The University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability contributed to a first-time forum on environmental and health challenges in the Oceania Region.
The Oceania Planetary Health Forum, held Nov. 5–6 in Nadi, Fiji, brought together medical doctors, researchers in health, and environmental leaders to review regional developments in the fields of ecology and human health as well as urgent health impacts from environmental degradation.
Else Demeulenaere, associate director for natural resources at the Center for Island Sustainability, was invited to the forum to present on the Guam Restoration of Watersheds project, or GROW, a collaboration started in 2016 between the UOG Sea Grant Program and the UOG Center for Island Sustainability to reduce land erosion and its effects on downstream ecosystems and coral reef habitats.
“The GROW presentation inspired researchers in Fiji and other islands to use some of the tools being tested in Guam, like sediment filter socks, seed ball dispersal, and seed broadcasting—using native plants—in eroded lands,” she said.
Demeulenaere stressed that restoring the ecosystem will be the most cost-effective and sustainable solution for environmental issues in island communities.
The forum identified actions for policy dialog on planetary health. Another outcome was a compilation of case studies in Oceania to communicate research evidence and promote awareness of the environmental and human health issues in the region.
The forum also facilitated collaboration and strengthened partnerships between the health and environmental sectors while encouraging active engagement of indigenous leaders in decision making.
“It is important for UOG to be part of the regional discussions on social, environmental, and economic impacts that put increased pressure on the region and its people,” Demeulenaere said. “We all need to be active participants in the health of our region by bringing our issues and also our solutions to the table.” (PR)