Corals under threat

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2016 07:28 PM | Updated as of Mar 16 2016 09:20 AM

The Philippines boasts of its rich natural resources. As an archipelago, the country is particularly gifted in marine biodiversity.

Verde Island Passage (VIP) – occupying more than 1.14 million hectares surrounding the provinces of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, and Romblon – is dubbed as the world’s “center of the center of marine shorefish biodiversity.”

The VIP area hosts different species of fish and corals, but this marine ecosystem is currently facing the threat of climate change.

“The increase in ocean temperature directly affects the corals. What happens then is called climate-related stresses, such as coral bleaching,” said Albert Magalang, chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) Climate Change Division.

Magalang explained that corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae, which gives color to corals and is their primary source of food.

When this relationship is stressed due to temperature rise or pollution, the photosynthetic apparatus of the algae is affected, resulting in the production of a toxic substance.

Because of this, corals expel the algae, therefore losing food, turning white and becoming more susceptible to disease.

“When the symbiotic, give-and-take relationship is lost, both the corals and the algae will die,” Magalang said.

He noted that a lack of corals, which serve as habitat for fish, has economic implications, especially for fishermen.

“Our fishermen will have to sail to a farther area, which would mean the need for more fuel and, consequently, more expenses,” he said.

Magalang added that corals are also the natural safeguards of the shoreline from strong currents and waves.

“Without corals, we avoid coastal erosion by erecting concrete barriers, like the breakwater wall in Manila. It serves as an artificial version of coral reef,” he said.