Biodiversity Rich & Data Poor
Laura T. David
Co-Implementors: Josefa Pante; Kristina Cordero; Eileen Penaflor; Cleto Nanola, Jr; Jerome Cabansag; Victor Ticzon; Hildie Nacorda; Rene Rollon; Wilfredo Licuanan; Maricor Soriano; Cherry Ringor; Fernando Siringan; Pros Naval
15th June 2022 | 12:00 p.m. (CET) / 6:00 p.m. (PHT)
The Philippine waters, like the rest of the Coral Triangle, are highly biodiverse. This naturally lends to observed resilience to disturbance. This also translates to seemingly boundless harvest for all the surrounding coastal communities. Unfortunately, the problem with these perceptions is that it has also led to people taking these resources for granted. Historically, very little attention or funds were allocated to assess and monitor these resources and consequently long-term continuous data is sparse. Now that there is increase stress on the system due to pressures such as population growth and climate change, we need to be able to better manage these shared resources. We need data so that our management interventions are evidence-based but there are not enough trained personnel to cover the spatial extent of coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves. To augment the manpower, we must engage the local communities in assessment and monitoring. This entails developing methodologies and tools appropriate for the use of local institutions and rolling this out. The Automated Rapid Reef Assessment (ARRAS) was developed to allow for diverless survey of benthic cover. Through a project called CoRVA (Coral Reef Visualization and Assessment), the ARRAS technology was rolled out along with capacity building on the use of other methodologies developed for benthic habitat and coastal assessment. During these rollouts, we surmised that the hardest for the participants to learn was the fish assessment since it entailed memorizing hundreds of scientific names and experience in recognizing these fishes while swimming underwater. Consequently, we also developed a tool called Fish-I which is a semi-automated system that can identify, count and estimate the biomass of fish within a typical Line Intercept Transect. Aside from the multiplier effect in terms of more warm bodies that can do coastal habitat assessments, these methods and tools also gives the local institutions a sense of data ownership and a means to evaluate the efficacy of their management interventions more readily.
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