Also, we are making some efforts in trying to communicate what is happening in the area. We are using different strategies, from podcasts to scientific illustration. We have some information in the news, and we published a video on YouTube. You can share the video for more information about this project. Yep, thank you, thank you for your attention.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you Johann, that was great. Again thank you for the questions. We’ll have one more presentation and then we will get to questions and answers. And so now we’re going to turn our attention to Flavio Sciaraffia, he’s Coastal Solutions Fellow from the cohort of 2020. Flavio is an architect with a master’s in urban projects and a master’s in landscape architecture from Harvard University School of Design. He’s the director of GeoAdaptive in Chile, a global consulting firm that provides advanced intelligence services to generate positive impacts in territories, communities and organizations. So Flavio, please go ahead.

– [Flavio Sciaraffia] Right thank you. Can you see my screen, right?

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Yes.

– [Flavio Sciaraffia] Great, thanks for the invitation to present. So my project title — the short title is Valdivia Wetland City. In a short sentence, the project is about conserving wetlands in dense urban areas, in cities that are located in estuary and coastal systems, in Chile. So what is the project about? Basically what the project is, it seeks to implement a wetland conservation model, that focuses on management of the contributing basin as the main vehicle for the conservation of wetlands. We can see here the city of Valdivia, the project site, and all the basins in the black edge, and the freshwater ecosystems that are within and around the city. Most conservation initiatives tend to focus on the wetland, on the water, near and around the wetland, but not on the contributing basin. Why is this important? Because the functioning of wetlands depends on hydrological processes that extend to the contributing basin. Most of the time in cities there is a lack of framework that can manage the hydrological system that is feeding the wetland mosaic. And most importantly, cities alter and modify basic hydrological processes like runoff and infiltration. In the diagram that you see on the right, you can see for example that when you have natural cover, runoff is about 10% and most of the water infiltrates to underground aquifers, around 50%. But when you have urbanized conditions, runoff tends to be up to 55% which passes a larger pollution load to the water bodies, and infiltration is really low around 15%, which depletes underground aquifers. How can we achieve this, right? Well of course, by managing the landscapes that are in and around the basin. You have to make planning and policy decisions that protect water resources by replicating the hydrological functions being impacted. A way to do this is to use green infrastructure to recover functions: runoff, interception by vegetation, infiltration and water storage. There are a bunch of technologies and different systems of green infrastructure. I won’t delve into that right now, but just for you to know, there are a lot of different green infrastructure projects that you can start to implement around the city, so that you can restore and improve those ideological functions. We have been working with this idea or concept of “Sponge City,” which was coined by the Chinese into 2015 but actually the EPA in the United States has been working with this since the 80s. So it’s based on four basic principles. The first one is to protect natural systems: wetlands, rivers, other water bodies, riparian edges, forested areas, et cetera. The second one is trying to delay water, trying to delay runoff, so that you can reduce discharge — the amount of water that is running down — reducing at the same time the pollutant loading and also reducing the impacts of potential flooding. The third principle is to retain water in natural systems, to control pollutants and sediments through processes of phyto-remediation, or natural remediation by plants. And once you have all these processes, you can finally release the clean water to different water bodies. What is interesting about this is that in a pre-urban state, so before the city is developed, all of these functions occur naturally, therefore you require a planning process to start restoring these hydrological functions. So where are we working? We are working in Valdivia but at the same time, the entire coastal area of Chile. But Valdivia is the case study. It is a medium size city located in southern Chile, sort of meshed in this beautiful landscape, a wetland mosaic. You can see how these wetland fingers penetrate the city. It is at the confluence of two rivers, and it’s also part of a biodiversity hotspot, the Rainfall-Valdivian Forests hotspot. It’s home of the first Ramsar site, a wetland of importance in 1981, and I will explain that later. So a little bit about the site. Of course the city predates 1800, but in 1853 you can see how the city is starting to develop at this river bend, and you have water bodies within this, you have wetlands that are located inside the city. But of course this created some health and sanitary issues, and public officials started to drain and fill wetlands. And 50 years later, by the end of that century, you have all the urban footprint already consolidated, right? So wetlands are starting to recede. Another important landmark in the history of Valdivia, is that in 1960 it was hit by the largest earthquake ever recorded in the world, a 9.5 degree richter earthquake. I won’t talk about the destruction that affected the community, but it did have an important impact on the landscape. Because the movement was so strong, some of the areas around the river sank, and some were raised. So water was able to penetrate inland, and it created I would say one of the most important and largest wetland systems today in the country, which is the Cruces River wetland system that you can see in the image in the darker green, around the Cruces River. Here you have Valdivia. So this became the Ramsar site, the wetland of importance. And of course I already mentioned this, but when you have urban development, all of these hydrological functions are affected, and you need to restore those. So what you have in the end, it is a complex problem of different land-uses and land covers competing with each other, and you need to plan for that if you want to conserve wetlands that are important additives for birds. And this is just to show the city in the context of all the wetlands that are within the urban area, in the color green. So in terms of goals, the project seeks to: first, support policy related to urban wetlands; to create a program of knowledge transfer and communication about the importance of this; and also ideally to set up local implementation in the city. Thinking that all of these can be scaled up to a country level, especially the coastal area of course, that is the area of interest. And we have done quite substantial progress over the last, I would say, eight or nine months already. Working with my partner institution, which is the Rio Cruces Wetland Center — there’s the logo here. First we defined the minimum sustainability criteria for the bylaws of the Urban Wetland Law, which is a lot of what’s enacted in January 2020, that seeks to protect urban wetland through different instruments. So we did a multi-stakeholder process nationwide. We also got some expert research on best practices so we could set up this sustainability criteria. Using different categories, like monitoring, governance, management, planning and participation. So all of these criteria will be condensed and implemented to a local ordinance in cities that have urban wetlands. So this project was already delivered to the Ministry of Environment, and we’re now moving into the phase of implementation. A second project, also with my partner institution in Valdivia, is about developing guidelines to implement the Urban Wetland Law I mentioned earlier. So based on that minimum sustainability criteria, we are looking at what type of actions and solutions such as green infrastructure, could be implemented through the local ordinance. Not only that, we’re also looking at different indicators to monitor progress, and also setting up like a model template ordinance so that the municipalities can start planning for wetland conservation. Finally, and this is an ongoing project, is about the local implementation for specific cities. So what we’re going to do with the Ministry of Environment is try to characterize coastal cities across the country, to figure out which ones are the most important in terms of wetland conservation. After that, we are going try to understand what are the knowledge voids in environmental and planning departments in municipalities, and with that we are going to create a knowledge transfer program and support cities in protecting wetland. So it’s basically an advisory support and implementation project. And here on the left you can see that we are starting to work on the city of Valdivia, to see what are the wetlands we want to focus on and how can those be conserved using the instruments that were set up by the Urban Wetland Law. Finally I want to mention that, maybe you are wondering why this is important for conservation. In the case of Chile, which is a really long stretched country from north to south, you have a bunch of large and small coastal wetlands that work stepping stones for different bird species including shorebirds. What is interesting is that these wetlands are not located in pristine areas or protected areas. Actually, you know, they exist within hybrid landscapes that have agricultural uses, forestry activities, different gradients of urbanization, et cetera. So in a sentence, if you want to conserve wetlands habitat for birds, you need to start focusing on cities and all of the uses that are happening around them. So I would say that the key aspect of the project is that it will allow us to scale up the implementation of the different strategies to all of these cities that are in the coastal areas. Thank you.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you Flavio, it was a great presentation. Now we’re going to go through some of the questions that you have sent, if you have any more questions please write them in the Q&A box or in the comments on Facebook. And so we’ll start right away. So first questions for Varinia, and it’s a combination of things related to salt production. So if you can talk a little bit about, why salt? Why people are producing salt in the coast of Guatemala. What is the economic importance of salt production in the area? What are the uses of salt, of this salt that is being produced? And I think you covered already, the strategies used in working with farmers. But yeah —

– [Varinia Sagastume] Okay, thank you. Well just to tell you a little bit about these questions, I answered some of them in the chat. I hope you can see the answers there. But about the salt production economy, it is not one of the main products for the country, but for some local communities it is one of the main economic activities. So salt is not as important for the country, but it is very important for local communities. Especially because it is artisanal salt, made in a way that is really traditional for these communities. The salt doesn’t have the highest quality for human consumption, so it is mostly used for to feed cattle for to feed cattle, yeah for supplement for cattle, and also at the industry level. And a small part is used for local consumption, for human consumption. And another question I saw is, someone asked what kind of incentives we want to implement with the farmers? We are still looking for what is important for the producers, and what they will like to do. So some of the incentives are, for example, tourism and bird watching in the farms, because we have found that many of these shrimp and salt farms, a lot of shorebirds use them during the high-tide when the mud flats are not available for them to feed. They go to the salt farms for roosting or just additional foraging, and it is a great place to watch birds. So a good incentive might be to have tourism, so that they will have some extra fee for people going to watch birds in their farms. Also another incentive are certifications and sustainability standards. At least for shrimp production, the shrimp in Guatemala is mostly exported. So if we have certifications for agriculture that can support shorebird conservation, then it will be an incentive for them to use these practices to get some certifications or to get to some sustainability standards, to sell shrimp to Europe and other countries. And some other things that we’re trying to do are some market mechanisms. See how we can incentivize them to sell a product that is shorebird-friendly, or bird-friendly and to have a better image of the product so that the consumers will be more attracted to them. I believe many of you that are watching now will be interested in buying, for example, bird-friendly shrimp or bird friendly salt. So those are market mechanisms that we can use to incentivize the producers.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you Varinia. So I have a question for you Johann. How is monitoring of mangroves happening in Colombia and what has been achieved in terms of mangrove monitoring?

– [Johann Delgado] From our experience, we are developing some surveys on the island, we are identifying the species that we have on the island. Also what is the relation with mangroves, with the hydrologic conditions. I know from other colleagues in different institutions, they are using remote sensing to identify the area covered by the mangroves. Also I know there is a database where most of the researchers in Colombia are collecting all the information, and it’s handled by a research institute in Colombia.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] And just to continue a little bit with you Johann, what do you see as the biggest barrier for your work so far?

– [Johann Delgado] The biggest barrier, I think, is the interaction with the government. Because at this moment we have a change in the government, and now we have to start again to work with new employees in these institutions. Because basically they are changing in every election. So yeah. We need to include all this information, all this research, to improve these policies that we have in the local scale, and try to get sustainable projects for the future. So basically we want is that all these initiatives continue after Coastal Solutions finishes there.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you, so next is questions more for Flavio, and perhaps you have seen them, Flavio. But it is about green infrastructure and water gardens in the cities. How effective can they be, and how can we make them work, make a difference at the landscape level?

– [Flavio Sciaraffia] Yeah I understand, thank you Osvel. So green infrastructure works on different scales and rain gardens are only a small fraction of the solutions that are out there. When you work at an urban level, you need to understand where water is coming from, what are the pollutants in the water, and where is it going, and where is it concentrating. Based on that you can set up different strategies, from basic stuff like preventing building over wetlands, and preventing polluting water bodies, you know, from different businesses and land-uses, to set up specific types of infrastructure to deal with water quality and quantity. For example, you can have constructed wetlands, you can restore riparian edges. And when you work in a systemic way, when you address the entire urban basin or sub-basin, you can actually have really good impacts in terms of water quality and quantity. In Valdivia, because it is a city that is starting to urbanize in a more dense fashion, we still have the wetland system in the city taking care of all of that. I would say that we are in a time, a specific time in which if we don’t do anything, the capacity of that wetland to actually clean water and absorb water will be diminished, and the effects of that will be the pollution of rivers, the pollution of coastal areas, sedimentation and also flooding. So there are, in terms of successful implementation, beautiful cases in China, some places in the United States like for example Seattle and also Portland, and also green infrastructure can work at larger scales. And I think the most interesting example is what is happening in the Mississippi basin. So the Mississippi basin one of the largest basins in the world. And most of the crops are actually monocrops like wheat, mostly grains actually, like maize. So because agriculture has been done in a way unsustainable, they have crops over riparian edges, they have cut forests, et cetera. So they are having specific water quality issues in upstream towns and states. But not only that, because there is no buffering tool for all the nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous, and fertilizers – and also pesticides as well, all of that pollution is going down the Mississippi basin and reaching the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know if you’ve seen this on the news, but some years you have massive algae bloom that is killing all the local fauna in that area, in the ocean. What’s going on, on that scale is that upstream, the states that are agricultural states are trying to restore this green infrastructure — wetlands, water bodies, reforested riparian edges. And some of them have done great progress, so they have improved their water quality, which is actually their drinking water. But at the same time, if you scale up through the entire basin, eventually you may have some interesting benefits downstream, basically in the Gulf, avoiding the algae bloom that is killing fish and other types of fauna. So I would say that green infrastructure might sound something futile, but it depends on how you address it systemically, and how do you try to understand the problem in a way that is not isolated. Actually try to work with the entire ecological system. In my case, actually it is a city, but of course it has a larger area, a very urban area with agriculture and forestry, so you have to also take care of that. I would say that maybe answers the question.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Great, thank you. And we’re getting to the top of the hour, so I want to close this session by thanking all the panelists. Thank you so much for your participation. And thank you to all the viewers. And I want to give you just 30 seconds to each of you, to Johann, Flavio and Varinia. If you have to something to add, especially how do you think your projects are having impacts in your sites and your communities. Do you want to start Varinia?

– [Varinia Sagastume] Okay. Well, I think my project is very important. And not only for Guatemala but also for Mexico and other Central American countries that are having the same trouble with shrimp and salt production. Because these production systems are taking a lot of the wetlands and coastal habitats that shorebirds need during migration. So if we can find this balance and harmony between these production systems and shorebirds, we will be helping them to have alternative habitats, and extra places where they can go during their migration. So that is very important. And I think it is work that is not only me but all our collaborators, colleagues and biologists are working in salt and shrimp farms along the whole Pacific Flyway. Even in South America we have huge salt farms. So it is a work that we’re doing together, and I’m just putting a little extra effort in protecting the whole Pacific coast. So that is a little of what I’m working on, and I hope you like my presentation and I hope will see results in the following years. Thank you for being here today.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you. Johann?

– [Johann Delgado] Firstly, thank you everybody for taking this time. In my opinion this project is creating synergy between different institutions in Colombia. Maybe this project is only two years, but we are expecting to be in the area for a long time now. Maybe not just with this project for Coastal Solutions, we’ll be with different institutions working in the same area and creating better capacities. Not only in the Universities, also in the communities and environmental institutions, in the government. Trying to continue solving these problems because climate change is not just our projections, it will continue for a long time. So we need to be prepared. Experience for the future.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you. Flavio?

– [Flavio Sciaraffia] Thank you as well. I thank everybody for connecting today, I’m really happy to present the project and the progress so far. Well I think it’s quite interesting what the Fellowship has allowed me to do. I would say not about the technical aspects per se, it is about connecting with the right people and stakeholders. You know, the Fellowship forced me to actually look at what is the landscape of institutions and policymakers that are focusing on these issues. And if you connect with them through a common ground or goal, I would say effective change is actually possible. I think that has been demonstrated by the project that I showed you. We have been working at the highest level of policy making from the Ministry of Environment on all of the issues related to urban wetlands and conservation of urban wetlands. And this is not because we like — of course we like urban wetlands, and all types of wetlands — but I would say it is important mostly for people that are living in these areas. Climate change is hitting us really hard, mostly because of water scarcity, drought, we have been having this drought for the last twelve years. And you know wetlands are nature’s sponges, they collect water, they filter, they clean it. After that we can use it, not only us but also different species. So we’re coming to a point where the citizenship and society at large is understanding the value of those ecosystems. And the Fellowship has allowed me to be positioned in a place where I can actually inform that process in a productive way. Of course, everything needs to hit the ground at some point, things need to be implemented, and we’re not decision makers but I guess we can nudge them into the right direction. I would say that in itself is already a success. So if you happen to be a person interested in this along the Pacific Flyway in Latin America, I think the Fellowship is a great place to start working on that. Thank you.

– [Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta] Thank you. Well thank you everybody for joining, thank you to our panelists. And yeah, if you have any questions send us an e-mail or visit our website. Thank you very much. Bye bye.

End of transcript

Each year, millions of shorebirds undertake epic migrations to and from the Arctic and Latin America, but as human development expands, coastal habitats are vanishing. Shorebird population declines represent the world’s number one conservation crisis facing birds today. Our Coastal Solutions Fellows Program brings together early-career professionals in Latin America to craft solutions for ecosystem management and coastal development. Program Director Osvel Hinojosa-Huerta will moderate this discussion with three Fellows located along the Pacific Americas Flyway in Guatemala, Colombia, and Chile.