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Amorim P.,University of The Azores | Atchoi E.,University of The Azores | Berecibar E.,Estrutura de Missao para a Extensao da Plataforma Continental EMEPC | Tempera F.,University of The Azores
Journal of Sea Research | Year: 2015

This work presents the first climatologic maps of diffuse attenuation of down-welling solar radiation (KdPAR and Kd490 coefficients) for the Azores derived from full resolution (FR) MERIS satellite imagery. Associating this information with a new mesoscale bathymetry compilation permits estimating the percentage of surface light reaching the seabed. A video annotation dataset derived from a deep kelp survey conducted on the Formigas Bank is subsequently used to estimate the light levels experienced by these bionomically-crucial frondose algae. Empirical light-based thresholds for the lower infralittoral boundary in the Azores are derived from the deepest kelp occurrences. This information is eventually used to map the geographical extent of this major marine biological zone in the archipelago, yielding an area estimate of 894.7km2. The average depth of the infralittoral limit in the Azores is established at 69m.It is determined that the present Azores marine protected area (MPA) network already covers 28.9% of the region's infralittoral grounds. However, island-specific values highlight that MPA percentage coverage varies between islands with values ranging from a marginal coverage of 7.3% (on Terceira Island) to 100% coverage around the island of Corvo and the Formigas Bank. These results suggest that conservation managers may make use of the current spatially-based protection framework of the archipelago to, on the whole and for this specific major habitat, surpass the goals suggested by international conventions and conservation fora for MPA coverage. However, an analysis of the statutory MPA regulations further reveals that measures in place are insufficient to provide a no-take and no-disturbance protection of infralittoral biotopes. In order to achieve the recommended strict protection of the currently protected infralittoral zones, conservation measures ought to be enhanced. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

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