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Integrating Recent and Future Marine Technology in the Design of Marine Protected Areas - the Azores as Case Study

Integrating Recent and Future Marine Technology in the Design of Marine Protected Areas - the Azores as Case Study,10.1109/OCEANSE.2009.5278178,M. Sch

Integrating Recent and Future Marine Technology in the Design of Marine Protected Areas - the Azores as Case Study  
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Biological, oceanographic and geomorphologic data of the Azores were integrated into a Geographical Information System (GIS) in order to determine occurrence and spatial behavior of commercially-exploited coastal fishes in relation to benthic habitats. Essential fish habitats (EFHs) are identified and the information is incorporated into decision making tools to design a network of coastal Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) at an island scale. The Azores are the most isolated archipelago in the North-Atlantic, characterized by complex geologic settings, a variety of marine habitats, diversity of marine life, scarcity of shallow waters and its remoteness. As a result the islands are of great nature conservation and marine biological interest. In the study area of Faial and Pico, two islands of the central group, different zones for environmental protection according to national/regional, Natura 2000 and OSPAR regulations were designated during the last two decades. Recently the Faial-Pico Channel was declared as Nature Park. MPAs gain importance as fisheries management tool and for the conservation of biodiversity. Ideally, core populations of the target species are protected in the boundaries of a MPA and it serves as refuge. Still, practical effort to design and manage marine reserves based on a multi-species approach is scarce. In order to support and refine the existing zoning schemes and to define new coastal MPAs different datasets are brought together in this study: I) geomorphologic data, including depth, bottom type, slope and distance to e.g. nearest rock. The information is extracted from habitat maps derived by seafloor mapping with multibeam; 2) oceanographic data, based on average literature data for chlorophyll a, sea surface temperature, currents and swell; and 3) biological data: predicted fish abundances based on visual census from over ten years and patterns of spatial behavior obtained by passive and active acoustic underwater telemetry for important coastal commercial species. All information is visualized as layers in ArcGIS and for the first time GIS modelling of all available data combined in one approach is done. The aim is to develop comprehensive and clear maps that illustrate species distribution related to (a)biotic factors and are comprehendible for the public and policy makers. Areas fundamental for the long-term survival of fishes (i.e. spawning grounds) and thus for sustainable fishery are identified (EFH). First results are presented. In the next step decision making tools (software like MARXAN) will be applied to consider animal behaviour, environmental data and the needs of different stakeholders in one approach for the design of a MPA network in the Azores. Furthermore, the possibility of using advanced Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) technology to enhance acoustic telemetry and the study of marine animals is investigated: for a prolonged time certain electronic tags of animals are able to register and store data like (animal/water) temperature, depth and any biological information measurable via suitable, integrated sensors. Special equipped AUVs are a potential tool to download those data; so far only feasible if the tag can be retrieved. First tests for target tracking and exclusion of interference between AUV and telemetry equipment are promising (GREX project). Making this technology available in the future would give a unique opportunity to gain important information about spatial behavior of marine animals even when they are out of our range. Understanding the behavior and spatial use of endanered species will help us finding the best solution for their protection.
Published in 2009.
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