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EBSA overview  |  Delineation |  Summary of description updates  | Revised description

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EBSA overview

This EBSA encompasses the likely biggest single collection of significant and special marine features in all of South Africa that also jointly support key ecological processes, including important land-sea connections. Complex ocean circulation occurs here, where the Agulhas Current leaves the coast, following the shelf break. This results in the formation of cold-water eddies, intrusions of Agulhas water onto the shelf and large offshore meanders of the Agulhas Current. Consequently, this EBSA includes spawning areas, nursery areas and key transport pathways for demersal and pelagic fish. In turn this supports a myriad of top predators, including shark and seabird breeding and foraging areas. Notably, the islands in Algoa Bay support the easternmost colony of Endangered African penguins and the largest colony of Cape Gannets in southern Africa. Given the regional oceanography, regionally Critically Endangered leatherback and regionally Near Threatened loggerhead turtles migrate through the EBSA between their nesting and foraging grounds, with hatchlings of both species also passing through during their dispersal from the nesting beaches. Green turtles have also been sighted in the area. Further, the EBSA includes vulnerable habitats and species, such as submarine canyons, steep shelf edge, deep reefs, outer shelf and shelf edge gravels, and reef-building cold-water corals ranging in depth between 100 and 1000 m. It also contains several key biodiversity features, including: a newly discovered unique rocky ridge that supports fragile corals and is covered by dense clouds of plankton and hake; sites where coelocanths are present; a critically endangered localised endemic estuarine pipefish; several priority estuaries; rare habitat types of limited spatial extent; and a few existing coastal marine protected areas.

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Delineation

Open or collapse the legend as a sidebar by clicking the icon in the top left corner of the map. In the legend you can turn on/off the old/new extents of the EBSA. You can zoom in/out using the mouse or the +/- buttons on the map, and click on the features for more information.

 

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Summary of updates and revisions to the EBSA description

A lot of new research has been conducted in the area since original description. Based on this information, the boundary, name, description and criteria ranks have all been updated. 

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Revised EBSA description

NOTE: Read this here, or download the Word document on the right sidebar.

 

General Information

Summary

This EBSA encompasses the likely biggest single collection of significant and special marine features in all of South Africa that also jointly support key ecological processes, including important land-sea connections. Complex ocean circulation occurs here, where the Agulhas Current leaves the coast, following the shelf break. This results in the formation of cold-water eddies, intrusions of Agulhas water onto the shelf and large offshore meanders of the Agulhas Current. Consequently, this EBSA includes spawning areas, nursery areas and key transport pathways for demersal and pelagic fish. In turn this supports a myriad of top predators, including shark and seabird breeding and foraging areas. Notably, the islands in Algoa Bay support the easternmost colony of Endangered African penguins and the largest colony of Cape Gannets in southern Africa. Given the regional oceanography, regionally Critically Endangered leatherback and regionally Near Threatened loggerhead turtles migrate through the EBSA between their nesting and foraging grounds, with hatchlings of both species also passing through during their dispersal from the nesting beaches. Green turtles have also been sighted in the area. Further, the EBSA includes vulnerable habitats and species, such as submarine canyons, steep shelf edge, deep reefs, outer shelf and shelf edge gravels, and reef-building cold-water corals ranging in depth between 100 and 1000 m. It also contains several key biodiversity features, including: a newly discovered unique rocky ridge that supports fragile corals and is covered by dense clouds of plankton and hake; sites where coelocanths are present; a critically endangered localised endemic estuarine pipefish; several priority estuaries; rare habitat types of limited spatial extent; and a few existing coastal marine protected areas.

 

Introduction of the area

This EBSA spans the Eastern Cape shoreline in South Africa between Sardinia Bay MPA and Amathole MPA/Kei River mouth. It extends from the dune base to approximately the continental shelf break/slope, thus spanning a depth range of approximately 0-2000 m. It is important for both benthic and pelagic features, comprising an offshore area of high habitat complexity, and containing a myriad of unique and interesting biodiversity features. Benthic features include a large shelf-intersecting canyon (Sink et al., 2011), rare seabed habitat types (Sink et al., 2012), and a newly discovered unique rocky ridge that supports corals and is covered by dense clouds of plankton and hake (Sink 2016). The pelagic environment is characterised by complex ocean circulation patterns because the EBSA includes the point where the Agulhas Current leaves the coast, following the shelf break. This results in the formation of cold-water eddies, intrusions of Agulhas water onto the shelf, large offshore meanders of the Agulhas Current, and upwelling. This oceanography supports key ecological processes.  Given the close proximity of the Eastern Cape universities, there is substantial ecological research and data available for this coastal area, and an extensive array of in-water devices for long-term ecological research within Algoa Bay.

 

Description of the location

EBSA Region

Southern Indian Ocean

 

Description of location

This EBSA spans the Eastern Cape shoreline between Sardinia Bay MPA and Amathole MPA / Kei River mouth in South Africa. It extends from the dune base to approximately the continental shelf break, as far west as south of Cape St Francis, and also encompasses the functional zone of several priority estuaries. It lies entirely within South Africa’s national jurisdiction.

 

Geo-Location

SIO_3_EBSA.geojson

 

Area Details

Feature description of the area

Algoa to Amathole EBSA is one of the most ecologically and biologically significant areas in South Africa. This focus area contains a myriad of rare, unique and diverse physical and biological features that are found on the seabed and in the overlying water column, that in turn support many key processes, including critical land-sea connections. The EBSA centres approximately around Algoa Bay, which also aligns with where the Agulhas Current leaves the coast, following the shelf break. This results in complex ocean circulation, including the formation of cold-water eddies, intrusions of Agulhas water onto the shelf, and large offshore meanders of the Agulhas Current; and productivity is enhanced by coastal upwelling (Goschen et al., 2015) and relatively rare surf diatom accumulations in the surf zone (Campbell & Bate 1988, Campbell 1996). Consequently, the area serves as spawning and/or nursery grounds for certain commercially-important demersal and pelagic fish species (Pattrick et al., 2016; Rishworth et al., 2015), squid (Downey-Breedt et al., 2016; Lipiński et al., 2016) sharks (Smale et al., 2015) and whales (Melly et al., in press); as transiting/foraging areas for seabirds, sharks, cetaceans (e.g., Koper et al., 2016; Melly et al., in press), and turtles; and forms part of the migration routes of loggerhead and leatherback turtles (Harris et al., 2018), with hatchlings of both species passing through the area during their dispersal. Green turtles, killer whales and coelocanths have also been sighted in the area. Notably, Algoa Bay hosts the largest groups of bottlenose dolphins (Bouveroux et al., 2018), largest colony of Endangered African penguins (Pichegru et al., 2010), and largest colony of Cape gannets (Crawford et al., 2007) in the world.

The new delineation of this EBSA to include priority estuaries, now includes breeding sites of the Critically Endangered, and locally endemic pipefish: Syngnathus watermeyeri (Vorwerk et al., 2007). These estuaries, together with the extension to include the coastal areas, also better represents some critical ecological processes that support the important offshore features. For example, these include key linkages among spawning, post-hatch and nursery areas commercially important fish species that span the surf zone to nearshore and the shelf (Pattrick et al., 2016). Many of the fish in the area also use the estuaries for part of their life-histories.

Habitat diversity is also high within the EBSA focus area (four pelagic and 34 benthic habitats are represented), with benthic features including canyons, steep shelf edge, deep reefs, outer shelf and shelf edge gravels, and reef-building cold-water corals ranging in depth between 100 and 1000 m. An interesting feature was newly discovered inside the EBSA: a unique rocky ridge that supports corals and is covered by dense clouds of plankton and hake (Sink 2016). There is also growing research (with interesting results) into marine biochemistry, microbiology, and potential pharmaceuticals and natural products from the biota in Algoa Bay and surrounds (e.g., Matobole et al., 2017; Ntozonke et al., 2017; Waterworth et al., 2017).

There has been substantial research in the area since the EBSA was first proposed, that has contributed significantly to identifying the features that are present, their extent and importance. The boundary of this EBSA was refined to align with initiatives to expand South Africa’s MPA network, and better represent the underlying features comprising the EBSA to improve precision in the delineation, including: the canyons, rocky ridge, fragile and sensitive habitat-forming species, other key species, and key (threatened) habitats. The new boundary also includes more of the existing coastal MPAs in the region.

 

Feature conditions and future outlook of the proposed area

The South African National Biodiversity Assessment 2011 (Sink et al., 2012) indicated declining conditions overall in this area (based on pressure data and an ecosystem-pressure matrix) with conditions ranging from fair to poor across this broad area. Key pressures include commercial demersal trawl and longline fisheries, a midwater trawl fishery, linefishing, trap fisheries for rock lobster, shark fisheries and mining activities. Red tides have also become more common in recent years, some of which have been toxic (Pitcher et al., 2014). However, a large portion of Algoa Bay is currently proposed as a marine protected area, which will serve as a marine extension to the existing terrestrial Greater Addo Elephant National Park. There are also several small coastal MPAs included in the new boundary. Research is ongoing in this area.

 

References

BirdLife International, 2009. Designing networks of marine protected areas: exploring the linkages between Important Bird Areas and ecologically or biologically significant marine areas. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/mar/ewbcsima-01/other/ewbcsima-01-birdlife-02-en.pdf

BirdLife International. 2010. Marine Important Bird Areas toolkit: standardised techniques for identifying priority sites for the conservation of seabirds at-sea. BirdLife International, Cambridge UK. Version 1.1: May 2010. www.birdlife.org/eu/pdfs/Marine_IBA_Toolkit_2010.pdf

Bouveroux, T.N., Caputo, M., Froneman, P.W., Plön, S. 2018. Largest reported groups for the Indo‐Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) found in Algoa Bay, South Africa: Trends and potential drivers. Marine Mammal Science, in press. https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12471

Campbell, E.E. (1996). The global distribution of surf diatom accumulations. Revista Chilena Historia Natural, 69: 495-501.

Campbell, E.E., Bate, G.C. 1988. The estimation of annual primary production in a high energy surf-zone. Botanica Marina, 31: 337-343.

Crawford, R. J. M., Dundee, B. L., Dyer, B. M., Klages, N. T., Meÿer, M. A., Upfold, L. 2007. Trends in numbers of Cape gannets (Morus capensis), 1956/57–2005/06, with a consideration of the influence of food and other factors – ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 169–177.

Downey-Breedt, N.J., Roberts, M.J., Sauer, W.H.H., Chang, N. 2016. Modelling transport of inshore and deep-spawned chokka squid (Loligo reynaudi) paralarvae off South Africa: the potential contribution of deep spawning to recruitment. Fisheries Oceanography, 25: 28–43.

Goschen, W.S., Bornman, T.G., Deyzel, S.H.P., Schumann, E.H. 2015. Coastal upwelling on the far eastern Agulhas Bank associated with large meanders in the Agulhas Current. Continental Shelf Research, 101: 34–46.

Harris, L.R., Nel, R., Oosthuizen, H., Meyer, M., Kotze, D., Anders, D., McCue, S., Bachoo, S. 2018. Managing conflicts between economic activities and threatened migratory marine species towards creating a multi-objective blue economy. Conservation Biology, 32: 411-423.

Hutchings, L., Beckley, L.E., Griffiths, M.H., Roberts, M.J., Sundby, S., van der Lingen, C. 2002. Spawning on the edge: spawning grounds and nursery areas around the southern African coastline. Marine and Freshwater Research, 53: 307-318.

Johnson, D.E., Barrio Froján, C., Turner, P.J., Weaver, P., Gunn, V., Dunn, D.C., Halpin, P., Bax, N.J., Dunstan, P.K., 2018. Reviewing the EBSA process: Improving on success. Marine Policy 88, 75-85.

Koper, R.P., Karczmarski, L., Du Preez, D., Plön, S. 2016. Sixteen years later: Occurrence, group size, and habitat use of humpback dolphins (Sousa plumbea) in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Marine Mammal Science, 32: 490–507.

Lagabrielle, E. 2009. Preliminary report: National Pelagic Bioregionalisation of South Africa. Cape Town: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Lipiński, M.R., van der Vyver, J.S.F., Shaw, P., Sauer, W.H.H. 2016. Life cycle of chokka-squid Loligo reynaudii in South African waters, African Journal of Marine Science, 38:4, 589-593.

Lutjeharms, J.R.E., Cooper, J., Roberts, M. 2000. Upwelling at the inshore edge of the Agulhas Current. Continental Shelf Research, 20: 737 – 761.

Matobole, R., van Zyl, L., Parker‐Nance, S., Davies‐Coleman, M., Trindade, M. 2017. Antibacterial Activities of Bacteria Isolated from the Marine Sponges Isodictya compressa and Higginsia bidentifera Collected from Algoa Bay, South Africa. Marine Drugs, 15: 47.

Melly, B.L., McGregor, G., Hofmeyr, G.J.G., and Plön, S. in press. Spatio-temporal distribution and habitat preferences of cetaceans in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025315417000340

Mhlongo, N., Yemane, D., Hendricks, M. 2015. Have the spawning habitat preferences of anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardinops sagax) in the southern Benguela changed in recent years? Fisheries Oceanography 24: 1–14.

Ntozonke, N., Okaiyeto, K., Okoli, A., Olaniran, A., Nwodo, U., Okoh, A. 2017. A Marine Bacterium, Bacillus sp. Isolated from the Sediment Samples of Algoa Bay in South Africa Produces a Polysaccharide-Bioflocculant. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14: 1149.

Pattrick, P., Strydom, N.A., Harris, L., Goschen, W.S. 2016. Predicting spawning locations and modelling the spatial extent of post hatch areas for fishes in a shallow coastal habitat in South Africa. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 560: 223-235.

Pichegru, L., Grémillet, D., Crawford, R.J.M., Ryan, P.G. 2010. Marine no-take zone rapidly benefits endangered penguin. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0913

Pitcher, G.C., Cembella, A.D., Krock, B., Macey, B.M., Mansfield, L., Probyn, T.A. 2014. Identification of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries (Bacillariophyceae) as a source of the toxin domoic acid in Algoa Bay, South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science, 36: 523-528.

Rishworth, G.M., Strydom, N.A., Potts, W. 2014. Fish utilization of surf-zones. Are they changing? A case study of the Sheltered, warm-temperate King’s Beach. African Zoology, 49: 5-21.

Roberson, L.A., Lagabrielle, E., Lombard, A.T., Sink, K., Livingstone, T., Grantham, H., Harris, J.M. 2017. Pelagic bioregionalisation using open-access data for better planning of marine protected area networks. Ocean & Coastal Management, 148: 214-230.

Santos, J., Rouillard, D., Groeneveld, J.C. 2014. Advection-diffusion models of spiny lobster Palinurus gilchristi migrations for use in spatial fisheries management. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 498: 227–241.

Sink, K. 2016. Deep Secrets: the outer shelf and slope ecosystems of South Africa. Cruise Report: ALG 230 – ACEP_DSC.

Sink, K.J., Attwood, C.G., Lombard, A.T., Grantham, H., Leslie, R., Samaai, T., Kerwath, S., Majiedt, P., Fairweather, T., Hutchings, L., van der Lingen, C., Atkinson, L.J., Wilkinson, S., Holness, S., Wolf, T. 2011. Spatial planning to identify focus areas for offshore biodiversity protection in South Africa. Unpublished Report. Cape Town: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Sink, K., Holness, S., Harris, L., Majiedt, P., Atkinson, L., Robinson, T., Kirkman, S., Hutchings, L., Leslie, R., Lamberth, S., Kerwath, S., von der Heyden, S., Lombard, A., Attwood, C., Branch, G., Fairweather, T., Taljaard, S., Weerts, S., Cowley, P., Awad, A., Halpern, B., Grantham, H., Wolf, T. 2012. National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: Technical Report. Volume 4: Marine and Coastal Component. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Smale, M.J., Dicken, M.L., Booth, A.J. 2015. Seasonality, behaviour and philopatry of spotted ragged‑tooth sharks Carcharias taurus in Eastern Cape nursery areas, South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science, 37: 219-231.

Vorwerk, P.D., Froneman, P.W., Paterson, A.W. 2007. Recovery of the critically endangered river pipefish, Syngnathus watermeyeri, in the Kariega Estuary, Eastern Cape province. South African Journal of Science, 103: 199-201.

Waterworth, S., Jiwaji, M., Kalinski, J.-C., Parker-Nance, S., Dorrington, R. 2017. A Place to Call Home: An Analysis of the Bacterial Communities in Two Tethya rubra Samaai and Gibbons 2005 Populations in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Marine Drugs, 15: 95.

Weidberg, N., Porri, F., Von der Meden, C.E.O., Jackson, J.M., Goschen, W., McQuaid, C.D. 2015. Mechanisms of nearshore retention and offshore export of mussel larvae over the Agulhas Bank. Journal of Marine Systems, 144: 70–80.

 

Other relevant website address or attached documents

Summary of habitat types and threat status for the Algoa to Amathole EBSA. Data from Sink et al. (2012).

Threat Status

Ecosystem Type

Area km2

Area (%)

Critically Endangered

Agulhas Canyon

841.2

4%

 

Agulhas Inshore Reef

12.8

0%

 

Agulhas Mixed Sediment Outer Shelf

368.9

2%

 

Agulhas Muddy Inner Shelf

125.7

1%

 

Agulhas Sheltered Rocky Coast

10.3

0%

Critically Endangered Total

 

1,358.7

6%

Endangered

Agulhas Hard Inner Shelf

283.2

1%

 

Agulhas Inshore Gravel

16.2

0%

Endangered Total

 

299.4

1%

Vulnerable

Agulhas Dissipative Sandy Coast

3.5

0%

 

Agulhas Exposed Rocky Coast

20.7

0%

 

Agulhas Gravel Outer Shelf

915.1

4%

 

Agulhas Hard Outer Shelf

1,361.3

6%

 

Agulhas Hard Shelf Edge

41.6

0%

 

Agulhas Inner Shelf Reef

9.9

0%

 

Agulhas Inshore Hard Grounds

25.7

0%

 

Agulhas Island

532.9

2%

 

Agulhas Mixed Shore

77.8

0%

 

Agulhas Muddy Outer Shelf

343.7

2%

 

Agulhas Sandy Inner Shelf

5,343.3

24%

 

Agulhas Sandy Inshore

596.1

3%

 

Agulhas Sandy Shelf Edge

1,043.9

5%

 

Agulhas Very Exposed Rocky Coast

2.6

0%

Vulnerable Total

 

10,318.2

47%

Least Threatened

Agulhas Boulder Shore

7.1

0%

 

Agulhas Dissipative-Intermediate Sandy Coast

93.6

0%

 

Agulhas Estuarine Shore

8.8

0%

 

Agulhas Gravel Inner Shelf

516.1

2%

 

Agulhas Gravel Shelf Edge

1,335.3

6%

 

Agulhas Intermediate Sandy Coast

4.8

0%

 

Agulhas Mixed Sediment Inner Shelf

204.7

1%

 

Agulhas Outer Shelf Reef

1.2

0%

 

Agulhas Reflective Sandy Coast

0.0

0%

 

Agulhas Sandy Outer Shelf

4,345.6

20%

 

Agulhas Shelf Edge Reef

4.0

0%

 

Southwest Indian Lower Bathyal

430.9

2%

 

Southwest Indian Upper Bathyal

3,175.9

14%

Least Threatened Total

 

10,128.0

46%

Grand Total

 

22,104.3

100%

 

Status of submission

The Offshore of Port Elizabeth EBSA was recognized as meeting EBSA criteria by the Conference of the Parties. The revised Algoa to Amathole EBSA name, description, and boundaries still need to be submitted to COP for approval.

 

COP Decision

dec-COP-12-DEC-22

 

Assessment of the area against CBD EBSA criteria

C1: Uniqueness or rarity High

Justification

Rare habitat types in this region include outer shelf mixed sediments and Agulhas canyon (Sink et al., 2012). This site includes a large canyon that intersects with the shelf (Sink et al., 2011). It also contains the recently discovered, unique rocky ridge feature; presence of a Critically Endangered localised endemic estuarine pipefish; and sites where coelocanths are present. The EBSA also contains relatively rare surf diatom accumulations (Campbell 1996, Campbell & Bate 1988).

 

C2: Special importance for life-history stages of species High

Justification

This area includes foraging areas for African penguins and Cape gannets (Sink et al., 2011). BirdLife International data also indicate importance for damara terns, kelp gulls and roseate terns. Species that have shown spawning activity in this area include (among others) kingklip, squid, sparids, sardine, anchovy, kob and hake (Hutchings et al., 2002, Sink et al., 2011; Mhlongo et al., 2015, Downey-Breedt et al., 2016; Lipiński et al., 2016; Pattrick et al., 2016). This is considered an area of crucial importance for the eggs and larvae spawned upstream to enter the Agulhas Bank nursery area (Hutchings et al., 2002). Offshore of Port Elizabeth is also particularly important for mussel larvae (Weidberg et al., 2015) and spiny lobsters (Santos et al., 2014).

 

C3: Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats High

Justification

This area includes areas important for the survival of several IUCN Red-listed species, including the African penguin Spheniscus demersus (Endangered on the IUCN Red List) and the Cape Gannet Morus capensis (Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List). This area is also used by green, loggerhead, and leatherback turtles (respectively listed as Endangered, Near Threatened and Critically Endangered on the IUCN global redlist for the South West Indian Ocean region; Petersen et al., 2009, Harris et al., 2018). Threatened habitat types include Agulhas inshore reef, Agulhas mixed sediment outer shelf, Agulhas muddy inner shelf, Agulhas canyon (all reported as Critically Endangered), Agulhas hard inner shelf (Endangered) and Agulhas sandy inner shelf, Agulhas hard outer shelf, Agulhas hard shelf edge, Agulhas sandy shelf edge, Agulhas gravel outer shelf (Vulnerable; Sink et al., 2012).

 

C4: Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery Medium

Justification

This area includes submarine canyons, steep shelf edge, deep reefs and outer shelf and shelf edge gravels. These habitats may support fragile habitat-forming species. Cold-water corals (Goniocorella dumosa, Solenosmilia variabilis) have been recorded in the area (Sink et al., 2011) and are in the Iziko South African museum invertebrate collection.

 

C5: Biological productivity High

Justification

Productivity offshore of Port Elizabeth is medium to high, and very variable. Chlorophyll-a concentrations are also highly variable, associated with frequent SST and chlorophyll fronts on the steep outer shelf (Lagabrielle 2009, Sink et al., 2011, Roberson et al., 2017). Coastal upwelling may be driven, or at least enhanced, by the formation of Natal pulses (Goschen et al., 2015).

 

C6: Biological diversity High

Justification

Four pelagic habitat types and 16 benthic habitat types lead to high habitat heterogeneity in this area: Agulhas island, Agulhas mixed sediment inner and outer shelf, Agulhas sandy inner shelf, Agulhas hard inner and outer shelf, Agulhas sandy outer shelf, Agulhas canyon, Agulhas gravel outer shelf, Agulhas gravel shelf edge, Agulhas muddy inner and outer shelf, Southwest Indian upper bathyal and lower bathyal (Sink et al., 2012). The associated communities supported by these habitats is thus also diverse.

 

C7: Naturalness Medium

Justification

Although some areas are assessed as in poor condition (based on pressure data, see South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment 2011, Sink et al., 2012), there are many examples of habitat types in good condition and include examples of features that may support fragile and vulnerable habitat forming species (Sink et al., 2012).

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