February 25, 2011

A New Phase for Coral Reef Monitoring in Brazilian Federal MPAs

Team of the November 2010 Reef Check Brazil expedition to Fernando de Noronha Marine Park

By Reef Check Brazil

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 Brazilian reefs. The adopted protocol is Reef Check (RC) 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 run now for seven years and one of the objectives is to monitor the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under different management regimes. The Program has been executed by Instituto Recifes Costeiros – IRCOS and the Federal University of Pernambuco – UFPE, with support by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (MMA) and grants from AWARE and Wetlands for the Future (WFF). The Participation and support of NGOs, research institutions and local volunteers has been essential to its success, and the key for the sustainability of the program.

In Brazil, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) is the governmental entity responsible for the administration and monitoring of MPAs. In 2010, ICMBio started the process of incorporating the Coral Reef Monitoring Program as a regular activity of the MPAs under its administration, thus guaranteeing their frequent and long-term monitoring. This shift also aims to generate more efficient answers faster to the management of these marine areas.

In October and November 2010, joint meetings were held in Cepene facilities, located in Tamandaré, with the presence of ICMBio parks managers and analysts, representatives from the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, and researchers from the monitoring team lead by Dr. Beatrice Ferreira (Brazilian RC coordinator). These meetings have resulted in the agenda for the 2011 monitoring campaign on several important Brazilian reefs, such as Abrolhos Reef, Fernando de Noronha Archipelago and the Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve. Also, trainings in Tamandaré (Coral Coast MPA) and in Fernando de Noronha (National Marine Park) were conducted with ICMBio personnel, the majority of the participants had previous experience with diving and underwater surveys.

Severe bleaching events occurred in 2010 in Brazil, when temperature anomalies reached alert level 2 according to the NOAA coral watch system. Volunteer divers observed bleaching of 10 to 100% of coral colonies depending on the coral species. Following this event, ICMBio and RC Brazil jointly mobilized two monitoring campaigns to Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas, in November and December 2010 respectively, to monitor coral recovery. More campaigns and trainings are planned for 2011 to establish an effective, real time monitoring of Brazilian reefs.

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Coral bleaching recorded in Fernando de Noronha, May 2010 Diver performing a transect survey in Fernando de Noronha, November 2010.