Brazil has designated Atol das Rocas Biological Reserve (Ramsar Site no. 2259) as its 13th Wetland of International Importance. This new Ramsar Site is an oceanic island ecosystem which includes the only atoll in the South Atlantic, formed predominantly by coralline algae rather than corals. Located 267 km north-east of the coastal city of Natal, it is also part of the “Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves” World Heritage site.
Atol das Rocas hosts a great variety of endemic and migratory species, of which some are endangered and many of economic interest. It is an important reproductive site for green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and also hosts Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), all categorized as endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. It also maintains at least 14 endemic mollusc species, including six which are endemic to the Site; five species of sponges not recorded in neighbouring areas and probably new to science, therefore provisionally considered endemic to Atol das Rocas; and 15 species of corals endemic to Brazil. It accommodates the largest concentration of tropical seabirds in the western Atlantic, with an estimate of at least 150,000 birds of 29 species. It is also an important breeding, feeding, and nursing site for lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) and hosts five endemic species of fish.
Recreation and tourism are not permitted, and only research and monitoring are conducted. The main threats to the Site’s ecological character include illegal fishing, introduction of invasive species, disturbances caused by visitors, and commercial and military overflights.