Abstract: Conservation with systematic planning has become an important paradigm in the shift from an ad hoc reserve establishment approach to a consideration of the ways in which a multitude of methods and scientific approaches can facilitate and contribute to optimal reserve design. The decision support tools are reserve selection algorithms that approximate the minimum total reserve area needed to represent all ecosystems, communities, or species of interest. Because representation objectives are based on biodiversity patterns and might not be enough to ensure the viability of protected populations, another central objective of conservation planning, viz. “persistence”, has become a focus of attention in recent years. Planning for persistence incorporates information regarding biodiversity processes and dynamic threats. In this project, conservation planning will address ecological connectivity and climate change effects, two important concerns to ensure the persistence and long-term viability of biological assemblages. This project focuses on Brazilian coral reefs for several reasons: they are a conservation priority in the Atlantic Ocean due to high endemism levels (roughly 25% in fish and 50% in corals); they clearly are under a high stress related to human activities; and there are no conservation planning exercises aiming to select priority areas and investigating the effectiveness of existing protected areas. The main objectives for this thesis are: (i) to incorporate explicitly ecological connectivity into a conservation planning framework investigating the significance of larval dispersal for marine reserve design; (ii) to assess and propose a way in which effects of climate change are explicitly included into conservation planning as a dynamic threat; and (iii) to integrate biodiversity representation, ecological connectivity, and effects of climate change into systematic conservation planning to support marine reserve design in an overarching plan to help accomplish a long-term conservation strategy.
Biography: Rafael studied Oceanography at the Federal University of Espirito Santo, Brazil. In 2008, he concluded his master research project in the same university. His project was focused on zooplankton variability at different temporal scales. Since 2007, he has worked at the Brazilian Ministry of Environment. His main activities included the development of conservation measures for threatened marine species and the proposition of new marine protected area for Brazilian marine ecosystems. His PhD examines the incorporation of biological process and dynamic threats into a conservation planning approach for the most biologically important coral reef area in the southern Atlantic Ocean.