Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve

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Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve
Reserva Biológica do Atol das Rocas
ESC large ISS022 ISS022-E-79937k.JPG
View from the air
Map showing the location of Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve
Map showing the location of Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve
Location in Brazil
Coordinates 3°51′47″S 33°48′22″W / 3.863°S 33.806°W / -3.863; -33.806Coordinates: 3°51′47″S 33°48′22″W / 3.863°S 33.806°W / -3.863; -33.806
Area 36,249 hectares (89,570 acres)
Designation Biological reserve
Created 5 June 1979

Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve (Portuguese: Reserva Biológica do Atol das Rocas) is a biological reserve in Brazil. The reserve is located on the Rocas Atoll, an atoll 144 miles north east of the Brazilian coast. It was created in 1979 to protect nesting sea turtles and migratory seabirds.


The Rocas Atoll is 266 kilometres (165 mi) north east from the coast of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte in north east Brazil, and is the only atoll in the South-western Atlantic.[1] The coral atoll is built on the upper, western part of the flat top of a volcanic seamount on the north east part of the Brazilian continental margin. The seamount rises to a depth of 30 to 15 metres (98 to 49 ft) below the surface. The distance from the reef to the edge of the top of the seamount is about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the west, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to the north west and 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) to the east.[2]

The sediment in the lagoon and surrounding the atoll is mostly coarse sand, much of which originates from the corals and mollusc shells.[2] The reef has the shape of an ellipse with its axis running east-west, and is about 3.7 by 2.5 kilometres (2.3 by 1.6 mi).[1] There are two small islands inside the lagoon. Ilha do Farol (Lighthouse Island) covers 3.5 hectares (8.6 acres) and Ilha do Cemitério (Cemetery Island) covers 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres).[3] The highest point is 3 metres (9.8 ft) above sea level.[2] The reserve covers 35,186 hectares (86,950 acres). It was created on 5 June 1979 and is administered by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation.[4]


Rainfall is 109 millimetres (4.3 in) annually. Air temperatures vary from 18 to 32 °C (64 to 90 °F), with an average of 29 °C (84 °F). Water temperature is very stable at 27 to 28 °C (81 to 82 °F).[2] The islands are remote and have not been affected much by human activity. An estimated 143,000 birds use the atoll, mainly masked booby (Sula dactylatra), brown booby (Sula leucogaster), brown noddy (Anous stolidus), black noddy (Anous minutus) and sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus).[1]


The Biological Reserve is a "strict nature reserve" under IUCN protected area category Ia. The objectives are full preservation of biota and other natural attributes without direct human interference or environmental changes, except for recovery of altered ecosystems and actions needed to restore and preserve the natural balance, biological diversity and natural ecological processes.[2] Protected species include the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus), white-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), the crabs Johngarthia lagostoma and Percnon gibbesi, the starfish Echinaster (Othilia) guyanensis, lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris), sea ginger (Millepora alcicornis) and the coral Phyllogorgia dilatata.[4] The reserve has been nominated as a World Heritage Site.[3]