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Coastal Occupation Affects Tropical Reefs in Brazil

Date: 2016-09-08

Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) and the Federal University of South of Bahia (UFSB) in Brazil warn of the negative environmental impacts of unplanned coastal occupation on tropical reefs and consequently on the conservation of marine biodiversity. Researchers state that this process has already taken place in Western Mediterranean.

The article recently published in Marine Environmental Research reports that human activities may reduce the number of species in the tropical coast of northeastern Brazil. Researchers Sergio Rossi and Marcelo de Oliveira Soares together with other Brazilian scientists compared the tropical reefs (intertidal rocky reefs) in relation to the presence of marine species (algae, corals, etc.) and the impacts of human activities.

Beach kiosks and beachfront restaurants, percentage of urban areas, storm sewers, fish markets and jetties showed a negative relationship with species richness. "In areas with the highest number of human activities, we had lower number of species in these tropical reefs" explains Dr. Marcelo de Oliveira Soares, professor at the UFC, researcher at ICTA-UAB and author of the study. The author added that there is very little knowledge on how human impacts may affect the marine biodiversity of tropical reefs.

The results highlight the need for better infrastructure planning and rigorous monitoring of coastal urban areas, since the large influence of multiple human pressures in these reefs leads to biodiversity losses. "The coast of Brazil is possibly one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world; however, there is a lack of scientific knowledge about its marine biodiversity. The results indicate the problems of disorderly coastal occupation. Also, they indicate the need for environmental planning to conserve marine biodiversity and the economic activities that depend on it, such as fishing".

"Many of the findings of the study are easily extrapolated to our shores" indicates Sergio Rossi, who adds that "the vulnerability of the coast is a classic that reverts to a worsening of biodiversity and of the health of marine populations”. Sergio Rossi insisted that this process has already taken place in the Western Mediterranean coast, causing major changes in fauna and flora.

This work was funded by CNPq (Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) and CAPES (Brazilian coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel).

The ICTA-UAB is a multidisciplinary centre that was accredited as a ‘María de Maeztu’ Unit of Excellence 2015 (MDM-2015-0552) by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO), the highest institutional recognition of scientific research in Spain. The ICTA-UAB promotes academic research and postgraduate education in the environmental sciences. It aims to improve our understanding of global environmental change, and the nature and causes of environmental problems. In addition, it studies policies, strategies and technologies to foster a transition to a sustainable economy. The ICTA-UAB undertakes advanced research in 20 specific areas of environmental sciences, covering natural, social and engineering aspects. The center’s aim is to promote a better understanding of environmental dynamics, problems and their causes, as well as of policies and strategies to stimulate a socio-technical transition to a sustainable economy.

Portugal A.B., Carvalho F.L., Carneiro P.B.M., Rossi S., Soares M.O.  “Increased anthropogenic pressure decreases species richness in tropical intertidal reefs”. Marine Environmental Research, v.120, p.44-54, 2016. DOI:10.1016/j.marenvres.2016.07.005

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