Bahamas Biocomplexity Project
The Bahamas Biocomplexity Project (BBP) was an interdisciplinary research effort that combined the study of marine biodiversity, oceanography, and humans in order to improve the design of networks of marine protected areas (MPAs) for biodiversity conservation, fisheries sustainability, and other human uses.
Our work in The Bahamas was motivated, in part, by both the country’s pioneering efforts to establish Land and Sea Parks and its decision in 2000 to initiate one of the world’s first networks of “no-take” marine reserves (MPAs that prohibit extractive activities). In 2002 and 2009, significant additional MPAs were created as national parks under the management of the Bahamas National Trust.
The BBP was interested in understanding how this growing MPA network may affect people and marine ecosystems and, in turn, how both human and ecosystem dynamics may influence the effectiveness of networks of protected areas. Although the work focuses on the Bahamian archipelago, many of the results have widespread relevance to MPAs in coral reef ecosystems around the world.
The BBP was divided into several working groups made up of researchers from multiple collaborating institutions. Three working groups focused on important components of the overall ecosystem: the connectivity of marine populations from place to place, the nature and distribution of marine habitats, and the human social dimensions that influence marine uses and conservation practices.
Two other working groups focused on managing and integrating the data through the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS) and theoretical modeling to examine how connectivity, habitats, and humans interact and can contribute to effective marine management.
Educational products for various target audiences were designed in collaboration with Bahamian partners in order to share relevant results and promote wider understanding of the importance of sustainable marine ecosystems.
In addition, the BBP produced a newsletter, BBP in Brief, which highlighted recent project activities as well as various events and efforts taking place in The Bahamas related to marine science, conservation, and education.
The Bahamas Biocomplexity Project was supported by a grant (OCE-0119976) from the NSF Biocomplexity in the Environment Program, with additional support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other donors.