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Neotropical coastal lagoons: an appraisal of their biodiversity, functioning, threats and conservation management

Lagoas costeiras neotropicais: uma apreciação sobre sua biodiversidade, funcionamento, principais ameaças e estratégias de conservação

FA. Esteves A. Caliman JM. Santangelo RD. Guariento VF. Farjalla RL. Bozelli About the authors

Neotropical coastal lagoons (NCL) are human-dominated ecosystems. Their distribution along densely populated coastal areas of developing countries makes these systems among the most threatened in the world. Here, we summarize some aspects of the causes and consequences of NCL biodiversity, their functioning, their importance to the surrounding populations, their fragility, and their responses to local and global anthropogenic impacts and the challenges that Neotropical countries face in conserving these systems. Although still scarce and geographically concentrated, a growing body of studies has shown that NCLs are physiographically diversified systems, which harbor a considerable and particular proportion of the Neotropical inland aquatic biodiversity. Despite the fact that coastal lagoons are ecotones that are intricately connected to surrounding environments, they develop mechanisms for structural and functional regulation, which confer to these systems higher productivity and carrying capacities than surrounding ecosystems. Such traits attract residential developments and subsidize local traditional populations with important economic and aesthetic ecosystem revenues such as fisheries and scenic beauty. However, the disorganized human occupation around NCLs are causing profound impacts such as eutrophication, salinization, exotic species introduction, as well as other effects, which are ultimately imposing major habitat degradations and biodiversity extirpations in NCLs. We argue that interdisciplinary conservation strategies, which integrate scientific expertise, government officials, private companies and the general public, are the most likely to overcome the geographic and economic obstacles to NCL conservation.

coastal ecosystems; ecosystem management; shallow lakes; human impacts; tropical limnology

Instituto Internacional de Ecologia R. Bento Carlos, 750, 13560-660 São Carlos SP - Brasil, Tel. e Fax: (55 16) 3362-5400 - São Carlos - SP - Brazil