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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: Tuan Si Vo (, 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 Coral Storm Damage 5-618 Nui Chua National Park
Significant coral damage witnessed following a major storm (images courtesy of Dr. Vo).Attendees from the December 18, 2017 consultation workshop at Nui Chua National Park.

Summary of Recent Activities

As the first year of his project drew to a close in November 2017, PI Dr. Vo Si Tuan reported that during the dry season (May-July 2017) he and his team had completed one assessment of biological and physical-chemical parameters related to coral reef resilience to increased temperature in four representative reef areas. They are Nha Trang (a coastal waters area), Ninh Thuan (an upwelling area), the Con Dao Islands (offshore in the South China Sea), and the Phu Quoc Islands (coastal Gulf of Thailand). The researchers planned reassessments in November and December 2017 off Nha Trang and Ninh Thuan, but due to bad weather conditions, they were unable to complete these tasks. As of mid-January 2018, the survey at Nha Trang was completed at just 4 out of 10 stations. The researchers noted that the continuous storms in Nha Trang in the last two months of the year damaged the corals at several survey stations. Specific parameters will be calculated to assess the impact of natural disasters on coral reefs in the survey area. Meanwhile, the results of the previously completed surveys showed that no bleaching had been identified in the four sites in 2017; however, the PI’s group was able to document some restoration in areas that had suffered bleaching in 2016. The degree of restoration differed at the various sites, as did the prevalence of turf algae and the composition of fish and sea urchin populations. The researchers are analyzing their data on these conditions and attempting to determine how they might correlate with temperature data gathered at the sites.

On December 18, 2017, the PEER team convened a consultation workshop at Nui Chua National Park, Ninh Hai, Ninh Thuan, to collect information on socioeconomic activities and other impacts on coral reefs. The participants included representatives of the management units (Nui Chua National Park, Coastal Branches), marine tourism business enterprises, coastal residents, and Border Guards forces. Secondary information on coral reef activities from this workshop will be used to plan additional data collection and to analyze the impacts of mainland-based activities on the status of coral reefs in the surrounding area. A similar workshop will also take place in Nha Trang in early 2018.

Immediately after the completion of the delayed survey work off Nha Trang and Ninh Thuan, the researchers will analyze the results to detect and assess the impacts from natural and human activities from the mainland on the development of the coral reefs after a year of research. As of May 2018, the assessment of dry season reef status will begin. Activities to collect specimens for genetic experiments will also be carried out along with the surveys.

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