Priorities in the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Venezuelan Caribbean

Highlights:
  • Use of Marxan, a systematic conservation planning tools, for defining marine conservation areas.
  • Proposal of a set of 20 priority areas for conservation of marine biodiversity, covering a total of
    37.8% of marine areas in depths less than 200 meters.
  • Database compilation of marine environmental information and reference literature available for the
    Caribbean Sea
Project Description

GIS Objetives:

  • Identify coastal and offshore areas of interest for biodiversity conservation considering the exploration
    and exploitation of liquid hydrocarbons and/or gas present and future, according to the sensitivity of
    the ecosystems or adjacent to these areas to the oil industry.

Procedures:
The methodology for identifying priority sites for biodiversity conservation is based on the document entitled “Designing a Geography of Hope” from The Nature Conservancy.

  • Evaluation Unit (ecoregion): the study area was divided in 11 marine ecoregions based on the document: “Marine biodiversity in Venezuela: Status and perspectives (P. Miloslavich et. al, 2003).

ecoregiones

  • Conservation Targets: are selected at multiple spatial scales and levels of biological organization. Should represent the range in diversity of ecological systems. In this project the conservation targets are:
    • Marine vertebrates (except fish): cetaceans, manatees, sea turtles, crocodile, birds nesting area, bird feeding area.
    • Communities associated with soft bottoms: clay cliffs, mangroves, muddy/sandy bottoms, coastal lagoons, sandy beaches, benthic primary producers.
    • Communities associated with hard bottom : coral communities, deep coral communities , hard bottoms, rocky intertidal zones.
    • Fisheries Resources and bioproductive areas: fish spawning aggregations, demersal species, small pelagic species, large pelagic species.
  • Conservation Goals: It’s an estimated percentage of the coverage area for conservation target object, required to maintain viable within a specified time period (if they apply appropriate conservation strategies).
  • Viability: long-term viability of populations and occurrences depends on size, condition, and landscape context. No site should be included in the portfolio if it is not viable. This is expresses as a cost (to maintain or recover) and depend on it current status, rarity and threats.
  • Portfolio Assembly: This was achieved by using a pseudo-mathematical optimization algorithm which selects a set of small planning units, preferably contiguous. Marxan tool was used, to select this planning units and thus define a portfolio of priority areas based on the iterative search for the best solution. Nine items did not reach its goal of conservation, but none of them was represented with less than 30% of the minimum criteria established. The methodology and cartographic product obtained was submitted to a group of national experts on conservation targets, who had the opportunity to make observations and recommendations with a view to obtaining a validated product.
  • Taking Conservation Action: in order to develop a series of recommendations to ensure compliance and maintain the conservation goals, a set of strategies were defined considering the offshore gas exploitation activities. These strategies contain detailed descriptions of conservation actions, performance targets and potential agents that could participate in implementing them.
Results:

20 priority areas for conservation of marine biodiversity in the Venezuela Caribbean Region.

areas_prioritarias

Conclusions:
  • Compilation of environmental information and reference literature available for the Venezuela Caribbean Sea.
  • Identification and location of conservation objects of marine biodiversity, including a qualitative diagnosis of current conservation status and threats.
  • Identification of biodiversity status indicators, which must be used in monitoring changes that may arise at the ecoregional level before, during or after the occurrence of the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons.
  • Proposal of a set of 20 priority areas for conservation of marine biodiversity, covering a total of 4.4 million hectares, representing 37.8% of marine areas in depths less than 200 meters
Congress presentations:
  • Klein, E., Sánchez, D., Malavé, L., Posada, J., Chatwin, A., Lazo, R., Papadakis, J., Guevara, M., González, J.C., Martínez, R. Identificación de áreas prioritarias y mejores prácticas ambientales para la conservación de la biodiversidad marina del caribe venezolano. VII Congreso Venezolana de Ecología. November, 2007. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela.
  • Klein, E; Lazo, R., Papadakis, J., Posada, J., González, J. C., Martinez, R., Chatwin, A., Sanchez, D., Malavé, L. The use of ecosystem-based models to select areas for the conservation of marine biodiversity in face of offshore gas exploitation in Venezuela. 33rd Scientific conference of the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean. June 2007, St. Thomas, USA.
  • D. Sánchez, E. Klein, L. Malavé, J. Posada, A. Chatwin, R. Lazo, J. Papadakis, M. Guevara, J.C. González, R. Martínez, C. Villalba, E. Yerena, J.J. Cruz, M. Rada, C. Bastidas y A. Ramos. Identificación de áreas prioritarias y mejores prácticas ambientales para la conservación de la biodiversidad marina, bajo el marco de la explotación de hidrocarburos costa afuera en el Caribe venezolano. Marcuba’2006 VII Congreso de Ciencias del Mar, December 2006, La Habana, Cuba.
Publications:
  • Lazo R., Klein E., Papadakis J., Villalba C. 2008. Portfolio of Priority Sites for Conservation. P. 42-51 (Chapter 4). In: Klien E. (editor). 2008. PDVSA Priorities in the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Venezuelan Caribbean. Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. – Universidad Simón Bolívar – The Nature Conservancy. Caracas, Venezuela. 72p.
  • E. Klein, D. Sánchez, L. Malavé, J. Posada, G. Papadakis, R. Lazo, A. Chatwin, M. Guevara, J.C. González, R. Martínez, C. Villalba, E. Yerena, H. Guada, J.J. Cruz, M. Rada, C. Bastidas, and A. Ramos. 2007. Coastal and Marine Conservation Priorities in Venezuela. P. 49-53 (Chapter 7). In: Anthony Chatwin (editor). Priorities for Coastal and Marine Conservation in South America. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia, USA. 63p.

Project employer:
Employer: INTECMAR (Institute of Marine Science and Technology, Universidad Simón Bolívar)
Responsibility: GIS Leader and GIS Spatial Analyst
GIS work team: Rodrigo Lazo and Gianni Papadakis
Status: Finished 2007