What is the health of seahorse populations on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro?


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The Long-Nosed Seahorse in Rio

The Hippocampus reidi species, also known as the long-nosed seahorse, is the most abundant seahorse species on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro , despite this relative abundance in seahorse terms it is classified as vulnerable by the Rio de Janeiro State Threatened Species List of January and as deficient data in IUCN.

This species is found in Guanabara Bay and Sepetiba Bay, two estuaries that constantly suffer from human activities such as pollution, loss or habitat change and eutrophication (excessive nutrients entering the water as a result of human activities). The Guanabara Bay is a tropical estuary tectonic origin, so was created by an earthquake.

In the present study, it was considered that it is one of the most degraded environments in Brazil. In addition to this, it is the country’s second largest industrial center, comprising more than 7,000 polluting industries, which contribute 25% of organic pollution and more than 90% of pollution by toxic substances and heavy metals. The disordered human occupation in its surroundings, coupled with the lack of basic sanitation are also sadly causes for the current stage of degradation of Guanabara Bay.

Sepetiba Bay is located on the southwest coast of the State of Rio de Janeiro, with an area of ​​approximately 305km² of water surface. This Sepetiba bay is a system that constantly suffers from the impacts of human  activities. Although, it has not reached the degree of degradation of the Guanabara Bay, Sepetiba is currently a center for the development of industrial activities, so it could be a risk of the area becoming more affected in the near future. While in the Bay of Guanabara domestic contamination is dominant, in Sepetiba the contributions of industrial wastes are more significant than the contributions of domestic waste.

Our planned Data Collection

The data collection area of ​​the present work will be Urca beach, located on the west side of the Guanabara Bay and two Sisters Island, which are situated in the Bay of Sepetiba.

The population study of the H. reidi seahorse will be performed using eight 20x5m fixed transects along the rocky shore. Specimens will be identified using techniques described in research papers written  by academics Lourie Figueiredo and Menezes. The sex of seahorses will be determined from the presence (male) or absence (female) of an brood pouch. The brood pouch is a male structure which the juveniles remain until they are ready to survive alone.

Scheme male x female (Fishbase.com)

Juveniles will be identified from their size, seahorses smaller than 60mm will be  considered juveniles. The height of each animal will be measured from the top of the crown to the end of the crown (Lourie 2003). We will also be recording the behavior of the organisms. This is important as it helps us see if the activities appear to be healthy or not what would be expected.  This will be determined by the scan method, which will determine the behaviour of each individual at the time the animal is found.

The activities we classify are foraging, cutting, swimming and sedentary. The depth and substrate on which the seahorses are anchored will also be recorded, because seahorses are fishes which can camouflage, and the substrate can help the seahorse to flee from possible predators and also in the search of their prey. When a substrate is not identified in the field, it will be removed for laboratory analysis and identified according some specials books.

Juveniles seahorses (ProjectSeahorse.com)

All seahorses will be cataloged individually from the coronet photograph. The coronet is a structure on the top of the head that is nearly as distinctive as a fingerprint. The coronet images will be analyzed special software that means we can check if animals were recaptured during the study months.

We will be recording any environmental variabilities too, so we will be creating a really clear picture of what is going on the ecosystem and how environmental changes may affect the population.  

Our main objectives

a) Check the monthly variation of the population size of seahorse of Urca beach (Guanabara Bay) and the island Two Sisters (Sepetiba bay), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
b) Identify reproductive points over 12 months
c) Evaluate the seasonal variations of the sexual ratio and the ratio between juveniles and adults
d) Establish if in the year seahorses will change the behaviour, in the use of microhabitat and  the depth of occurrence.
e) Evaluate physical environmental variables such as temperature and salinity in each study area.

Why this project is important to you?

I have chosen this project for my dissertation for my masters degree.  The information that we get will be published and will help us demonstrate and deepen our understanding of the impact we are causing to nature, particularly from industries. The data we collect will be important to help others scientists with their seahorse’s work. In addition, this project will help in the protection of marine habitats that are in the same situation and need a more effective protection plan in their area. 

Seahorses are beautiful creatures, charismatic animals, like dolphins, but for them to continue to exist we have to better take care and protect their environment, their habitat, in other word, all the things they need to survive.

What will the outcomes of the project be?

We expect to find a stable population of seahorse in the two areas with a reasonable number of individuals females, males and juveniles, and all of them  reproducing.

The temperature we expect to find a higher temperature 25 degrees centigrade and a stable salinity of 35ppt (the normal of the oceans). Some scientist found that the temperature and the variation of salinity influence the growth of the juveniles seahorse.

The background habitat we expect to find a big diversity in the area with a variability of holdfast which is very important to seahorse and it’s camouflage behaviour..

Habitat enrichment has also a positive influence on the diversity and abundance of marine organisms, some studies showed that holdfast availability suggested as a particularly important variable that influences the abundance of the seahorses in a area.

Funding Requirement

My project needs help with the payment of gasoline, food and shipping.

It will be necessary to spend gasoline because one of the areas of the study is far from the University.

The use of the ship was requested because the study area is located on an island within a bay of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Food will be needed because we have spent more than one period away from home.

Gasoline in Brazil is R$ 5,00/Litter and we will need R$ 200,00/month.

Food in Brazil is R$ 25,00/ per people. My project requires two people, so we will need R$ 50,00/ for month.

Shipping is R$80,00/ for people.  My project need two people, so we will need R$ 160,00/ for month.

In total the project duration is nine month and we will need R$ 3690 – US$ 1050, £775

Map of the Rio de Janeiro showing the areas of this study.

Island Duas Irmãs (Sepetiba Bay – RJ – Brazil)

Urca Beach (Guanabara Bay – RJ – Brazil)

Team

Tatiane Fernandez

Tatiane did graduated in biology from Santa Ursula University and is currently doing a master degree in Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. She loves working with seahorse and plans to continue to work in this area following her masters

Natalie Freret-Meurer

Natalie is the advisor for the research project. She has PhD in Animal Behavioral and is university teacher in Santa Ursula University.

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    Come out on the boat with us for the day and we'll show you the techniques we use and introduce you to the long nosed seahorse!

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General Overview

This Campaign has ended. No more pledges can be made.

  • Backers

    Thank you for supporting us! We will invite you a talk on our findings at the end of the study

  • Backers

    Sponsor a seahorse! We will send you updates about your choice of a juvenile, male or female seahorse taken from the study.

  • Backers

    Thank you for support us! We will keep you updated on our findings and also send you some artwork of seahorses taken from our study

  • Backers
    Limit of 7 — 7 remaining

    Come out on the boat with us for the day and we'll show you the techniques we use and introduce you to the long nosed seahorse!