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THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES FORUM VOLUME 12 NUMBER 5 SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2011 BIODIVERSITY An In-depth Look at Marine Life By Porfirio M. Aliño and Antonette Juinio-Meñez Undiscovered values of a diverse life Situation – Status and Threats I t is only in this decade that there has been explicit recognition of the Philippines’ being the bosom of the world’s richest and most diverse area of marine life in the planet. Considering that two-thirds of the globe’s surface is water, thus, it is called the blue planet, it is no surprise that the Philippine archipelago depends on this diverse life lif as the lifeblood of its people. But the significance of a diverse marine life to our daily lives is yet to be fully appreciated by our people. Our lack of appreciation and the undervalued perspective of the very high diversity in its various forms have led to the crisis that is upon us now. Filipino scientists and foreign partners have shown the reduction of reef fish diversity by at least 20% in the Visayas region in just over the last three decades. This profound change is faster than the millennia of evolutionary time which has integrated our archipelago to the rich life of what it is today. We have experienced huge economic losses as a result of the undervalued perspective of our marine life which has led to the demise of our coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangrove areas and other associated coastal ecosystems. The conversion of mangroves to fishponds due to low lease agreements in the coasts and oceans has reduced its area to less than 30% of what it was in the 1900’s. Should a crisis be upon us before we decisively act now? Taking Action Community-based coastal management and engagements with local scientists give initial signs of hope. Our Visayan colleagues have seen the wisdom of allocating marine reserve areas for protection to allow spillover, replenishment and refugia. This was stimulated by seminal works of Dr. Angel Alcala and colleagues in CHALLENGES, p. 2

UP Forum September-October 2011

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