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Mabini waters identified as stony coral diversity hotspot

June 25, 2013 7:30pm
A new study showed that of the 72 known genera of Scleractinian or "stony" corals identified in the Philippines, about 46 of them can be found in the waters of Mabini, Compostela Valley.

There are about 110 genera of Scleractinian corals identified worldwide.
This was one of the initial findings of a study—“Mapping and Assessment of Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape’s Coral Reef Ecosystem and Associated Reef Fish Community”—conducted by the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 
“We have more Scleratinian corals compared to those found in the Island Garden City of Samal and in Davao Oriental,” says Christine T. Dompor, the provincial tourism officer. “There is also one type of coral which the researchers could not identify since it is not found in their list of classification.”
“The [recent discovery] just shows there is a dearth of information out there and it is becoming a race to get this knowledge before more and more of the marine environment gets destroyed,” deplores Dr. Arnel “AA” Yaptinchay, founder and director of the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines. “It also confirms again and again, the importance of the Philippines in marine biodiversity.”
Scleractinia, also called stony corals, are marine corals that generate a hard skeleton. They first appeared in the Middle Triassic and descended from the tabulate and rugose corals that barely survived the end of the Permian. Much of the framework of modern coral reefs is formed by Scleractinians.
The study predetermined sampling sites and their respective GPS (global position system) coordinates were recorded. The coral reef stretch within Mabini Protected Landscape and Seascape (MPLS) was divided into four sites: Site 1 (Cadunan and Cuambog), Site 2 (Takot Dako, Takot Gamay, and Lunod), Site 3 (Kopiat Island), and Site 4 (Tagnanan).
According to the DENR Administrative Order No. 2013-12 (Guidelines for the Implementation of the Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystems Management Program), coral reef cover can be estimated through line intercept transect (LIT) method, which assess the sessile benthic community of coral reefs.
At each point where the benthic life form changes, the observer recorded the transition point in centimeters and the code of the life forms. Fish visual census was used to quantify fish species’ size and abundance. The diver observed in every 5-meter mark with a 5-meter wide area as fish species and families were noted.
In the MPLS coral reef mapping, a hand held GPS receiver was used.
The study found that MPLS still has 53.40 live coral cover. The overall status of the coral reefs is still in “good condition,” the researchers found out.
“The good news is that there was a sighting of the humpback grouper in the area,” Dompor reported. “There were also five nesting sites of marine turtle in the whole protected area.”
Among the sites studies, Kopiat Island is the most popular as it is a tourist destination.
“Kopiat Island will put Compostela Valley in the tourism map,” Lucky Siegfred Balleque, the provincial project manager of the Department of Trade and Industry, told reporters last year after telling them that they were negotiating with Lapanday Food Corporations and other owners for the development of the island into a world-class resort.
Kopiat Island is off the coast of Pindasan. Sea travel around the island takes about 20 minutes by motorized boat, while in-land tour in the 87-hectare island takes about 45 minutes. A portion of the island encircles a seven-hectare lagoon.
Mabini, formerly known as Doña Alicia, is a third class municipality.  It was given its modern name only in 1954, in honor revolution hero Apolinario Mabini. —VC/TJD, GMA News
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