Archive for the ‘Ecosystems’ Category

From the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE):

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Dr. Kent Carpenter, a well-known marine biologist and fish taxonomist called the coral reefs of the Verde Island Passage as the Amazon of the Sea. The Philippines he said (VIP in particular), was the centre of the centre of marine biodiversity.

The Philippines, with Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands, form the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle was said to be the centre of marine biodiversity as it holds more than 30% of the world’s coral reefs. Over 600 coral species and 3,000 reef fish species are found in the Coral Triangle. Whereas, the Philippines and Indonesia has been dubbed as the top two countries with reefs with the highest biodiversity.

Coral reefs play important ecological and economical roles. It serves as buffer zone that protects coastlines from wave action and erosion. It is one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems. It plays a crucial role on fishery production as it also serves as a nursery, feeding ground and important habitat to various species of reef fishes and other invertebrates. They provide various livelihood opportunities from fisheries to tourism.

Coral reefs are also one of the most sensitive ecosystems. They are limited by depth and thrive in well lit, shallow waters of the tropical oceans. They do not thrive in areas with high sediment inputs, because they are prone to smothering. They are sensitive to temperature, thus they are bound in equatorial waters by the 20 °C isotherm. The optimal reef development occurs in waters where in the mean annual temperature ranges from 23 to 25 °C. They are intolerant to significant changes in salinity that is why they are absent in areas such as river mouths due to the high freshwater influx.

The Coral Triangle is one of the top priorities of research and conservation actions to date. This is due to the Southeast Asian nations that continue to face development and exploitation pressures, despite the awareness of coral reefs’ ecological and economic importance. To date, common threats are due to human activities that are hardly mitigated. It may not be as rampant as it used to be decades ago, but coral reefs are still threatened by illegal fishing methods, pollution, land-based activities and coral and reef fish harvesting for aquarium fishery. Adding more stress is the impending threats of climate change.

Acropora monostand in Mauban, Quezon

Bleaching used to be a major threat as it wiped out large areas of reefs during the mass bleaching event in 1997 to 1998. Bleaching occurs due to the increase in sea surface temperatures. Another cause of bleaching that is being considered is increased irradiance or light exposure. Increases in both temperature and irradiance during hot periods disrupt the photosynthetic symbionts of the corals – the zooxanthellae, by inhibiting photosynthesis and other stress processes.

Scientists recently have seen that other climate change effects apart from irradiance and increased sea surface temperatures that have deleterious effects on coral reefs are increasing strength and frequency of storms, and ocean acidification. Storms and typhoons cause physical damage to reefs. Where as ocean acidification, or decrease in seawater pH, inhibits coral calcification and thus damages the corals’ skeletal structure and resilience.

Damaging coral communities will result to a shift to algal dominance. Reef fishes and other invertebrates will lose their habitat and shelter. Modelling studies have shown that in worst case scenarios, local extinctions of sensitive, rare and highly specialised species will occur. Eventually this will become global in scale. Other fishes and invertebrates will have reduced population sizes which will lead to reduced reproduction and recruitment and longer recovery times. Ultimately, the ecosystems will become less ecologically complex, which will result to reduction of biodiversity. Reduction on biodiversity, will then lead to the loss of ecosystem services, which will lessen livelihood opportunities and sources.

As Filipinos, our responsibility for our natural resources should not just end in awe and being proud that our country is rich in biodiversity and natural resources. We need to get more involved as time is running out. It is not yet too late to do something. We should not depend on foreign organisations, international and local scientists and environmental advocates to do all the studying and lobbying. We as a society should think that we still want younger generations to continue to be proud that our country’s coral reefs are considered an equal to the Amazon Forest.


Note: If you have any queries, please include your email address in your comments so that I would be able to write to you personally. And please write in English or Filipino. I could read Spanish, Portugese, and a bit of French, but I prefer English. Thanks! – V


Carpenter, K. et al. 2008. One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science. 321: 560-563.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O. 1999. Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the

world’s coral reefs. Mar. Freshwater Res. 50: 839-866.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O., P.J. Mumby, A.J. Hooten, R.S. Steneck, P. Greenfield, E. Gomez,

C.D. Harvell, P.F. Sale, A.J. Edwards, K. Caldeira, N. Knowlton, C.N, Eakin, R.

Iglesias-Prieto, N. Muthiga, R.H. Bradbury, A. Dubi, M.E. Hatziolos.  2007. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science. 318: 1737-1742

IPCC, 2001: Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 881pp.

Wilkinson, C.R. 2000. Status of coral reefs of the world. Australian Institute of Marine Science. Cape Ferguson, Queensland. 376 p.

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Last year, we at Dumaguete and its surrounding Municipalities heard about plans to conduct oil explorations in Tañon Strait. For those who have not heard about this important piece of Philippine treasure, this area follows dolphin and whale migration routes. Bais City’s famous dophin and whale watching tours depend on this relatively small area between Cebu and Negros. Talk of this exploration died down last year, but have now resurrected, thanks to the vigilance of some marine biologists and concerned citizens. I am thus attaching an on-line petition against oil drilling in the Tañon Strait. I hope this initiative helps policy-makers overcome thier short-sightedness and start to think about longer-term benefits.

Bow Riders

Dear Friends,

Please take time to read and sign this online petition against drilling for oil in the Tanon Strait. We need all the help we can get.
I have also attached a brochure so that those who are not familiar with the issue can learn what they should know.

Kindly write your name address at the end of the petition and for those who are signing on the 10th, 20th, 30th, etc. slot, please CC me (portianillos@yahoo.com) so that we can keep track of the people who have signed online.

We are hoping to get at least 5,000 signatures so that we can present this to the people in government who did not consult the people about their intention to ruin the future of fishing communities in Negros
and Cebu.

Thank you very much for your support.

Portia Joy Kleiven

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

At What Cost?

Let it be known to all and sundry that we are not against development and progress! But development and progress must be obtained in a responsible manner and must ensure the sustainability of resources and the future of our nation’s children. Consequently then, we stand opposed to destructive forms of development and progress that regards the short-term influx of investment and employment. We stand opposed to a development and progress that disregards and neglects the long-term negative impact of such development on both the environment and humanity.
Upon such premise do we come and raise issues and concerns over the on-going development efforts at the Tañon Strait and Bohol-Cebu Strait.

1. Under Pres. Decree 1234, a law which has not been rescinded nor repealed, Tañon Strait is and remains to be a protected marine area, how on earth is it now up for development inconsistent to its protected status?

According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR-R7), Tañon Strait ranks in the Top 10 major fishing grounds in the country. It produces big and quality fish stocks, including blue marlin and tuna. It is also well-known for its schools of dolphins, which has put Negros in the map for eco-tourism.
Tañon Strait is home to a marine biodiversity (11 species of cetaceans alone) that would be critically disturbed and destroyed by development aggression.

Tañon Strait is a vital food source for millions of peoples living in 45 towns and cities covering three provinces: Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Cebu.
Tañon Strait is home to 60 marine sanctuaries and the Cebu-Bohol Strait has 80 marine sanctuaries. The local government units have consistently invested in coastal resource management Oil exploration will surely affect in the negative environmental gains and progress made.

2. We call to task national government agencies, like the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), that are there supposedly to protect our natural resources from entry of destructive development aggression but instead have been very liberal in giving Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECCs) and Certificates of Non-Coverage.

It is only when there is public outrage and high media visibility that these agencies “review” the clearances they have given.
Like the case of the Korean construction atop the crater of Taal Volcano, an ECC has been given, but subjected to thorough review only when it was exposed. It is a fact that national agencies at times totally disregard and ignore Local Government Units (LGUs). It was admitted by no less than the Department of Energy Secretary that in the very beginning of the project, that it has done oil exploration in Tañon Strait without informing the LGUs.

3. Development for Whom and for What?

  • Former Secretary of the DENR Heherson Alvarez has aptly put it: “What does it gain a nation to be short-sighted and merely think of money when an irreparable damage to the environment will cost human lives, health, and livelihood capacity of our farmers and fisherfolk endangering the food security of our people?”
  • If we are to use the figures used in a similar exploration between Cebu and Bohol, for every $100 gross proceeds of the project, only $3.46 will go to the local government (this miniscule amount to be further divided between the province and the municipalities).
  • Mining companies can avail of economic privileges like 100% repatriation of capital and profits; 6 years tax exemption on profits; 10 years tax exemption for export; tax exemption for imports; employment of foreigners; right to transfer or sales of mining agreement; and confidentiality rights. They are also given other rights like timber, water, easement and ingress and egress rights. In the past, the multi-national mining companies paid local taxes where their main headquarters are located, (usually in Makati) and not where the extractables are taken. Who will benefit from these explorations? The people of the affected places Negros, Cebu and Bohol? Who will be holding on to the empty bag when all the oil has been drained? The multi-national corporation would have left to destroy another part of the planet while the people in Negros and Cebu and Bohol will live in an area forever scarred by exploration and extraction.

4. We call on government to exert more effort in more sustainable alternative to oil that will not only reduce our dependency on oil but can spur development in agriculture as well such as the bio-fuel and ethanol production, solar and wind power and other renewable energy sources.

5. We call on government to carry out the intent of the Philippine Constitution: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology in accord with rhythm and harmony of nature” (Article II Section 16).

“Which are more important for the people in the long run, biologically replenishing (and sustainable) marine and coastal resources or limited, exhaustible, non-replenishing oil resources, if any? As the Metro Post editorial put it: “Let us not rush to destroy our environment in our quest for black gold. For all we know, the cost for such a mistake could be much, much greater.”


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I have been away for almost a total of 8 months from home. And it seems that anywhere I go there are always comments about the weather – particularly how much it has changed. I have never experienced the hottest summer here in the Philippines. I heard and read that it reached 36° C to 38° C! But I have most definitely experienced heavy rains and low temperatures in Spain during spring. The intense heat and dry air in Italy and most especially the heat wave in Athens that reached 46° C in June! Ah yes, I believe the weather or better yet the climate is really changing.

The Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) stated that global climate change is caused by global warming. Global warming is defined as the increase in average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation. Warming is caused by the rapid rate of emissions of greenhouse gases or GHGs (e.g. carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons) from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, tropical deforestation, etc. Factors with the greatest direct effects on estuarine and marine ecosystems are sea-level rise, wind patterns and hydrodynamic shifts, storminess, temperature change and availability of water from precipitation and run-off (IPCC TAR 2001).

The Philippines, being an archipelagic country has been deemed to be one of the countries most prone to the effects of climate change. Storm surges and riverine flooding is aggravated by the increasing frequency and intensities of tropical cyclones and other types of environmental degradation. Low lying areas are severely affected and high economic losses result from the damages caused by typhoons. Sea-level rise will then exacerbate the already flooded areas (IPCC TAR 2001).

Figure 1. Flooded low-lying areas in the Philippines will be further aggravated by rising sea-levels. (From Rommel Maneja)


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