The need to build back biodiversity has never been greater

A water forest of Mangroves
Image from The Nature Conservancy
Ben Murphy
by Ben Murphy
22 May 2023
At Virgin Unite, we know that protecting the natural world is one of the biggest challenges of our time.

Biodiversity is essential for supporting all life on Earth - not only is it crucial for the food we eat and water we drink, but also for clean air, extreme weather prevention, and climate regulation.

Our planet is currently home to at least 8.7 million species, with some researchers believing this number could be much higher, with millions of species still undiscovered. The impact of climate change and human activities has led to a significant reduction in biodiversity. Since 1970, wildlife populations have plummeted by 69% and species are going extinct 1,000 times faster than the natural background extinction rate.

Image from The Nature Conservancy
Image from The Nature Conservancy

Virgin Unite, with its commitment tackling the world’s toughest challenges, is spearheading a number of initiatives to reverse the decline and promote nature around the world - mangrove forests are central to this.

Mangrove forests are one of the world’s most important natural habitats. Not only do they capture far more carbon dioxide than terrestrial forests, but they also play a crucial role in flood risk reduction and are economic engines for the (often vulnerable) communities that live around them.

It’s incredibly important that we do everything we can to protect and restore them, with current estimations sitting at 25% of mangrove forests have been lost around the world over the past 25 years.

Image by Laura Arton, Beyond the Reef Foundation, BVI
Image by Laura Arton, Beyond the Reef Foundation, BVI

In 2017 the BVI was struck by Hurricane Irma; the strongest storm to ever cross the Atlantic. This category 5 hurricane destroyed an estimated 90% of the BVI's remaining mangrove population. In response the team at Unite BVI partnered with The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, to start new mangrove nurseries and out planting programmes around the BVI.

The project, which began in 2020, has already resulted in a two-stage mangrove nursery and has been able to cultivate more than 2,000 red mangrove propagules (seedlings) – with additional capacity to hold 1,000 potted propagules in its shade-house facility. The nursery is raising mangrove seedlings for territory wide, community-based replanting efforts.

In addition to this, over the past year, Virgin Unite has been looking at more ways to help accelerate mangrove forest protection and restoration, right across the Caribbean. Working with a brilliant group of regional partners and conservation experts, Virgin Unite is supporting the development of a program of Caribbean-led activities to ensure that these vital habitats have the legal protection, funding, and established science they need to be a part of the region for generations to come.

Learn more about Virgin Unite’s projects and how it’s working to drive change and tackling the world’s toughest challenges here.