The Environmental Mapping for Emergency Response at Sea Project (Mapeamento Ambiental para a Resposta à Emergência no Mar – MAREM, in Portuguese) resulted from a collaborative agreement between the Brazilian Institute of Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels (IBP) and the Brazilian Federal Environmental Agency (IBAMA). In order to provide support for planning and management of response operations involving marine oil spills, MAREM’s first and second phases, named Shoreline Protection and Cleanup Project (Projeto de Proteção e Limpeza de Costa – PPLC), created a geo-referenced database of the entire Brazilian coastline (approximately 7,500 km) in 2013. MAREM’s third phase was the Wildlife Protection Project (Projeto de Proteção à Fauna). It started in 2015 and was developed by a consortium involving Aiuká, Witt O’Brien’s Brasil and national and international experts. The Wildlife Protection Project identified, compiled and mapped relevant information on coastal and marine wildlife at risk from oil spill incidents and associated responses along the Brazilian coastline.
The Brazilian Exclusive Economic Zone was divided into 18 geographic units to facilitate the integration of marine, freshwater and terrestrial biogeographical data, regional geopolitics, and the incorporation of the zonal management of national oil production.
Standardized decision trees were developed to provide an objective and consistent method for the identification of priority species and areas for protection in the event of an oil spill within each management unit. The decision trees incorporated previously identified critical habitats or natural resources meeting international conservation strategies (such as Ramsar wetlands, Important Bird Areas and the World Heritage Convention) and the Brazilian National Action Plans for Species Conservation. Species were classified by integrating two components: (a) assessing their vulnerability to oil spills using standardized criteria, and (b) their conservation status under international, national and regional conventions to generate an assessed prioritization for protection in case of oil spills, minimizing potential impacts.
The Wildlife Protection Project has produced (i) a comprehensive dataset on species and habitat vulnerability in Brazil, and (ii) and a publicly-available WebGIS database of the critical information relevant to oil spill responses and response management, available at www.marem-br.com.br. These two products contain key information on the biology, distribution, seasonality and behavior of the identified vulnerable species, in conjunction with operational information on the locations, biological, geopolitical and logistic aspects of the priority areas identified.
Factsheets were produced for each high-priority species and areas, compiling selected details in a readily accessible format for field teams involved in oil spill responses. The Wildlife Protection Project represents an unprecedented and unique approach for oiled wildlife planning and response in Brazil.
The Environmental Mapping for Emergency Response at Sea Project (Mapeamento Ambiental para a Resposta à Emergência no Mar – MAREM) started in 2013 and was finalized in 2016. It resulted from a collaborative agreement between the Brazilian Institute of Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels (IBP) and the Brazilian Federal Environmental Agency (IBAMA). The main objective of this Project was to provide relevant information for decision-making processes during a coastal oil spill from exploration and oil and gas production activities in Brazilian waters. The third phase of MAREM was called Wildlife Protection Project (Projeto de Proteção à Fauna) and aimed to expand the knowledge of vulnerable species and of priority areas for protection along the Brazilian coast, serving as support for planning and management of operation responses to accidents involving oil spills. The Wildlife Protection Project Fauna was undertaken by the consortium of Aiuká and Witt O’Brien’s Brasil, with the support of university researchers, national and international experts.
The Wildlife Protection Project was based on a thorough review of all available data. The review assessed information available in the national and international scientific literature, critical national and regional compilations, novel analyses of field data from survey projects and wildlife monitoring from previous activities developed by the companies involved, and decades of accumulated professional field experience by researchers involved in the project. The data syntheses and interpretations were reviewed by the relevant and appropriate experts before release and adoption.
The methodology used here was consistent with internationally-adopted approaches for mapping wildlife vulnerable to oil, as recommended by the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA, 1994, 2004, 2012, 2015), the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (MMA, 2002, 2007). It also incorporated and expanded the experiences from similar projects in other countries (e.g. Tortell, 1992; Camphuysen and Heubeck 2001; Zengel et al., 2001).
Due to the extensive length of the Brazilian coastline (almost 7,500 km), the coast was divided into 18 geographical units for this project (Figure 1). The geographical division used was based on the integration of three critical aspects of the response to wildlife in oil spills: (1) biogeography of marine, coastal and fluvial species, (2) the existing political and administrative boundaries, and (3) the operational organization of oil and gas production activities. The archipelagos of Fernando de Noronha and São Pedro e São Paulo, Trindade Island and Atol das Rocas were not included in the scope of the project, considering that previous hydrodynamic modeling analyses indicated that these areas would not be affected in any spill scenario related to current oil and gas operations along the Brazilian coast.
It was difficult to determine exactly how many animal species are present in Brazil, especially when several areas have yet to be inventoried and a high number of species are described or taxonomically reorganized every year. To ensure the feasibility and the utility of the project, we used widely-accepted reference lists for species. Four key references were used as base-lists of species to be considered in the project, those being developed by organizations recognized nationally and internationally (Table 1), comprising a total of 4343 species. In some exceptional cases, subspecies were also included if they had been previously considered as relevant by the Ministry of Environment for wildlife protection strategies (MMA, 2014).
Information on the distribution, life habits and behavior of these species was collated from the literature in order to determine to which extent each species was vulnerable to an oil spill off the Brazilian coast. A decision tree was established to determine which species would be deemed ‘vulnerable’. Vulnerable species were defined as those that may be impacted by a coastal oil spill, whether this impact would occur through direct exposure to oil or indirectly through ecological disturbance caused by the oil spill or by response teams.
Once the list of vulnerable species had been compiled, a further decision tree was applied to identify which vulnerable species should be classified as ‘priority’ species. Priority species were defined as those that are endemic to small areas or Critically Endangered, or those that are otherwise threatened (Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened, according to IUCN) or Data Deficient, and present habits or behaviors that lead them to be moderately or highly susceptible to oil spill impacts.
The entire Brazilian coastline was evaluated to identify relevant and priority areas for wildlife protection in the event of an oil spill. Any areas along the coast comprising mangroves, salt marshes, estuaries, salt or brackish ponds and other flooded areas with communication with the sea were assessed. A review of the scientific literature on the resting and breeding areas of the species identified the locations critical for the conservation of threatened species in the National Action Plans, including areas of species endemism. Each area was classified into three categories: ‘priority’, ‘relevant’ or ‘level of protection to be determined’, according to the available data.
Priority areas were defined as those with primary importance for breeding (comprising areas used for nesting, incubation, nursery and juvenile care) and/or with high concentration of animal or occurrence of endemic species. Relevant areas were defined as those identified as important for wildlife conservation under national or international listings, or areas that, although not yet previously identified, support endemic species, breeding or species’ concentrations or may have characteristics that can result in high concentrations of wildlife present at some time of the year (e.g. mangroves, estuaries, salt marshes, among others).
Finally, when there was no evidence to indicate that an area had to be prioritized for wildlife protection resources in the case of an oil spill, it was classified as an area for which the level of protection would be determined by the response team depending on the unique characteristics of the oil spill. It is important to highlight that although these areas were not identified a priori as priority or relevant, they can still be designated as such if, during the response to an oil spill incident, a concentration of wildlife in need of protection is identified, or if their use by wildlife changes during the spill.
Of the 4343 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals known to occur in Brazil, a total of 751 species/subspecies was identified as directly or indirectly vulnerable to coastal oil spills. Of these, 358 taxa were identified as priority for protection in the event of an oil spill (Figure 2). Charadriiformes (shorebirds, gulls, terns and skuas), Rodentia (wild mice, wild rats and agoutis) and Anura (frogs, treefrogs and toads) were the most represented groups amongst vulnerable species, and Anura, Cetacea (whales and dolphins) and Passeriformes (passerine perching birds) were the most represented groups amongst priority species.
The identified vulnerable species were organized in standardized spreadsheets comprising information on their ecology and distribution in the regions, including relevant characteristics such as taxonomical classification and general description, conservation status and diet. It also included information on their susceptibility and sensitivity to oil exposure, and possible strategies for mitigation of oil spill impacts. These detailed spreadsheets were designed to enhance rapid interpretation of relevant data on the species at a given area, allowing oil spill response teams to quickly prioritize actions and plan field activities.
Additionally, individual factsheets were prepared for each of the priority species containing photographs and instructions for field identification, general information regarding its habitat, diet, behavior and population status, and recommendations for teams capturing or handling the species ( Appendix 1). These factsheets were designed to provide critical and relevant information for field teams in a rapid and objective manner, ensuring that they can recognize priority species in the field and respond accordingly.
A total of 525 coastal areas were evaluated for prioritization, covering 282 municipalities in 17 states. Within these, we identified 246 priority and 279 relevant areas for protection in case of an oil spill (Figure 3). For each one of these, a factsheet was prepared with maps and information on the general characteristics, species expected to occur in the area, legal protection and logistical recommendations. These factsheets were designed to assist oil spill response teams to plan field activities and coastal protection strategies. An example is presented on Appendix 2 and can be downloaded from http://dados.marem-br.com.br/dados/FICHA_FAU_AREA_PRIORI/Fichas%20Areas-SP_Ilha%20de%20Alcatrazes.pdf
All information produced through the Wildlife Protection Project were integrated into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and consolidated into a database with more than 80,000 geo-tagged photographs (Figures 4 and 5), including a comprehensive mapping of the Brazilian coastline’s Environmental Sensitivity Indices (ESI), protected areas, security facilities, hospitals, ports and airports, and detailed information on relevant sea turtle nesting areas.
The Wildlife Protection Project represents an unprecedented effort to integrate physical, operational and environmental information in a common data framework to inform decision-making processes in planning and managing oil spill responses along the Brazilian coast. The Project is a landmark for the oil production industry and coastal and marine conservation management in Brazil, and is clearly a critical step in preventing or reducing environmental impacts arising from oil spills and emergency response activities, contributing towards environmentally-sensitive response efforts.
We gratefully acknowledge the significant contributions made by all involved in this collaborative project. Without their efforts and expertise we would not have achieved such remarkable outcomes: Aiuká’s staff; Witt | O’Brien’s Brasil staff; and external participating researchers: Karina Theodoro Molina (Projeto Tamanduá), Rogério Loesch Zacariotti (Universidade Cruzeiro do Sul) and Igor Morais (UESC). We would also like to thank Projeto TAMAR and several researchers from Brazilian zoos and private bird breeders that contributed with valuable information on the taxa included in this project.
MAREM was funded by a consortium of companies, members of IBP: Anadarko, BG Brasil, BP Energy, Chevron, Ecopetrol, ExxonMobil, Maersk Oil, OGpar, Ouro Preto, Perenco, Petrobras, PetroRio, Premier Oil, Queiroz Galvão Exploração e Produção, Repsol Sinopec, Shell, Sonangol, Statoil, Total and Vanco.
An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the Rio Oil & Gas Conference 2016.