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Rathlin one of eight new international projects joining restoration challenge

Tuesday 16/04/24

Today, Rathlin Island became one of the latest projects as part of the the Island-Ocean Connection Challenge (IOCC), a catalytic global initiative to begin the holistic restoration of 40 island-ocean ecosystems by 2030.

The eight island-ocean ecosystems are:

  • Alto Velo Island, Dominican Republic
  • Bikar Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Bokak Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Catalina Island, Dominican Republic
  • Jemo Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland, UK
  • Savana Island, US Virgin Islands
  • Tintamarre Island, Saint-Martin, France

The IOCC brings together scientific monitoring, restoration, and rewilding efforts on islands across the globe to accelerate ecosystem recovery. Holistically restoring islands results in remarkable benefits to wildlife, oceans, and communities. With these eight ecosystems added, the IOCC now has 17 confirmed projects, almost halfway to their goal of 40 island-ocean ecosystems by 2030.

Michael Cecil, Chair of the Rathlin Development Community Association, said: “The success of this project will mean that the wildlife of Rathlin, the sights and sounds that we grew up with, can continue. The seabirds and ground-nesting birds are a big part of our natural heritage as well as being a major draw to the island for tourists during the spring and summer months. By protecting them we are making sure that our island community plays a part in protecting this shared heritage for future generations.” 

“This expansion of the IOCC portfolio marks a significant milestone in the growing recognition of the importance of restoring these island-ocean ecosystems for both nature and people,” stated Dr. Penny Becker, vice president of conservation at Island Conservation. “By working collaboratively and linking resources and expertise across the globe, we are amplifying the many benefits of holistic restoration to have a global impact for our planet.”

The restoration and rewilding initiatives planned for these island-ocean ecosystems takes a comprehensive approach, including the removal of invasive species, reintroduction of native flora and fauna, habitat restoration, and the protection of critical marine and terrestrial habitats. These endeavours are poised to deliver substantial ecological, social, and economic benefits to local communities while bolstering climate resilience.

Island communities have long managed their natural resources from ridge-to-reef. As connector species like seabirds and turtles that link the land and the sea rebound and nutrient cycles are restored, these rewilded islands become focal points for biodiversity recovery, fostering healthy marine environments and resilient coastal communities. Scientific research underscores the profound impact of integrated conservation efforts on marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

“By measuring the impact of our restoration and rewilding efforts on the land and in the sea, we can quantify the benefits these connector species bring and make informed decisions for the future of islands, oceans and communities,” emphasized Dr. Stuart Sandin, director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, whose team is conducting marine monitoring to measure recovery and resilience throughout the rewilding process. “This will be the first time ever this has been done across a variety of ecosystems”

The IOCC is committed to expanding its network of island-ocean ecosystems and invites interested parties worldwide to join us in advancing nature-based solutions and securing the health of our planet for generations to come.

“These new projects represent a significant step forward in our efforts to restore and rewild island-ocean ecosystems across the globe,” affirmed Dr. Wes Sechrest, chief scientist and CEO of Re:wild. “Through collaborative action, we can unlock the full potential of the Island-Ocean Connection Challenge and create a more resilient and biodiverse world.”

For further details on the Island-Ocean Connection Challenge and to learn more about our expanding portfolio of restoration projects, visit www.jointheiocc.org.