The Abrolhos Seascape, located off Brazil’s central coast, is a natural paradise for biodiversity and people. Spanning more than 95,000 square kilometers, the Seascape is a mosaic of important ecosystems including coral reefs, mangrove estuaries and coastal habitats. The region has the largest concentration of coral reefs in the South Atlantic, with various endemic species, including brain coral, crustaceans and mollusks, as well as marine turtles and mammals threatened by extinction. Every year between June and September over 7,000 humpback whales come to Abrolhos to reproduce, creating excitement—and jobs—through whale-watching. Approximately 100,000 coastal residents depend on the ocean for their livelihoods—working as fishermen or in the coastal and marine tourism sector.
CI's Marine Management Areas Science (MMAS) Program has produced pioneering scientific knowledge to inform Abrolhos management. Regional-scale habitat mapping using cutting-edge oceanographic technology led to the discovery of a large new reef area, at least two times larger than previously known. A decade-long database on the effects and effectiveness of Abrolhos MPAs demonstrates their importance for biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries management.
Scientific data has been coupled with socio-economic and cultural information to producea holistic management plan for the entire region, targeting the maintenance of ecosystem services. By transforming scientific information into conservation actions and results, three marine extractive reserves totaling 2,900 square kilometers (1,120 square miles) were created in Abrolhos.
Abrolhos MPAs are proving successful. Fish populations are stable inside multiple-use reserves while they continue to decrease outside of these reserves. This clearly demonstrates improved food security for over 15,000 people relying on the MPAs. Coral reef species richness and abundance has increased not only inside MPAs but also close to their borders, demonstrating the positive spill-over effectsof conservation.
Devising adaptation strategies to climate change is a core conservation challenge, and Abrolhos will play a crucial role as a long-term and successful field model for such work. Research on coral bleaching, disease and susceptibility inform the identification of areas that must be protected to make the system more resilient to climate change. At the same time, scientific knowledge of calcareous algae banks is clarifying the role of these marine habitats in reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.
The marine extractive reserves are strong instruments for securing traditional territories and ways of life. By relying on both traditional and scientific knowledge to inform the management of Abrolhos, local cultural practices that contribute to the maintenance of healthy natural ecosystems are recognized for their contribution to the provision of ecosystem services. In addition, the cultural value is amplified by implementing appropriate tourism development strategies, bringing tangible, direct economic benefits to local people.
Human well-being has been a key component of CI's program since its inception. Many ecosystem services are provided by the ocean, and by using appropriate conservation strategies we are working to conserve them for the benefit of people.
To protect marine biodiversity, guarantee the sustainable use of natural resources and improve the well-being of local communities in the Abrolhos region
Our Strategy for Achieving Results
Increase social and political support for MPA network implementation and expansion
Build adequate local capacity for scientific research, conservation and fisheries management
Conduct research to inform the development of an ecosystem-based management plan for the entire Abrolhos Seascape
Develop and improve sustainable livelihood options to conserve Abrolhos’ natural resources and increase human well-being benefits
Establish the Abrolhos Conservation Fund as a sustainable financing mechanism, to be used for monitoring, awareness building and capacity
Use the model of Abrolhos to stimulate and develop a National Marine Spatial Planning strategy