Monday, April 5, 2010

Whale Shark Stranding in Maribulan, Alabel, Sarangani Province

A whale shark stranding was reported by the Provincial Governor’s Office in the shores ofSACI Wharf, Maribulan, Alabel, SaranganiProvince last March 5, 2010 at around 2:30 p.m. The staff of the Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC), together with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), went to respond to the stranding and confirm the identity of the organism.

The 4.75-m long, juvenile butanding, as what whale sharks are locally known, was unintentionally caught and dragged ashore in a 300-m net, which was laid perpendicular to the shore at a depth of approximately 6 feet. Close inspection of the animal revealed a number of scratches in some parts of its body, especially on the dorsal portion. It was also noted that there were at least three scars found in dorsal fin and a triangular cut was observed at tip of its tail. Since the butanding was still alive and can function normally, the team decided to tow it (with the help of some locals) to deeper water for release to the open sea. Moreover, it was also noted that there were at least three documented whale shark strandings/sightings in the area within the past four years. Sightings/stranding in the area may have been caused by its feeding behavior – they are often found in areas of where food is abundant. A previous study during a sighting revealed that the water in the area have high plankton content, especially that of krill (a shrimp-like crustacean), which is one of the preferred diet of a butanding. The ECPC team shall schedule yet a monitoring regime in order to pinpoint the main (and other) reasons for the stranding/sighting.

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) were among the largest animal in the planet and is considered as the largest fish in the world, growing up to 20 meters and weigh of up to 34, 000 kilograms. They are characterized by a massive and long body, with white or yellow round spots (which are now used for identification and monitoring), and their skin is considered as the thickest among all animals. Although a butanding has a wide and big mouth, it only feeds by filtering planktons through a fine mesh in their gill-rakers. These gentle giants pose no harm to human; however, whale sharks are now threatened and are classified by the World Conservation’s Union (IUCN) as ‘vulnerable to extinction’[1].


1 Tim Winton. ECOCEAN Brochure.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Philippines: A heavenly and hellish cradle of biodiversity?

A paradise of beauty and splendour, unique and unmatched, a haven of life’s variety, and a cradle of unique existence, the Philippines takes pride for its bounty: the rich diversity of life it has been nurturing since ancient times.

However, in the midst of the unparalleled beauty and richness of Philippine biodiversity, like any other country and/or locality, the loss of biodiversity is evident and is in great extent. This jewel – the Filipinos’ heritage of wealthy natural resource – is under threat, in deep crisis. Like the world’s economy (which is obviously largely based on US’ economy), the Philippines’ ‘natural stocks’ are dwindling down, down, down… And like the world’s economy, it badly needs our attention, our efforts, and our help.

Now why do I ramble about all these rather abstracted and near-shit craps I call biodiversity crisis? There’s just one simple logical reason behind all these: we are all connected.

Let me give you a clear view on our connectivity. Picture the bees: minute organisms equipped with wings for flying, buzzing here and there, hopping from one flower in the other, facilitating pollination – a very simple ecological process but are of great importance since it ensures the proliferation of much of the land vegetation. Now when these bees become extinct (i.e. not a single organism buzzes), the plants that are dependent on them will eventually become extinct having lost one of the foremost driver for their life and reproduction; subsequently, lifeforms dependent on plants will become extinct until all life on Earth will be virtually lost including us, humans.

As you can see, the magnitude of negative effects due to the loss of even the bees can be very great, drastic, and, well, ominous. Sadly, this scenario is not far from happening in the Philippine setting. Yes, we are most likely to experience this ‘plague’. Hence, we should really do something about it. NOW!

Philippine Biodiversity

The archipelagic nature of the Philippines, the long isolation of its 7, 100 plus islands, the complex geological history and the local and regional climate patterns have greatly contributed to the countries’ high level of biodiversity and endemism.

It is with this fact that the Philippines is considered as one of the 17 megadiversity countries. It has several centres of diversity and endemism such as Sibuyan Island, whose number of endemic species is unmatched by any other country in Europe. In fact, Philippine biological diversity was described by Dr. Heaney and Dr. Regalado as ‘Galapagos times ten’.

The Philippine flora and fauna is very exceptional, having up to 13, 000 and 1,130 described species, respectively; more than half of those floral and faunal species are endemic in the Philippines and is thus found nowhere else on earth.

Our marine water is the center of center of marine biodiversity. It houses 468 (and counting) of the 800 described corals species, more 2,000 and 40 species of mangroves, respectively, and 13 species of the 23 seagrass species found around the world.

Amidst all these, the Philippines’ environment and natural resources have been degrading in an alarming rate since the 20th century. Ninety seven (97%) of the original forest was already lost although many wildlife species (both flora and fauna) are still being discovered recently, mangrove and seagrass beds reduced to only 24% of their original cover. Meanwhile, only 5% of the coral reef community is in excellent condition.

The biodiversity crisis the country is experiencing now is brought about by many factors: by extractive industries (i.e. logging and mining), conversion of rainforests into agricultural lands and mangrove forests are converted into aquaculture ponds. Population growth and the need to pace up with economic development have further put pressure on our environment, where more often than not, human and the economy are being chosen over the protection and conservation of biological diversity and the environment in general.

The Philippines is one of the two countries (the other one is Madagascar) to be both a megadiversity country and a biodiversity hotspot. The rate of biodiversity loss in the country is so alarming that certain two reports have been made that the damage in Philippine biodiversity is irreparable, and it is also feared that local unidentified and endemic species are being lost undocumented.

Importance of biodiversity

Our environment, through biological diversity, has long been offering man with low-cost but effective goods and services that cannot be contested nor substituted by any machine we can invent. For centuries, it has been a constantly providing us food, wood and fiber, fuel, medicine, fresh water; have regulated our climate, floods, diseases, and purified our air and waters; and lastly, with its beauty, it has provided inspiration and pleasure since the time of our forefathers.

Thus, I believe I need not iterate the importance of concerted efforts for ecological sustainability, for environmental conservation and protection. I believe I need not tally anymore what we can do for the said cause; I just know we all have had more than enough of it. I trust every one’s better judgment, of a well-informed choice and action.

This is a CHALLENGE. I am challenging all the people on Earth. I am challenging YOU.

Friday, March 20, 2009

tHe tHiNkiNg uRcHiN suPpoRts Earth Hour 2009

On Saturday, March 28, 2009, at 8:30 in the evening (local time), everyone is encouraged to participate on the first international election between the Earth and global warming, through the Earth Hour.

Let's all grab this opportunity to take part in this international movement and cast our vote for the Earth by switching our lights off for an entire hour (that's only sixty minutes or three thousand six hundred seconds). Leaving your lights on means a vote for global warming. The goal for this year is to gather one (1) billion votes for the Earth, which will be presented to the world leaders in the upcoming Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The official goverment policies to take action agaisnt global warming and the subsequent climate change that will be determined from this meeting will replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Earth Hour was initiated last 2007 in Sydney, and was participated by 2.2 million homes and businesses. A year later, in 2008, it had grown up into a global sustainability movement with up to 50 million people switching their lights off.

This year, Earth Hour 2009 is being taken to a new level, where every individuals, encompassing all races, from different countries, are encouraged to VOTE EARTH. Every one is being called up to take a stand and control over the future of our planet.

Let's all vote because every vote counts.

Again, VOTE EARTH by simply switching your lights off for one hour on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 8:30 PM local time, taking part in the global movement -- the Earth Hour.

Make a single flick at that switch, that's just it!

Monday, March 16, 2009

tagged: current moment

weeeee! so here's my first post with respect to the tagging mania that seems to plague the blogosphere. reckon this is one way to build links. this one's from a friend, braggies.

So the basic premise is this: all answers should “at the current moment.”

1. Where is your cellphone --- in my pocket, right side.
2. Your hair --- black, brushed down on my forehead..
3. Your father --- probably on duty, i'm not used to know about his itinerary.. *smirks*
4. Your favorite thing --- ballpen.. just can't leave without it.
5. Your dream last night --- none, can't remember what my last dream was
6. Your favorite drink --- milk.. thick, creamy, milk!
7. Your dream goal --- to become an internationally renowned research scientist and to own a hacienda
8. The room you are in --- office, doin overtime. sharks, this is la perruque!
9. Your fear --- closed spaces, to die in vain, earth's eventual death (?)
10. Where do you want to be in 6 years --- in a hardcore research institution..
11. Muffins --- anyhting will do..
12. One of your wish list items --- to be able to attend graduate school at UP MSI or abroad (lols)
13. Where you grew up --- gensan. been here all my life..
14. The last thing you did --- turned off my pc.
15. What are you wearing --- shirt i bought during training at Silliman University Marine Lab
16. Your TV --- just a plain Sony CRT TV.
17. Your pet --- don't have one..
18. Your computer --- to wit.
19. Your life --- just the way i want it..
20. Your mood --- depends.
21. Missing someone --- hardly...
22. Your car --- i commute.
23. Favorite store --- nothing in particular, perhaps dunkin donuts. i just love to slack there..
24. Your summer --- will be diving for sure, or do things of that sort.. either here in Sarangani Bay, or hopefully at Lanao del Sur (pag natuloy ako sa raket ko dun.. bwahehehehe)
25. Your favorite color --- blue, black, white
26. When was the last time you laughed --- earlier today, when our lab analyst said she's been tired and stressed about her being beautiful after i praised her about her beautiful curly hair.
27. When was the last time you cried --- can hardly remember...but i'm a cry baby, that's for sure..
28. Last person who emailed you --- Ate Bhebz, a friend who's a graduate student at UP MSI, sent me a new research article.
29. Your favorite food --- spaghetti, carbonara, lasagna, pizza.. tomato and cheese based dishes.. i eat anything though.. *winks*
30. A place you would rather be right now --- atop a cliff, by the beach.. enjoying the moonlight, twinkling with the stars, feeling the breeze sweep through my body.. ahhhhh.. solitary bliss!

guess this ends here. i really don't know who to tag. i'm sorry enhenyero.. *laughs*

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

on blogging and environmental advocacy..

so my blog's pretty technical now.. dealing with all the things about my field, on environmental conservation and protection, focusing on the marine environment.

hell, yes, to a tolerable extent (hopefully), it's pretty boring.

i just can't help it. my personal thoughts are more often than not full of anxiety, of problems, of stressors, and of all the craps a self-confessed non-conformist, radical, and rebellious cynic can ever think of. i am helping myself in this aspect though. focusing on happy thoughts, making myself a blessing to every life i have touched, i am, and will be touching.

and so instead of writing about the rather appalling and vexatious thoughts i have, i promised myself to write about what I know about my field of work, and be an advocate of change, of sustainable development, of saving the last frontier -- the ocean.

so i am saying sorry for everyone who might want to learn more about me through my posts -- through what i write. i may fail you in this aspect, but surely, as you read through, you may be able to see glimpses of my true self (identity crisis on the loose? maybe, maybe not). i may be evasive on this part but will promise to write about my thoughts and views on life and living once in a while..

so for now, do bear with me. I'm in the mood of being self-righteous these days. so i might as well write about saving, protecting, and conserving our environment while i still have the fire..

so for every one of you who gets the chance to read
(let's play pretend here that you all are hell lot), do pass the learning and wisdom (that, i can't promise i can impart but will really try. will really, really try) forward and let's hold hands, brace ourselves, and be with me as i go along with this advocacy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

on Coral Taxonomy

Way back college days, I was more inclined and interested in learning about marine plants, specifically seagrass and marine macroalgae.. more with marine macroalgae, i believe. Then, I was so fascinated with seagrass and macroalgal biology and ecology -- their chemical defense mechanisms, significance to the marine environment, and commercial importance to human. I was so into marine plants that my undergraduate thesis was focused on the review of the chemical ecology of three seagrass species that are found here in Sarangani (eleven seagrass species are found to be present in the Bay), namely, Thalassodendron ciliatum, Syringodium isoetifolium, and Thalassia hemprichii.

It was when I started to work for the Center that my field of specialization was altered. To an extent that I could hardly believe. Here, I was intoduced to the rather complex and intricate world of corals, more specifically, coral taxonomy. In fact, it was along this field of specialization that I've found one of my dearest friend: Ate Bhebz, who's also a coral specialist. She was the one who informed me that the GEF Coral Taxonomy Project, which is based at UP Marine Science Institute's Bolinao Marine Lab (BML) have been conducting coral taxonomy training. It was last year, around October, i suppose. Sadly though, I wasn't included to the approved list of participants because along the screening process, it was learned that I've also applied for the Sea Cucumber Ranching Project Research Assistantship. Conflict of interest. It was a complete heartbreaker, i really cried hard. Really hard. But then again, I have to move on. Though I was left wounded, I gathered myself up and started to do my own research for a more precise identification of corals. I've actually done this months before the said training. But the denial for my attendance on the said training gave more fuel to drive. However, my identification of corals is limited only to genus level. Can't help it. I've only meager resources. Assuredly, I won't stop studying and learning.

Porites sp.

Foliaceous Pachyseris sp.

Fire coral, Millepora sp.

Turbinaria sp. with extended polyps.

Mycedium sp.

Pectinia sp.

Foliaceous Pectinia sp. (yellow) and tabulate Acropora sp.

Euphyllia sp. with polyps retracted and extended.

Submassive Acropora sp. (although I've heard it's re-classified into Isopora sp.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coral Reefs: We need a chance!

Coral reef at Kamanga, Maasim, Sarangani Province.

I really feel sorry for our coral reefs. Like any other coastal ecosystem, they are in the brink of irrepressible and inevitable peril.

A gorgonian.

For years, coral reefs have been providing unequivocal and tangible services towards the environment, and most especially to man (i.e. food security through fisheries production, tourism like diving, coastal defense from storms, reduction of soil erosion)[1].

A couple of fish taking time to be photographed.

However, for the past years, this resource is in foreboding danger, being bombarded with global problems (ocean acidification due to increase in carbon dioxide; coral bleaching and rise in sea-levelas caused by global warming; and low fisheries yield as caused by overfishing) and local threats (crown-of-thorns starfish infestation/outbreaks; algal blooms; increase in number and prevalence of diseases such as white-band disease; cyclone damage, etc.) [1].

Crown-of-thorns starfish (the one with thorny projections found over the coral) devouring a coral (Pectinia sp.?)

Until recently, their significance to man’s lives were overlooked, misled by the notion that its bounty will never be depleted, that this is an infinite resource.

Shampoo sachet in the midst of a foliaceous coral (Echinopora sp.).

Diapers: babies must have been living underwater. Mermaids perhaps?

Bits and pieces of cellophanes all over a sponge.

A coral reef is a finite and fragile resource. Like everything around us, it should be utilized sparingly, with an utmost sense of decency to leave something more from that of those that were left for us by our forefathers; such that the next generation will be able to have a better feel of the services that this ecosystem provides us.. for that, I know they will really appreciate us and perhaps, with a better perspective, they may be able to pass it on to the next generation to the next as our reefs gets better to best. The only thing they ask from us is:
Please, give us a chance.

Literature cited: [1] Mumby, P. J., and R. S. Steneck. 2008. Coral reef management and conservation in light of rapidly evolving ecological paradigms.