The Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science (BPMS) brings together talented scientists from around the world to study the Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
This large, remote, near pristine, no-take MPA presents an incredible opportunity to undertake an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to understanding the role of these complex ecosystems for mobile species such as tunas, sharks, turtles, and seabirds. As BIOT has been negatively impacted by the 2015-2016 global coral bleaching event, this also provides a focal area to understand the resilience large marine reserves offer in the absence of fishing and other local anthropogenic pressures.
In this first phase, the BPMS comprises four thematic programme areas:
1. Sentinel species. Determine the distribution, abundance and connectivity of charismatic megafauna, including seabirds, turtles, tuna, sharks and mantas. Examine how these species use the reserve and how it works to protect this biodiversity.
2. Coral reef resilience. Establish the resilience of coral reef species and habitats within the BIOT MPA particularly as a baseline comparison for more heavily impacted reefs.
3. Science to management. Use research findings to inform the management needs of BIOT and support the UKs international commitments to SDG14.
4. Communication. Use new approaches to communicate the science that will engage a wider audience in ocean conservation and the value of large MPAs.
Our second phase will expand the research further into the open ocean with a planned programme of oceanographic, mesophotic and benthic research.
Between 2017 and 2021 the BPMS will transform our understanding of the benefits of the BIOT MPA for terrestrial, reef-dwelling and pelagic species. It seeks to work in a creative partnership between science, communication and management to support an exemplary large marine reserve for the Indian Ocean.