DENNIS D. ESTOPACE
THE good news is that scientific findings point to the Philippines as the world’s hub of marine biodiversity valued at $67.4 billion.
The bad news: the destruction of this source of pride is likened to the scale of the devastation of the Amazon rain forest, biological science professor Kent Carpenter said.
“A crisis [of that proportion] exists in the Philippines,” Carpenter of the Norfolk, Virginia-based Old Dominion University said during the presentation of findings by several field researches that debunked East Indonesia as having the most number of diverse species.
These studies also vindicated Carpenter for having cited the Philippines in his 2004 research that showed the country having the highest concentration of marine species among the island-nations in the Coral Triangle.
“The Coral Triangle is well recognized as the global apogee of marine biodiversity, with species richness incrementally decreasing from this region eastward across the Pacific Ocean and westward across the Indian Ocean,” read an abstract of a paper in the Journal of Marine Biology.
This center, according to the paper co-authored by Jonnell Sanciangco of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, “encompasses much of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and is also variously referred to as the East Indies Triangle, the Indonesian and Philippine region, the Indo-Malay-Philippine archipelago, among other names.
Further studies, even by reef fish migration expert Gerry Allen in 2007, confirmed rather than debunked the Philippines’ place as the fulcrum of marine civilization, according to Carpenter.
He also cited a study that Sanciangco finished just last week to support such findings.
Sanciangco’s research of shore fishes showed that majority of these are in Mindanao up to Luzon, along with some 10,446 invertebrates like coconut crabs, sea stars and prawns.
The studies Carpenter cited proves their hypotheses that the Philippines is an area of refuge for these species and that most of marine life as we know it have genetic sources to these species in the country.
“Species in the Philippines are evolving as we speak.”
Carpenter said the country is also blessed with having the most concentrated tropical coastline on Earth, thus, giving it the “latitudinal diversity.”
He pointed to a species of sardine fish that was previously known coming only from Taiwan but was recently discovered as also abundant in the Philippines.
Carpenter said that these findings only prompted additional hypotheses “so I plan to be here many more years.”
He emphasized that this unique natural heritage of the Philippines, however, also “underscores the urgent need for conservation.”
“The bad news, we’ve seen a little bit of that lately: blast fishing, muro ami, cyanide fishing, pollution, aquarium trade and mining.”
He noted that there are “evidences that overfishing decreases the marine biodiversity.”
“The fewest species are typically found in markets. Hence, overconsumption is also a concern.”
Carpenter said the survival of the world’s marine biodiversity hangs in the balance.
“And Filipinos have the option to tilt that balance in favor of its wealthy marine heritage.”