Project Title: University Research Facilities for Basic and Applied Coastal Wetland Research in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (OUHK)

Project Reference No.: UGC/IDS(R)16/19

The current National 13th Five-year Plan calls for the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). With 11 cities in the area, eight of which are coastal cities, the plan involves collectively strengthening logistics integration, developing scientific innovation and green production centres and building a green and sustainable quality living zone that is resilient against environmental challenges. The protection and conservation of coastal wetlands is one of the key objectives of the newly announced GBA development plan. This objective is crucial to the sustainable development and success of the GBA because the loss of coastal wetlands in the area would lead to significant social and economic losses. Hong Kong is one of the key stakeholders in the efforts to protect coastal wetlands. The world-renowned Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve is located on the Hong Kong side of Inner Deep Bay with the Guangdong Neilingding Island Futian National Reserve (GNIFNR) lying on the opposite shore. The two wetlands together have special ecological value to the city and the area. Also, as one of the leading cities in the area with the mission of providing quality living to attract international talent, Hong Kong has an inescapable obligation to contribute to the conservation of coastal wetlands in the area.

The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK), with a long and excellent track record in environmental research, aims to contribute to Hong Kong’s efforts in coastal wetland conservation through this project — the establishment of the University Research Facilities (URF) for basic and applied research on coastal wetlands in the GBA. We propose the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for environmental research, and the organisation of a seminar, a workshop and an international conference for knowledge dissemination and exchange among stakeholders. The mission of the URF will be to line up coastal wetland researchers in the GBA to foster scientific research in coastal wetland ecology and conservation. The URF will serve as a regional platform to rally and inform scientists, government officials, and NGO workers with evidence-based information on the formulation of coastal wetland conservation policies. This proposed project is also in line with OUHK’s strategic development to systematically develop and strengthen its research infrastructures in environmental science. Building on the success of the Institute for Research in Innovative Technology and Sustainability (IRITS), which was established in 2015 with support from the Research Grants Council, the project will enhance research on coastal wetland conservation in the GBA along three research themes — (1) omics study, (2) cell physiology and signalling, and (3) environmental monitoring; and contribute to the city’s and the GBA’s environmental protection efforts.

This proposed project will expand and strengthen OUHK’s research capability for environmental monitoring and protection research, which is currently constrained by the small number of general laboratory equipment and facilities. The URF, combining existing equipment and facilities in OUHK with the proposed acquisition, will leverage the integrated advantages of OUHK in environmental research. The facilities will also be open to other academics in the region to facilitate collaborations and knowledge exchange. The URF will nurture new ideas for cutting-edge coastal wetland research and put OUHK in a stronger position to contribute to coastal wetland research and conservation in the area.

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