NE COAST OF SÃO JORGE ISLAND, AZORES

 

PORTUGAL

 

 

 

Co-ordinates: 38º35’N 27º48’W

Fajã dos Cúberes in NE coast of São Jorge Island. Photo RR Ferraz ImagDOP

Description of site:

Located in the coastal area of São Jorge Island from 38º38'N, 27º58'W to 38º33'N, 27º46'W. A complex of unique brackish lagoons and marine rocky habitats highly exposed to prevailing swells, within a 23 Km wide stretch of coast. The lagoons are located in shallow platforms originated from cliff landslides. One southern islet highly exposed to oceanic currents and vast boulder fields of volcanic rock are also included in the site.

Description of fauna and flora:

Comprises intertidal and sublittoral rocky habitats, including the 2 single brackish lagoons in the archipelago, located in shallow platforms originated from cliff landslides. One islet highly exposed to oceanic currents and vast boulder fields of volcanic rock are also included on the site.

Despite being very different in the species and habitats composition, in both lagoons there is an intermediate salinity which results in unique environments (in the Azorean context), allowing the presence of Tapes decussatus (southern lagoon) and Ruppia maritima (northern lagoon) populations. Other species present include: Ligia italica, Melarhaphe neritoides, Padina pavonica, Cladophora prolifera, Euphrosine foliosa, Eupolymnia nebulosa, Hermodice carunculata, Orchestia mediterranea, Littorina striata, Berthella plumula, Pomatocerus triqueter, Spirorbis cuneatus, Hydroides norvegica, Bugula fulva, Corallina officinalis, Suberites massa, Actinia equina, Holothuria forskali, Coscinasterias tenuispina, Tethya aurantia, Sycon coronatum, Holothuria tubulosa, Balanus trigonus, Phascolosoma stephensoni, Golfingia elongata, Sabella spallanzanni, Circomphalus casina, Callista chione and Angulus squalidus.

Outside the lagoons there is a thin layer of shallow waters fallowed by a steep slope until depths around 1000 meters. The junction of these characteristics, together with the strong currents, originate a dynamic environment that allies coastal with open-ocean species, such as Corypahena hippurus.

In the cliffs around the protected area there are important nesting assemblages of marine birds populations (Calonectris diomedea borealis, Sterna spp., among others).

Conservation status:

0

1

2

3

4

Human impact:

Besides benthic fisheries practiced throughout the area, the lagoons are specially used for local tourism and clam harvesting. This fishery is regulated by annual renewed permits issued by the regional government.

These environments should have been common before the human colonization of the Azores, but are now reduced to these lagoons and three spots in Terceira island. This happened in the remaining Azores because of the intense human occupation of the littoral areas.

Commitment and ongoing research:

There is a written commitment from individual scientists with budget and project to study the area. Several published papers and reports dealing with biodiversity (species lists, ecology), physiography and geomorphology of coastal lagoons resulted from different research expeditions since the late 1960’s.

DOP/UAç has been following the lagoon clam landings since 1989, producing annual reports that are used for the regulation of the total allowed capture. Besides this, DOP/UAç has also been following the local populations of marine birds.

Habitats present:

 

Mud

Sand

Rock

Intertidal

X

 

X

Subtidal

X

X

X

Seagrass beds

 

Facilities:

Two small villages with marine harbours located on each side of the area provide the operational basis for coastal research. The University facilities, 30 nm away, can be easily accessed through vessel operations. The island is served by regular flights from other islands in the archipelago.

Available database and website:

Temporary website available at: http://www.horta.uac.pt/scubazores/S_Jorge/ncsji_temp1.htm

 

Made under the support of: