Scientists, students monitor effects of climate change on coral reefs of Verde Island Passage, Philippines

By Max Sudnovsky

About a year ago, in March 2012, a team from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) in partnership with researchers at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) initiated an effort to monitor long-term trends associated with climate and ocean change around coral reefs in the Philippines. More recently, in early February, CRED scientists and UP-MSI students returned to sites that were established the previous year as part of this monitoring effort.

Across 10 sites in the municipalities of Mabini and Tingloy in the Verde Island Passage, monitoring stations were established last March with the following suite of instruments deployed: subsurface temperature recorders (STRs) to monitor long-term trends in the water temperatures around coral reefs, calcification accretion units (CAUs) to assess and monitor long-term trends in rates of calcification and reef accretion, and autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) to assess and monitor long-term trends in reef cryptobiota. Surface and bottom water samples also were collected to monitor long-term trends in carbonate chemistry and, thus, ocean acidification.

This year, on Feb. 1–4, CRED scientists Adel Heenan and Max Sudnovsky—along with Rhia Gonzales, Aya Cariño, and Diovanie De Jesus, students from the UP-MSI—returned to the 10 monitoring stations in Verde Island Passage to collect surface and bottom water samples that will be analyzed for dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity. With permission from local government officials, the work was undertaken with the escort of the municipal Bantay Dagat. The Bantay Dagat, or guardians of the ocean, is an enforcement group of community volunteers concerned with fisheries-related activities and coastal patrol.

After a day of checking instruments and collecting water samples at monitoring stations in the Verde Island Passage, Philippines, (left to right) Joury of the Bantay Dagat, Max Sudnovsky of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), Aya Cariño and Diovanie De Jesus of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, and Adel Heenan of CRED stand outside of Planet Dive on Feb. 3. NOAA photo

After a day of checking instruments and collecting water samples at monitoring stations in the Verde Island Passage, Philippines, (left to right) Joury of the Bantay Dagat, Max Sudnovsky of the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), Aya Cariño and Diovanie De Jesus of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, and Adel Heenan of CRED stand outside of Planet Dive on Feb. 3. NOAA photo

CRED’s role in this ongoing work is to assist the Philippines government, academic institutions, and municipalities in establishment of a long-term monitoring effort to detect trends in water temperature and pH associated with climate change and ocean acidification around this nation’s coral reefs. Through this process, we hope to strengthen local institutional and organizational capacity to continue these observations over the long-term so that future managers will have the necessary scientific information to assess and inform adaptation options for coral reef management measures.

This work was funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission Asia as part of the U.S. Coral Triangle Initiative, with additional support from the Coral Triangle Support Partnership and USAID Philippines. We’d like to sincerely thank the staff and crew of Planet Dive Resort and UP-MSI and community members of Anilao, with special recognition extended to members of the Bantay Dagat for safeguarding the monitoring instruments throughout the year.

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