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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Study on coral reef resilience in comparative areas in south Vietnam for marine biodiversity conservation in a changing world

PI: Vo Si Tuan (, Institute of Oceanography
U.S. Partner: Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
Project Dates: December 2016 - November 2019

Project Overview

This project is aimed at understanding coral reef resilience capacity in comparative areas in southern Vietnam under changing stresses (increased temperature and human activities) and developing guidelines for biodiversity conservation and resources management. To achieve these goals, the researchers will assess coral bleaching in 2016 in three representative reef areas (Nha Trang Ninh Thuan coastal waters as an example of an upwelling area, Con Dao islands in the western South China Sea, and Phu Quoc islands in the coastal Gulf of Thailand). They will also conduct studies on biological and physical features associated with coral reef resilience at the site level of each area in order to develop recommendations on possible changes in zoning and adaptive management of marine protected areas (MPAs). Studies will also be carried out on settlement and recruitment of corals and inter-population connectivity of target reef organisms among the three areas. Near the end of the project, the team will develop guidelines for the conservation of marine biodiversity in southern Vietnam to promote resilience to sea temperature changes and human activities. The U.S. partner and his colleagues will provide their experience and data, especially in nowcasting and forecasting of sea temperatures in relation to coral bleaching and other phenomena. NOAA methodology on coral reef resilience will be critical in order to ensure that data on the project are aligned with international standards.

The project will facilitate improvement of zoning and adaptive management of several protected areas, including Nha Trang Bay MPA, Nui Chua and Con Dao National Parks, and Phu Quoc MPA. The approach to be taken will involve MPA managers and local communities in implementing the project, thus helping to disseminate scientific knowledge to local officials and practitioners. The project will also contribute to the existing efforts of the Nha Trang Bay and Phu Quoc MPAs in involving the tourism sector in managing and rehabilitating corals reefs for ecotourism purposes. At the large scale, the comparative studies to be carried out on this project will also provide data on resilience among various types of reef areas, considering the connectivity of reef communities among upwelling waters and other factors.

5-618 Bleaching 15-618 Bleaching 2
Initial images of coral bleaching from the project study sites (images courtesy of Dr. Vo).

Summary of Recent Activities

July 8-18, 2017, Dr. Vo and his team conducted detailed assessments of 10 coral reef sites off Phu Quoc District using the Reef Check method. The main characteristics for assessment were coral cover, coral recruitment, coral bleaching and diseases, reef fish, and macro benthos. Environmental factors such as water temperature, pH, depth, levels of water exchange, and reef complexity were also measured or recorded. During this time, they also carried out a rapid assessment off Phu Quoc Island using the manta tow method. A total of 115 tows were conducted in 7 coral reef sites to provide a general description of coral communities and disturbances, such as the occurrence of the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish and coral bleaching throughout the length of the reefs that a detailed assessment cannot cover. In order to study the inter-population connectivity of target reef organisms, the team initially collected tissue samples of corals and fish in Phu Quoc. They sampled 30 coral colonies of Acropora milepora by SCUBA diving and gathered 35 fin clips of Amphiprion perideraion and 80 fin clips of Siganus spp. from fishing activities around the study area. A survey using the same methods is under way off Con Dao Island July 16-24. The team will conduct other surveys off Nha Trang and Ninh Hai in August.

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