Wednesday, November 26, 2008

BAMZ GIS day - hurrah for maps!

BAMZ hosted the local Bermuda GIS day on Monday, as part of World GIS day.

Pictured are John Arthur, Mapping Officer; John Halkett, Land Surveyor; Alison Copeland, Bermuda Biodiversity Action Plan Coordinator; Mandy Shailer, GIS/Research Officer; Peter Hopkin, Senior Land Surveyor and Richard Lowry, Planner.

Mandy Shailer, the GIS/Research Officer for the Department of Conservation Services, did a great job organizing the event. The public got to see the latest mapping technologies in use on land and in the water, and also got to have some yummy GIS cake - sweet!

Friday, November 21, 2008

My place of worship: Church Bay

In Bermuda, it is a myth that you have to travel by boat to see beautiful coral reefs. From the richly diverse coastal habitats and patch reefs of the north shore to the topographically appealing reefs of the south shore, there are countless near-shore snorkel spots that you can explore, no life jacket required! My favourite near-shore snorkel spot would have to be Church Bay, as it offers fantastic reef formations and a wide diversity of marine life.

On an average day, Church Bay can be quite rough, so it’s best to visit on a day with calm winds. Although there are interesting reefs along the coastline, snorkel past these to the central boiler reefs. Here you will find friendly trunkfish, trumpetfish, schools of chub and bream, several species of parrotfish, and dozens of other types of reef fish. The corals are also brilliant, and you will see many massive boulder corals, brain corals, and large waving sea plumes, rods, and fans. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may also find a few long-spined sea urchins, or gaze upon gorgonian predators such as the flamingo tongue and fire worm!

The structure of the reefs at Church Bay is also out of the ordinary. Around the boilers there are numerous caves and underwater passages, as well as pinnacles, ridges, and other projections that provide hiding places for many small marine animals.

I hope you understand now why Church Bay is well worth a visit: the reefs here offer a wealth of biodiversity and interesting sights to explore, and are found within just a short swim from the beach. It’s guaranteed to get you excited about the bountiful marine life Bermuda has to offer.
Jessie Hallett - BREAM Research Technician

Thursday, November 20, 2008

EnviroShorts DVD launched at BAMZ on Saturday

The award-winning environmental documentary series EnviroShorts gets its official launch on DVD this Saturday, November 22nd, from 2 - 4 pm.

And former TV news reporter Sangita Iyer (pictured above), who created the 13-part series which aired on Channel 7 and Channel 9 last year, will be signing copies of the DVD for members of the public.

The BREAM project and our research on Bermuda's coral reefs was one of the topics Sangita covered in the series.

Royal Gazette articles about EnviroShorts can be read here and here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Putting a dollar value on the goods and services provided by reefs and mangroves in Belize

Satellite image of Belize coast, barrier reefs and atolls, an environmental news website, reports on a study that found that:

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to make coral “popsicles”: a useful research tool!

Jessie Hallett, BREAM intern

The “popsicles” pictured here may resemble a cool summertime treat, but they are actually useful devices that we are using to design and implement various ecological experiments involving corals. They are also extremely easy to make!

They were created by first cutting ½” PVC pipe into one inch long tubes. Using marine silicone sealant, a small loop of fishing line was glued to the inside of each tube. Then, a branch of coral (in this case, we are using Madracis auretenra, or yellow-finger coral) is also glued into the pipe with the sealant. The sealant should be used above water, but once everything is set in place the corals can be returned to water. To hold the corals upright, we also made metal trays by cutting holes into ¼” mesh fencing, resulting in a semblance of a test tube rack.

With these trays and coral popsicles, it will be easy for us to set up an experiment in the lab or in the field. Since the number of corals and trays used are easy to change, we can easily fabricate and adjust manipulative experiments involving corals.

This design is also very useful for weighing corals. Using the fishing line loop, corals can be hung from a balance while they are immersed in water to weigh them using the buoyant weight method (see Jokiel, 1978). This is a simple way to measure coral growth!

Before you decide to begin designing a coral experiment though, remember to get a collection permit, and to collect only what you need!
Reference: Jokiel, P.L., J.E. Maragos, and L. Franzisket. 1978. Coral Growth: buoyant weight technique. In: Monographs on Oceanic Methodology Vol. 5: Coral reefs: research methods. Edited by D.R. Stoddart and R.E. Johannes. UNESCO, Paris, pp 529-541.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bountiful Patch Reefs off North Shore

Within a couple of km of North Shore, in what many folks consider to be unappealing waters, are found hundreds for finger corals reefs that are actually thriving with life. These patch reefs, paradoxically fairly near both land and one of the large ship channels that cuts across the lagoon, are characterised by high coral cover and a high number of coral species.

Turbidity (suspended sediments) are also high in this area though, and head corals show signs of stress from constant smothering by sand. The finger corals (comprising 5 species of the genera Madracis and Oculina) provide refuge to thousands of tomtate (white) grunts, which in turn provide food for gray snappers and other predatory fish.

BREAM surveys have shown that many other species of fish also rely on these locally under-appreciated reefs as juvenile habitat, indicating the vital role these coral reefs play in maintaining the resilience of Bermuda's fish stocks.

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

Bermuda, in it's Environmental Charter (link pdf), committed to do many things, including:

Action 11: Abide by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and work towards meeting International Development Targets on the environment.

Following is the text of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,
which can also be found at
United Nations Environment Programme website (here)

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

Having met at Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992,

Reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, adopted at Stockholm on 16 June 1972, and seeking to build upon it,

With the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people,

Working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system,

Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home,

Proclaims that:

Principle 1

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Principle 2

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Principle 3

The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

Principle 4

In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.

Principle 5

All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.

Principle 6

The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.

Principle 7

States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit to sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.

Principle 8

To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.

Principle 9

States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.

Principle 10

Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.

Principle 11

States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and development context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.

Principle 12

States should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, to better address the problems of environmental degradation. Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.

Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.

Principle 13

States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage. States shall also cooperate in an expeditious and more determined manner to develop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.

Principle 14

States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.

Principle 15

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Principle 16

National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

Principle 17

Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

Principle 18

States shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Every effort shall be made by the international community to help States so afflicted.

Principle 19

States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.

Principle 22

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.

Principle 23

The environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.

Principle 24

Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.

Principle 25

Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Principle 26

States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Principle 27

States and people shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in the fulfilment of the principles embodied in this Declaration and in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development.

Source: Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 5-16 June 1972

(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.73.II.A.14 and corrigendum), chap. I.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Green Calcareous Macroalgae

A mixture of several types of green calcareous macroalgae
dominate the seabed in this photograph.

Green Calcareous Macroalgae are a group of plants that grow in sandy and silty areas on the sea floor where water flow from currents or waves is very low. Several genera of plants are found in Bermuda, including:
Udotea, which looks kind of like a ping ping paddle,
Penicillus, otherwise known as Merman's Shaving Brush,
Halimeda, which look like little trees,
Acetabularia, otherwise known as Mermaid's wine glass.

These plants often grow in meadows in deeper harbours and sandy basins between the coral reefs in the lagoon. While they receive little attention they provide an important habitat for juvenile and adult fishes, as well as provide substrate for epiphytic (meaning "living on a plant") plants and animals. Additionally animals that live in the sand (termed "infauna") are generally abundant around calcareous macroalgae beds.

Fortunately, benthic surveys by Dr. Sarah Manuel, Dr. Kathy Coates and Anson Nash of the Department of Conservation Services are providing the first lagoon-wide maps of the distribution of these important but under-appreciated plants.