Marxan plumbs new depths

Planning deep-sea protected areas around Brazilian oil fields


Key messages:
  • Marxan was used to explore options for deep-sea MPAs that are politically feasible and environmentally rigorous
  • The process developed has application for other regions seeking to protect deep-sea biodiversity on and around deep-sea oil fields, mining prospects or fishing areas

A deep sea fish in a spawning ground in the Campos Basin. The image was taken by a remotely controlled submarine operating in water over a kilometre deep. (Photo by Gustavo Almada)

A deep sea fish in a spawning ground in the Campos Basin. The image was taken by a remotely controlled submarine operating in water over a kilometre deep. (Photo by Gustavo Almada)

Since its inception, CEED has played a strong supporting role in developing, promoting and extending the impact of the Marxan, the world’s most widely used conservation-planning software. In 2016, Marxan once again demonstrated its power and widespread utility by assisting in the design of a network of deep-sea marine reserves in the Campos Basin, an important area for oil fields off the Brazilian coastline.

Gustavo Almada from Brazil’s Ministry of Environment worked with ProfessorAngelo Bernardino from the Federal University of Espírito Santo to design a possible network of deep-sea reserves. At the end of 2015 Almada participated in a Marxan training course at Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul Federal University being conducted by CEED’s Morena Mills & Jennifer McGowan.

“The Campos Basin lies offshore of south-eastern Brazil,” explains Almada. “It contains many of the most productive oil and gas fields of Brazil, accounting for more the 60% of total annual production. Our aim was to propose a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) that would offer protection to areas of high natural value within current offshore fields, with minimal impact on existing production activities in order to provide a politically feasible outcome.”

Students and teachers in the Marxan training course run at Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul Federal University in 2015. Morena Mills, Jennifer McGowan and Gustavo Almada each have their intitials over their heads. Special mention also should be made of Prof Reinaldo Lourival (RL). He’s an experienced Marxan user and helped realise the Marxan workshop.

Students and teachers in the Marxan training course run at Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul Federal University in 2015. Morena Mills, Jennifer McGowan and Gustavo Almada each have their intitials over their heads. Special mention also should be made of Prof Reinaldo Lourival (RL). He’s an experienced Marxan user and helped realise the Marxan workshop.

Over the last three decades, Brazil’s main oil company, Petrobras, has been collecting a range of information about the Campos Basin comprising biological, geophysical, geochemical, hydrochemical, oceanographic and socioeconomic data. Using this extensive database, Almada and colleagues developed a map of benthic habitats and then used Marxan to provide options of networks of MPAs that protected at least 30% of the area of each habitat.

The Campos Basin off the Brazilian coastline showing the location of a proposed MPA network. The plan was generated using Marxan.

The Campos Basin off the Brazilian coastline showing the location of a proposed MPA network. The plan was generated using Marxan.

“Our analysis provided options that we believe are politically feasible as they have little impact on the ongoing oil industry activity,” says Almada. “But our results have wider potential because we believe our approach can be applied to other deep sea provinces along the Brazilian margin and serve as a model for other regions seeking to protect deep-sea biodiversity on and around deep-sea oil fields, mining prospects or fishing areas.

“The Marxan workshop was critical to our research. It allowed me to use the Marxan software properly, to develop the input files with confidence, to completely understand the mechanics of Marxan’s underlying algorithm (and its limitations and premises) and to appropriately interpret the software’s outputs.”

And the result is a conservation plan that all parties can work with.


More info: Gustavo Almada Gustavo.Almada@ibama.gov.br

Reference

Almada G & AF Bernardino (2017). Conservation of deep-sea ecosystems within offshore oil fields on the Brazilian margin, SW Atlantic. Biological Conservation 206: 92-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.026

Leave a Reply