23 October 2020

Photography exhibition: the importance of scientific research in protecting marine world heritage


 The photography exhibition Protecting UNESCO marine world heritage through scientific research, comprising 21 photographs from Monaco Explorations expeditions, is on display at UNESCO headquarters in Paris from 7 to 30 October 2020. A digital version is also available.

These exceptional photographs, the result of collaboration between UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco, highlight how innovative marine scientists and experts are taking the pulse of the oceans: exploring ecosystems, studying the movements of species or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Their discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of marine world heritage. It is a striking exhibition to mark the launch of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”) in 2021.

The 50 marine sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which are spread across 37 countries, are home to a wide variety of habitats as well as some rare marine life that remains relatively unknown. Renowned for their unparalleled beauty and iconic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a vital role in marine conservation. At these internationally unique natural sites, concrete action is taken at a local level to promote global ocean conservation through field research and innovation. They are true symbols of hope in a rapidly changing ocean.

The Principality of Monaco has been supporting UNESCO to improve conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites on the World Heritage List since 2017. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific expeditions carried out by Monaco Explorations and to attract international attention to the conservation challenges faced by the world’s most iconic sites.

How are coral reefs currently responding to the impact of climate change? What are these as yet unexplored labyrinths of underwater caves and tunnels hiding? Where do sharks go to feed or reproduce? Scientific research helps to find answers through field data and results that are critical to understanding species and ecosystems. These are vital decision-making tools, subsequently used by site managers to implement effective and sustainable conservation and management measures on a more global scale.

The exhibition offers a fascinating immersion into the heart of the scientific expeditions conducted by Monaco Explorations at four marine world heritage sites: the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) and the Lagoons of New Caledonia (France), providing an insight into work on a megafauna survey; a study of coral reef resilience and climate change adaptation; exploration of the deep seabed; and satellite monitoring of the movement of large marine predators.

The exhibition forms part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030), preparations for which are being coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). The “Ocean Decade” will begin in January 2021. Titled The Science We Need for the Ocean We Want, this initiative represents a unique opportunity for the world to step up investment in ocean sciences and to mobilise the latest scientific achievements and innovations to protect our oceans – including marine world heritage sites – for future generations.

A video illustrating the importance of scientific research in protecting marine world heritage is available here: https://youtu.be/CIWmyR5GW2k

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