Researchers at NCEAS create first regional Ocean Health Index

Manta Ray.  Photo Credit: NOAA

Brazil Scores 60 out of 100

Results can help Brazilian officials identify opportunities for strategic management of ocean resources

With one of the world’s longest coastlines, spanning 17 states, and very high marine and coastal biodiversity, Brazil owes much of its prosperity to the ocean. For that reason, Brazil was the site of the first Ocean Health Index regional assessment designed to evaluate the economic, social and ecological uses and benefits that people derive from the ocean. The findings from the Brazilian regional Ocean Health Index assessment was published in PLOS ONE.

OHI Map of Brazilian Ocean Health Index, Scores by State, published 2014The overall score of the Brazil national study was 60 out of 100. The goals of Carbon Storage (89), Coastal Protection (92) and Biodiversity (85) - all dependent on the health of marine habitats - were the highest national scores. Natural Products (29), Tourism and Recreation (31), and Food Provision (36) received the lowest goal scores. Mariculture (6) received a very low score, which contributed to the low score in Food Provision.

According to the study, the distribution of tourism benefits to more states can help improve the score for the Tourism and Recreation goal, as well as the coastal Livelihoods and Economy goal. However, this requires the development of adequate infrastructure to attract and serve visitors while avoiding unwanted social and environmental effects. The low score for the Natural Products goal indicates that the country is not sustainably harvesting its non-food ocean resources (e.g. fish oil, seaweed, sponges). To get closer to achieving the Food Provision goal, the study suggests that Brazil would need to improve the sustainability of its fisheries and develop more sustainable aquaculture practices.

OHI lead scientist, Benjamin Halpern is a professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and he and his team are long standing associates of NCEAS. The Ocean Health Index assessment was first published at a global scale (NATURE, 2012) with the first annual update issued in 2013. “Brazil has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, much of which is connected to or dependent on the coasts and oceans," said Halpern. "This growth poses the opportunity to improve the health of the ocean, or to dramatically degrade it. The Index provides an assessment that includes jobs, revenues, coastal protection, and clean water, among many other measures, such that changes in overall ocean can be tracked and understood. Our results provide baseline scores for each Brazilian coastal state, and thus a means to identify where problems and opportunities exist and a framework for strategically evaluating potential management actions.”

A Regional-Scale Ocean Health Index for Brazil
Elfes CT, Longo C, Halpern BS, Hardy D, Scarborough C, Best BD, Pinheiro T, & Dutra GF
PLOS ONE 9(4): e92589 2014

The project partners for the Ocean Health Index are NCEAS at UC Santa Barbara, Conservation International, New England Aquarium, and National Geographic. Major support for the project comes from the Beau and Heather Wrigley Foundation and the Founding Presenting Sponsor, the Pacific Life Foundation.


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Posted on April 2, 2014