Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping (BREAM) Program

Bermuda is located in the Atlantic Ocean about 700 miles off the South Carolina coast. While many people mistakenly believe the island is part of the Caribbean, Bermuda is actually hundreds of miles north of the Bahamas. It is one of the world's most isolated oceanic islands and supports the northern-most coral reef system in the world. Considered a natural laboratory, Bermuda is a mid-Atlantic sampling station for ocean health.

If there is one fish that every Bermudian knows, it is a bream. As one of Bermuda's most common fish species, and one of our few endemics, it is a fitting acronym for an initiative that is focusing attention on Bermuda's unique coral reef ecosystem.

BREAM is a multi-tiered initiative, with the following objectives:

* Scientific Research involving targeted, multidisciplinary studies of Bermuda's coral reef complex by the resident research team and through collaborations with other local or visiting scientists.
* Data Management and Information Sharing through the development of a database and GIS framework to advance local, regional, and international understanding of coral reef systems.
* Coordination of Conservation Efforts by resource managers and scientists through workshops that build on the framework of the Bermuda Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.
* Promotion of Public Awareness of the marine environment through scientific publications, media articles, local television, and the internet.

Over the past several decades, there has been a dramatic decline in the health of coral reef systems globally. Bermuda is one of the few remaining locations with relatively healthy reefs. For this reason, the Island's shallow water marine habitats not only are important locally, but also serve as an important barometer of global reef health and an "ark" or life raft where reef plants and animals might survive until neighboring Caribbean reefs recover.

One of BREAM's most notable achievements is the creation of a detailed map of Bermuda's reef complex and its distribution of plants and animals. Data are shared internationally to promote better understanding of coral reefs. The production of such a map is essential in developing a baseline database of the current status of Bermuda's reef system with which future trends can be compared.

In collaboration with the University of Miami, BREAM has adopted the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) protocol, which allows for a rapid, large-scale assessment of Bermuda's coral habitats as well as of sea grasses and soft sediment basins. A variety of biological indicators of ecosystem health are measured at each survey site and then mapped onto the individual site layer using Geographic Information Software (GIS). The ability of scientists and resource managers to view these layers in relation with one another facilitates analysis of the many complex relationships and patterns among species and habitats and identification of potentially sensitive areas of particular biological significance. Because AGRRA is employed throughout the Caribbean, BREAM is able to compare the health of Bermuda's reefs with more endangered reefs further south.

Learn more at http://bermudabream.blogspot.com/