Tag Archives: assessments

Las Tres Islas…pockets of pristine beauty!

Conception, Corcuera and Banton. Las Tres Islas. The three northern islands of the province of Romblon, reachable in 1 to 3 hours by a banka (small Filipino boat) depending on the size of the waves. The three most remote municipalities of Romblon, but potentially the most beautiful!

Last week I conducted coastal resource assessments of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats with the help of 5 other staff in my provincial office. The most exciting and most tiring of these was the manta tow.

Manta Tow means holding on to the manta board and being dragged behind the banka (boat) over the coral reef to estimate coral coverage and locate regions of reef, sand, seagrass…etc.
Manta Tow means holding on to the manta board and being dragged behind the banka (boat) over the coral reef to estimate coral coverage and locate regions of reef, sand, seagrass…etc. Later we will return to the islands with SCUBA gear to assess coral cover on specific identified reefs and fish abundance.
Hold on tight! Over 6 days we surveyed the circumference of 3 islands amounting to 90km.
Hold on tight! Over 6 days we surveyed the circumference of 3 islands amounting to 91km.
Our data sheet with categories for percentage of live hard coral, soft coral, dead coral, dead coral with algae and sand/rubble.
Our data sheet with categories for percentage of live hard coral, soft coral, dead coral, dead coral with algae and sand/rubble.

Accomplishments from our week of assessments:

  • 91km of coastline assessed by manta tow
  • 27 Seagrass surveys
  • 4 Transects laid in mangrove habitats
  • 34 Meetings held with local fisherfolk

Observations: 42 sea turtles, mostly green

Positives: Beautiful hard and soft corals with reef quality in some locations comparable to Apo Island Marine Sanctuary, which is one of the Philippines’ oldest and most renowned has been protected since 1985. With several deeper reefs the islands offer great potential for dive tourism.

Threats: Many crown-of-thorns were observed, along with coral bleaching and algal overgrowth, cuttings in some mangrove habitats, coastal pollution and future development.

Next steps: Crown-of-thorns removal and improvements to the management plans for existing protected areas. As a Peace Corps volunteer I will work with the provincial office to meet with the municipal mayors, other staff, and local fisherfolk to share these results and implement protection and restoration where it is needed.

WATCH THE VIDEO FROM OUR ASSESSMENTS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2G9qsx8u1w

Photo credit: Loren Tihanyi
Photo credit: Loren Tihanyi

Provincial Dive Team Training

One of my biggest projects at site is developing the Provincial Reef Assessment Team, a group of divers to conduct regular assessments of Romblon’s marine resources to ensure proper management. We hope to also identify areas for protection in the future. Here are some photos from our recent dive training session.

The Dive Team
The Dive Team

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We lay a 50m transect line and then record the substrate under the line to determine % coral coverage on a given reef.
We lay a 50m transect line and then record the substrate under the line to determine % coral coverage on a given reef.
We also conduct fish surveys of species diversity and abundance.
We also conduct fish surveys of species diversity and abundance.
And in typical Filipino style, our entire team can fit in one vehicle!
And in typical Filipino style, our entire team can fit in one vehicle!

Assessing Seagrass

Looking at seagrass!
Looking at seagrass!

Seagrass is the only marine plant that produces flowers for reproduction. This is because they evolved from a group of terrestrial plants which adapted back to marine conditions about 100 million years ago after first migrating to land roughly 200 million years ago. And how are these flowers pollinated without underwater birds and bees?! it is the waves and water currents which carry seagrass pollen from one flower to another.

A type of eel grass: Enhalus acoroides
A type of eel grass: Enhalus acoroides

Seagrass is an important habitat for juvenile fishes before they grow up and swim out to the coral reef. Seagrass also filters water and produces oxygen. When I snorkel I often watch the small bubbles on the seagrass blades, which disperse into the water allowing fish to breath. Finally, seagrasses have true roots to anchor them to the ground and also hold the sediment to the ocean floor. Thus, without seagrass the clear and beautiful turquoise blue water of tropical oceans would be much darker and more murky from floating sediment.

We lay a 50m transect line and then estimate seagrass % coverage per square meter every 5m on the line.
We lay a 50m transect line and then estimate seagrass % coverage per square meter every 5m on the line.

With the help of my office teammates we recently completed surveys of all of the seagrass beds in Odiongan. Now just 16 more municipalities to go until the province of Romblon has a complete set of data for monitoring change in seagrass beds over time.

My seagrass and mangrove assessment team members.
Overlooking Odiongan, with my seagrass and mangrove assessment team members.
With certificates to prove their expertise in mangrove and seagrass species identification.
They now have certificates to prove their expertise in mangrove and seagrass species identification.

Having finished our first series of assessments, we are all experts in seagrass and mangrove species identification. This is a much more challenging task in the Philippines versus Key Largo, Florida: The Philippines has over 40 species of mangroves and about 16 species of seagrass compared to the 3 species of mangroves and 7 species of seagrass common to the Caribbean Sea.

Reference for more info: http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/62/1/56.full