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Central Philippines has highest marine biodiversity

October 24, 2006

Bassinette Noderama
The Guardian Iloilo
Oct. 24, 2006

LAST week, the project manager of the Species Identification Data Program of the United Nations led a forum on marine conservation here in Iloilo City.

Dr. Kent Edward Carpenter, co-author of the scientific paper titled “The Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity: The Philippine Islands,” was the guest speaker at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) Iloilo campus. More significantly, Carpenter discussed the implications of the M/T Solar I oil spill in Guimaras.

Carpenter’s study showed that central Philippines has the world’s highest marine biodiversity according to different categories of distribution type, habitat type, and major taxonomic group.

Our area is said to be part of the heart of the Coral Triangle. The triangle is formed when the Sulu-Sulawesi corridor at the border between the Philippines and Indonesia is connected to Papua New Guinea.

Scientists discovered that the Coral Triangle harbors 600 species of corals, 1,200 species of fin fish, 700 species of algae, 33 species of mangrove, five of seven known species of sea turtles, and at least 24 species of crustaceans.

The preliminary Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis indicated that out of the almost 3,000 combined ranges of generalized map of marine species in the Coral Triangle, the central Philippines has the highest marine diversity.

Our country has the highest concentration of marine species per unit area. Other studies may have identified Indonesia as the area with the highest coral reef diversity simply because the world’s biggest archipelago occupies a much bigger zone.

Threats to the Philippine marine resources compelled three groups— Conservation International-Philippines, First Gen Corp., and First Philippines Conservation Inc.—to forge a partnership to address the problems.

They came up with the Sulu Sulawesi Seascape Project, a venture seeks to build a strong foundation for a long-term conservation program to address threats to biological diversity on three countries—Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines

The visit of the esteemed marine biologist to Iloilo City was timely. The M/T Solar I oil spill off Guimaras has already damaged our marine resources. The threat of bigger damage is a Damocles sword that we have to watch out for as long as there is still bunker oil in the sunken tanker.

It may be noted that the seascape project spans three countries. Water molecules and marine organisms have no idea about territorial boundaries so they just go wherever particular conditions take them. Factors such as water current, wind direction, environmental temperature, and chemical composition determine the spread of organisms.

Water movement may be hampered by barriers such as land mass or environmental conditions. Contaminated seawater, such as that coming from the vicinity of Guimaras can affect life forms along its path.

There is always domino effect in any ecosystem, particularly in relation to the food chain where action and reaction are the pattern. Of course, we also consider that contaminants, such as bunker oil, may undergo natural dispersal and/or decomposition.

Environmental protection should be everyone’s concern. Preserving our marine biodiversity is important because marine resources play a big role in our life.

While these natural treasures may be lost because we take them for granted—sadly, we realize their real value of a thing when they’re already gone.

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