A method to assess the risk of sun coral invasion in marine protected areas.
The safest and most efficient method of avoiding costs and impacts associated with biological invasions is to prevent the introduction and establishment of non-native species. In Brazil, two invasive coral species have been causing ecological, economic and social impacts: Tubastraea coccinea and Tubastraea tagusensis. This work presents a protocol to analyze the risk of invasion in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the State of Rio de Janeiro considering the main vector of these species on the Brazilian coast. This protocol takes five risk factors into account: environmental similarity between the donor area and the possible receiving area; available substrate for colonization; proximity to the donor region; proximity and quantity of oil platforms and drill ships that passed by the analyzed MPAs and proximity and quantity of oil platforms and drill ships that anchored near the MPAs. Results must be used by decision-makers for a better management of Marine Protected Areas. The protocol we present can be applied to analyze the relative risk of invasion throughout the Brazilian coast, in order to prioritize areas for early detection and monitoring of the presence of sun corals.