Fernando de Noronha Archipelago

A buoy that makes a difference

Aqualink has reached the remote Brazilian island Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, where their buoy helps scientists from all over the island and community members. Scientists from different organizations are using the data generated from Aqualink's buoy to study the island's marine life. From only being able to visit their site once or twice a year, this buoy has enabled Cesar and his team to get consistent data all year round. 

Meet the marine scientist Cesar Cordeiro, his team, and the island

Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (FNA) is Brazil’s largest and most populated oceanic island, located 350 km offshore the Northeast coast. The archipelago has been a Marine Protected Area since 1988 with varied enforcement levels. FNA is home to several endemic species, both terrestrial and marine, and it’s also an iconic touristic destination that attracts considerable attention from the public and national authorities. Despite being one of the best-conserved places on the Brazilian coast, it still suffers from human occupation and touristic activities. Because of this context, FNA is an essential site for monitoring and studying the potential for sustainable use of sensitive marine areas. 


Cesar works with the Long-term Ecological Research’ Brazilian Oceanic Islands’ (PELD - ILOC), which started in 2013 and is coordinated by Prof. Carlos Ferreira. It has the objective of monitoring and researching the reef communities associated with the four oceanic islands in the Brazilian jurisdictional waters (FNA, São Pedro, and São Paulo Archipelago, Rocas’ Atoll, and Trindade Island). The PELD - ILOC network comprises more than 50 researchers from Brazilian and foreign institutions working on different subjects, from reef fish ecology to connectivity and metabolomics. Currently, Cesar is an associated professor, and among this team, he is responsible for the project data curation, sea urchin population, and intertidal communities monitoring.

The marine life and ecosystem around the buoy 

The buoy is installed in a no-take sanctuary zone where spinner dolphins aggregate year-round, called ‘Baía dos Golfinhos’ (i.e., Dolphins’ Bay in English). This site has been closed for any activity, except research, for more than 20 years. The local marine life is therefore very well conserved locally. The bay’s seascape comprises shallow rocky reefs, less than 25 meters deep, dominated by macroalgae and turf cover, with patched reefs scattered along the sand bottom. Coral cover is low, less than 5%, but important for the benthic dynamics.

How the data from the buoy is used

Cesar describes: “The data generated by the buoy is crucial for understanding long-term changes in ecological patterns, and many ecological processes affecting reef communities act seasonally, but because of high sampling costs, the PELD-ILOC monitors FNA sites once or twice a year. As an example, we had bleaching events during 2019 and 2021 in which we lacked on-site seawater temperature measurements, but that is past now!” One of the great benefits of the Aqualink buoy is that it can measure temperature data at different depths while sharing the data in real-time. Besides temperature, wind and wave data are being used for refining larval dispersal models for the island. They will help predict connectivity patterns with the other islands and the mainland. 


Outside the project scope, the data is already being used by local diving operators for monitoring seawater temperature and wave conditions. They are using the dashboard to indicate local water temperature to tourists. This helps them to come prepared for local warm waters and indicates sea conditions for customers.


Cesar also mentions, “we believe that for the next wave season, the buoy will provide valuable information for upcoming surfing competitions. Besides that, we are still learning about the potential of this high-quality open-source information for the local and global community.”


Lastly, another university also applies wave data to understand wave patterns in the island region. One graduate student from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, unrelated to Cesar and his team,  uses the wave data to create wave propagation models in shallow waters. He was thrilled to know that the data was completely open access. 

Story from the buoy

A lionfish was discovered at the mooring of the Aqualink buoy in their second dive at the buoy. This fish was the sixth specimen found at the island, and this species arrived at the island last year and is potentially very harmful to reef communities, as we can see in the Caribbean. As this site is closed for diving activities, it was one of the least monitored on the island. However, that found made the local authorities include this site as an observatory for the presence of lionfish since it changed our belief that the most pristine areas would be less prone to exotic species invasion.

Source: Sea Paradise - Fernando de Noronha

Video Fernando de Noronha Archipelago.mp4

Photo credit: All photos are sourced from JP Krajewski and PELD ILOC team

Discussion Board

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