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Threats to PHL rich marine biodiversity

THE Philippines is among the six countries in the Coral Triangle—the home of the richest marine biodiversity in the world. Among these countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and the Philippines), the Philippines is at the apex, which makes it the “center of the center of marine biodiversity” in the world.

Among the 10,000 species studied by the Global Marine Species Assessment, a third are found in the country.

Dr. Kent Carpenter, professor of Biological Sciences in Old Dominion University, said on Wednesday at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute that there are four hypotheses for the analysis of why the Philippines is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, namely, the area-accumulation hypothesis, area-overlap hypothesis, the center of origin and the area of refuge.

Carpenter said in his lecture, titled “Philippine Habitat Richness as an Explanation for its Global Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity,” that the unique geology of the Coral Triangle explains the area-accumulation hypothesis.

The number of isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean are key source of species which mainly works in isolation and, because of the strong equatorial current, the species are washed in the Coral Triangle, thus, making their number increase.

In the area-overlap analysis, Indian and Pacific Ocean biota are mixed, thus, creating or exchanging species in the area.

The center of origin hypothesis explains that speciation occurs very rapidly in the Coral Triangle. The study works to find if there are patterns of population genetics throughout the years.

Carpenter, also the manager of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global Marine Species Assessment, said that if one has more area of habitat, one can support more marine species and this is where the most important hypothesis comes in.

The Philippines is the area of refuge for many species in the world. Shallow water habitat and Continental Shelf Habitat is in the Coral Triangle, but the most significant finding was the coastline length of the Philippines.

The Philippines has the highest concentration on any tropical country in the world and has almost the same concentration of coastline length of the United States.

The mathematical model made by Carpenter in his research shows that the concentration of species is related to the coastline length. It makes a good representation of why Philippine habitat for marine species is complex.

He said that warmer waters attract a lot of species. Another significant finding is that the sea-surface temperature of the Philippines has been a factor for evolution, extinction and specification of marine species.


Threats to marine biodiversity

AS a US Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines in the 1970s, Carpenter started his research project with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. He concentrated on the relationship of coral habitat to the fisheries in coral reefs in Cebu and Bohol.

He told the BusinessMirror that he made a new study in 2011 in Cebu and Bohol and noted the extremely dramatic decline in species compared to his first research data in 1975. In some places like Olango Island, the number decreased to 80 percent.

He also said that there has been a constant decline in species in the Philippines. He said the aquarium-fish industry is one reason for the extinction of fishes in the country.

Urbanization, habitat destruction like dynamite fishing and overfishing have been causes of the decline of the species.

“There are many ways in expanding industries. There are smart ways and non-smart ways. Unfortunately, the Philippines has much more to lose than anybody else and the Philippines has lost a lot,” he said.


Alternative ways

THE Department of Agriculture and the United States Agency for International Development have funded a project called the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (Ecofish) headed by Geronimo T. Silvestre.

The Ecofish aims to address the problems in marine ecosystem degradation, fish stock depletion and poverty in small-scale fisheries sector in the Philippines. They have eight sites in the country from Lingayen Gulf to Tawi-Tawi.

In an interview with Silvestre, he said Ecofish has also been helping fishermen on proper fishing methods through seminars and workshops. Also, they give them alternative means of livelihood.

He said good governance from the top down to the municipalities should be observed. He added that the national system is strong because of the existence of laws but the problem is the implementation.

He cited concerns on funding from the national level, which takes time to reach the local level, and at small amounts.

Silvestre said the fishermen should have a better understanding and management of fish capture and harvest, give limits and implement these limits.

Also, he encourages them to go into aquaculture like planting seeweeds, plankton-eaters like bangus and limit aquaculture to high-value species.

In Photo: Dr. Kent Carpenter, professor of Biological Sciences in Old Dominion University in Virginia and manager of IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment, speaks at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute on “Philippine Habitat Richness as an Explanation for its Global Epicenter of Marine Biodiversity.” (Stephanie Tumampos)









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