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Coral reefs in Brazil are distributed along 3,000 km of the Brazilian Northeastern coast, and represent the only coral reef ecosystem in the South Atlantic. Local populations largely depend on reef resources. The human-related activities that affect the Brazilian reefs are the same that threaten most coral reefs around the world, such as land-use practices that increase sedimentation, domestic and agricultural pollution, overexploitation of reef resources, and uncontrolled tourism. Considering the importance of these environments and their vulnerability to the various anthropic impacts occurring in the coastal zone, the Ministry of the Environment has joined the on-going efforts of universities and NGOs and started a series of actions that can be considered, as a whole, as Program for the Conservation of Brazilian Reefs.
Coral Reef Monitoring
The Brazilian National Coral Reef Monitoring Program started in 2002 with a two-year pilot phase to test and adapt Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) protocols to characteristics of Brazilian reefs. The adopted protocol is Reef Check compatible, expanded to include more indicators and identification at species level, individual size measurements as well as abundance, and to incorporate more refined measurements for coral bleaching and diseases. The program has now run for seven years and one of the objectives is to monitor the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas under different management regimes. The results are published in periodic reports and in the GCRMN Status of the Reefs, where Brazil is part of the South American Node (see the GCRMN website). The data is also sent to Reef Check headquarters every year and information on sites is sent to Reef Base.
Six localities, including 4 federal MPAs have been monitored, covering an area of 2000 kms. Results include effects of fishing on populations of exploited several species, with abundance significantly higher inside no-take areas. Large-scale coral bleaching was observed associated with elevated sea temperatures in the period. The Participation and support of NGOs, research institutions and local volunteers have been essential to its success and is the key to the long-term sustainability of the program. In 2010 the Chico Mendes Brazilian Institute of Biodiversity incorporated the Coral Reef Monitoring Program under the regular activities of the federal MPAs. For this, more than 60 MPA personnel and local guides and volunteers have been trained on monitoring activities during several courses and joint expeditions.
The Program is executed by Instituto Recifes Costeiros, the Federal University of Pernambuco, the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment and the Chioc Mendes Institute of Biodiversity.
In addition to the national program, reefs of the state of Bahia, including Abrolhos region, have been monitored by the Federal University of Bahia using the AGRRA protocol since 1999, and the results are also part of the GCRMN reports (contact: [email protected]).
Several measures were taken in order to protect coral reefs, including a significant number of conventions, laws, norms and procedures. In 1992, Brazil was the first country to sign the Convention of the Biological Diversity and this commitment has stimulated a series of conservation measures. In this context, the Law of Environmental Crimes and the Law of the National System of Conservation Units were of special significance.
The Institute Chico Mendes of Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), the body responsible for conservation and management of threatened species in Brazil, in partnership with IUCN and the Global Marine Species Assessment is leading a national initiative to assess the status of conservation of species, including coral reef species, in Brazil.
Mapping shallow coral reefs
A project for mapping shallow reefs was developed in Brazil by Ministry of the Environment in partnership with the National Space Research Institute (INPE), the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and the Coastal Reefs Project. The Atlas has maps of coral reefs of nine protected areas, from Brazilian reef environment and an analysis of the representativity of these ecosystems with respect to some of the existing categories of protected areas. Brazil has a 106.574 square km of total occurrence area of reefs (northeast continental shelf), and 1.008,49 square km of mapped shallow reefs. This project has been using actual images such as of the CBERS satellites. Some local projects such as Pro Abrolhos Project and Marine Management Areas Project are mapping coral reefs with high-level definition images. The mapping was used as a tool to identify priority areas at Brazilian coastal and marine zones to biodiversity conservation.
Coral Reef Conservation Campaign
It was started in 2000 and is focused on promoting public awareness regarding the importance of the conservation of coral reefs, which aims to raise the awareness of the various users of coralline areas on the importance and fragility of these environments. As products of the Campaign was launched posters, brochures, booklet, and a video (DVD) that contains the icons of the Campaign mixing real images to drawings, with an accessible language with 8 minutes of duration.
A National Plan for Coral Reefs Conservation was designed in 2015 with Chico Mendes Conservation Biodiversity Institute, Universities and environmental managers and launch on 2016. The objective is to improve conservation of coral reefs, reduce anthropic impacts, promote the research of coral reefs and their sustainable use.
Brazilian Ministry of the Environment organized the first meeting of Coral Reef Committee in November 2012 with different organizations to design the Brazilian Coral Reef Conservation Program. The Committee was officially created and has 14 organizations.
MPA(s) with coral reefs:10
Percentage of coral reef MPA(s) to the coastal zone or marine area:18%
More Information: in Brazil, up to now, 16 protected areas have been created for coral reef ecosystems.
The Marine Management Areas Science Program – MMAS is an international program of Conservation International that is evaluating the effects of different management regimes and thus helping to point out best future actions. The Abrolhos Shelf is part of this network of four intensive study areas around the globe (Brazil, Fiji, Belize and Panama), all trying the same kind of experiment in parallel. More than 150 natural and social scientists, educators, managers, and policymakers are sharing knowledge, research, and lifetimes of experience in this global network experiment (contact Rodrigo Moura)
Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves – Peaks of the Southern Atlantic submarine ridge form the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago and Rocas Atoll off the coast of Brazil. They represent a large proportion of the island surface of the South Atlantic and their rich waters are extremely important for the breeding and feeding of tuna, shark, turtle and marine mammals. The islands are home to the largest concentration of tropical seabirds in the Western Atlantic. Baia de Golfinhos has an exceptional population of resident dolphin and at low tide, the Rocas Atoll provides a spectacular seascape of lagoons and tidal pools teeming with fish.
Abrolhos Marine National Park. 02/02/10; Bahía; 91,300 ha; 17º49’S 038º49’W. National Park, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Park is divided into two distinct areas: a) Timbebas reefs and b) Abrolhos Archipelago and Parcel dos Abrolhos. They include a mosaic of marine and coastal environments such as coral reefs, algae bottoms, mangroves, beaches and sandbanks. The site sustains IUCN-Red List critically endangered species such as Leatherback Sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawkbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), as well as other endangered and vulnerable species, including Loggerhead Sea turtle (Caretta caretta), Green turtle (Chelonia Myda), Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), and many threatened fish species such as the Groupers and the coral (Millepora nitida). The area is considered an archeological site due to the number of wrecks found on its waters. It provides livelihood for more than 20,000 fishermen and 80,000 tourism-related posts in the Bahia State area. The threats within the park include illegal fishing, the great number of tourists which causes stress on the bird and coral population and increased litter; and pollution from ship ballast cleaning activities. Research and tourist facilities and activities include a visitors’ center inaugurated in 2004, the Research and Monitoring Center of Abrolhos, a voluntary internship program for undergraduate students, and a consultant council composed of different stakeholders in the community. The site is part of the core zone of the Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) Biosphere Reserve. Ramsar site no. 1902. Most recent RIS information: 2010.
Parque Estadual Marinho do Parcel Manoel Luís including the Baixios do Mestre Álvaro and Tarol. 29/02/00; Maranhão; 34,556 ha; ca.00°30’S 044°45’W. State Marine Park. Three coral banks off the northern coast of Maranhão, at the northern distribution limit of several fish species endemic to the Brazilian coast. The area is very important for fishery production and of extremely high scientific value. Numerous shipwrecks have been found in the area and await further study. Though the area is attractive to amateur and professional divers, tourism is limited, and because of difficult local currents and distance from the coast, only experienced divers are encouraged. Threats include coral bleaching associated with climate change, the possibility of environmentally harmful shipwrecks where navigation is still hazardous, and pollution from hull washing by ships near São Marcos Bay. Owned by the federal government under the administration of Maranhão. Ramsar site no. 1021. Most recent RIS information: 2000.
Fernando de Noronha. 25/01/2018; 10 929,20 ha (coordinates: 03°51’40″S 32°24’09″W). Fernando de Noronha Archipelago is an oceanic archipelago in the north-east of Brazil with an area of 10,927 ha, which has been for millennia a refuge for many endemic species because of its isolated location. Of the 28 coral species occurring in Brazil, ten are found in all phases of their lives here. There are also great concentrations of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) and pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata), and an area where humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) reproduce and rear their calves.The Site is also listed as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage property (site number 2333)
Last Updated: 6 September 2023