Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The Sun-Coral Project: the first social-environmental initiative to manage the biological invasion of Tubastraea spp. in Brazil.

Abstract

In the 1980s two invasive azooxanthellate corals, Tubastraea coccinea Lesson, 1829 and Tubastraea tagusensis Wells, 1982 (Dendrophyllidae) invaded the Southwest Atlantic. In Brazil, they were first reported from fouling on oil platforms' and have expanded their range along 3,500 km of the coastline. The Sun-Coral Project (PCS) was launched in 2006 as an outreach program aimed at the restoring marine ecosystems, mitigating the environmental damage and redressing the social and economic impacts caused to coastal communities by the sun corals. We train collectors to manually remove the corals from the seabed and earn extra income by selling the skeletons, which are used in craftwork sold to tourists. Engaging human coastal communities in management allowed it to contribute to local sustainable development. The aim of this study was to critically evaluate the first ten years of PCS as a management initiative. We (1) analysed the contribution of PCS to scientific knowledge by carrying out a systematic literature search; (2) reviewed the contribution of the regional and community monitoring program to management planning; (3) analysed management results; (4) identified social-economic effects of extra-income; (5) synthesized information regarding the structure of PCS and the role of environmental education, capacity building, training and communication. PCS is structured into training, environmental restoration, extra income and sustainability, communication, monitoring and research programs. Environmental education is present across all programs. A hotline receives new records, a task force is available for first response management and training, a Visitor's Center was created for communication and as a field base, and a National Sun Coral Records Database was created to gather all information. The PCS Database compiled historical records and demonstrated that the sun corals continued to expand along the Brazilian coastline during the study period (2006-2016). PCS's Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I) Network (14 institutions, 35 members) contributed to knowledge producing 70% of publications dealing with the sun corals in Brazil. Monitoring was able to map distribution and range expansion at 326 monitored sites over four regions. Twenty five different types of outreach actions were identified which directly affected 143,000 people. Two hundred and thirty thousand sun-coral colonies (8.5 T) have been manually removed through 165 control and eradication actions. Eighty six percent of the 22 collectors and their 80 family members said their lives improved due to the extra income. The results presented here demonstrate that PCS has created a science-based, community supported, conservation initiative which provides information for government, the scientific community and stakeholders, as well as extra-income, methods and human resources for monitoring and managing the sun corals invasion.