Poor condition of reefs in the West Philippine Sea reveals a need for regional efforts for better management and conservation

| Written by UP Marine Science Institute

Upper mesophotic coral ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea have low abundance and diversity of corals and fish. Photo credit: Edwin Dumalagan

 

A recent paper by University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute’s Timothy Quimpo and colleagues, published in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (JMBA), revealed that coral reefs in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) have low abundance and diversity of corals and fish. Even the deeper areas of the reefs, the upper mesophotic coral ecosystems that are presumed to be buffered from disturbances, showed similar benthic and coral assemblage composition as the shallow water reefs, suggesting that both depths are vulnerable to disturbances.

 

UP Marine Science Institute researchers and Philippine Navy divers work together to conduct the surveys in the West Philippine Sea. Photo credit: Edwin Dumalagan

 

The West Philippine Sea (WPS) is a biodiversity hotspot and known source of fish and corals for reefs in surrounding countries. With the declining condition of WPS reefs, the abundance and diversity of fish and corals on other reefs could also be affected. This calls for regional efforts for better management and conservation of the area.

 

Timothy Quimpo and a Philippine Navy technical diver conducting a mesophotic reef survey. Photo credit: Edwin Dumalagan

 

The research team, composed of geologists, oceanographers, and coral reef ecologists, was formed under the Geo-Physical Coral Mapping project supported by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development. The team, headed by Dr. Fernando Siringan, Dr. Cesar Villanoy, and Dr. Patrick Cabaitan, aims to study upper mesophotic coral ecosystems throughout the Philippines.

The expeditions to the WPS were funded and supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Ongoing efforts of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute and partners include understanding the diversity of other reef biota, including marine plants, fisheries, ocean productivity, and oceanographic processes in the WPS.

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