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Application of the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology in the Maldives

15 / Aug / 2022Global Ecosystem Typology

Application of the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology in the Maldives

The first step to classify the ecosystems of an island nation starts the path towards a national ecosystem assessment.

The IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology (GET) was developed as a comprehensive and consistent framework to underpin global, regional, and national efforts to assess ecosystems and their services. It aims to meet the need for a global standard classification framework for classifying Earth’s ecosystems and allow scientifically rigorous and widely applicable assessments that can help identify critical areas of biodiversity and support ecosystem management. For this reason, and to facilitate conservation planning in the Maldives, a national inventory was conducted utilising the GET.

The elaboration of this inventory resulted in the identification of the thirty-three biogeographic ecotypes present in the Maldives, an encouraging first step to help structure a national Red List of Ecosystems assessment and reveal where further work to understand and conserve Maldives ecosystems is needed.

A collaborative team of experts from IUCN Maldives, James Cook University’s Global Ecology Lab and local ecosystem specialists applied this classification system to ecosystems across the country, and produced a report recently released by the Maldives’ Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology. The report, Applying the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology to the Maldives, describes the systematic implementation of this framework to determine the occurrence of each hierarchical level of the GET in the country.

The development of the report included a thorough literature review of 169 publications, including peer-reviewed and grey literature, geospatial analyses, consultations with ecosystem experts, and a collaborative workshop with local specialists to confirm and refine the typology. The review revealed that the highest level of hierarchical ecosystem typology that could be consistently applied to all Maldives ecosystems was Level 4 of the typology: biogeographic ecotypes. This resulted in the identification of thirty-three biogeographic ecotypes spread across ten realms (Level 1), including four major realms (Terrestrial, Marine, Freshwater, Subterranean) and six transitional realms. Fifteen distinct biomes occur in Maldives, ranging from lakes and supralittoral coastal systems to pelagic ocean waters and the deep sea floor (Level 2).

Toor Etal 2022 Maldives Iucn Get

The application of the GET also revealed that many of the identified biogeographic ecotypes identified in the Maldives have been deficiently investigated and thus remain poorly understood. Research has focused heavily on a small number of select functional groups (particularly coral reefs and intertidal forests), and is limited or absent for the majority of biomes that occur in the Maldives. Further classification within the typology may be possible for several biogeographic ecotypes, but require additional research to fill large knowledge gaps on certain less studied ecotypes, such as coastal saltmarshes and reedbeds or submarine canyons.

Written by: Maren Toor and Nicholas Murray

Style & format: Susana Barreto and Lila Garcia




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