The Philippines as the epicenter of Marine Biodiversity
At Scotty's we believe the most powerful tool we have when it comes to conservation is diver education. To ensure we get this message across we have developed our own program to raise awareness of the importance in protecting our coastlines and reefs, and equally important the consequences of ignoring this responsibility we all share. below is a an excerpt from that course discussing the coral triangle.
The Philippines is located inside what is called the Coral Triangle. The coral triangle is a marine region that spans parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and East Timor with at least 500 species of reef-building corals.
76% (605) of the world’s coral species (798) are found in the Coral Triangle, the highest coral diversity in the world. The Coral Triangle has 15 regionally endemic coral species (species found nowhere else in the world), and shares 41 regional endemic species with Asia.
The Coral Triangle has more coral reef fish diversity than anywhere else in the world: 37% (2,228) of the world’s coral reef fish species (6,000), and 56% of the coral reef fishes in the Indo-Pacific region (4,050). 8% (235 species) of the coral reef fishes in the Coral Triangle are endemic or locally restricted species.
All around the world scientists have agreed that the Philippines, at the moment, is the most diverse or has most number of species of marine organisms in the world. A scientific study in 2005 by Dr. Kent Carpenter and Dr. Victor Springer dubs the Philippines, especially the central Philippine islands, as being the center of this triangle. This makes the Philippines a very important place for conservation and protection.
There are a lot of threats to the Philippine marine environment especially on the coral reefs.
Negative fishing practices – overfishing, cyanide fishing, dynamite fishing, muro-ami etc.
Coastal development – causing erosion and run-off
Pollution – nutrients, disease, and trash
Global warming and rising sea temperatures – zooxanthellae will leave and ocean acidification
As you may have noticed, all of these threats are in some way connected to human activities. According to the Conservation International, the Philippines’ population of 80 million people with livelihoods highly dependent on natural resources with severe rural poverty and a high population growth rate (2.2 percent) and density (273 people per km²) are the cause of this high human impact.
According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, apart from being the center of marine biodiversity, the coral triangle also has the highest number of threatened reef-building coral species. Of the world’s known 845 species of reef-building zooxanthellate corals, more than one-quarter of these (27%) have been listed in threatened categories, representing an elevated risk of extinction with the bulk being in the coral triangle. Over 20% of species are listed as Near Threatened, and are expected to join a threatened category in the near future. These reef-building corals are essential habitat for many species of fish and invertebrates making them the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the ocean. This is truly a wake-up call for everyone to start conservation in every way they can.
There are many ways to help the environment. As a diver, we can start by having good buoyancy skills so as we don’t break corals and harm other animals. But one of the biggest prints a diver can leave on a site is by picking up garbage whenever possible. On land we can start by reducing the pollution we create and more importantly by becoming aware. Education is the best tool we can have and give to help the environment.