RP Now Center of Threats in Coral Triangle, Expert Says

While the Philippines is being regarded as the center of marine biodiversity, it has now become a “center of threats” with its diversity declining too fast due to human exploitation, a visiting US marine biodiversity expert said Monday.

Dr. Kent Carpenter, a professor of Biological Sciences in Old Dominion University, is in the country to help in the assessment of threats of extinction to certain marine species as part of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) project.

The Coral Triangle is bordered by six countries, namely the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste.

The Coral Triangle, where Philippines is at the apex, covers 6.5 million square kilometers and is considered the global center of marine biodiversity, with over 600 reef-building coral species or 75 percent of all known coral species in the world and more than 3,000 fish species.

In 2004, Carpenter led a study that discovered the Philippines as the “center of marine biodiversity” due to the country’s great concentration of marine species.

“Unfortunately, many of these resources are being overexploited and the biodiversity and the habitats that harbor these riches are at increasing risk because of human impacts,” Carpenter said.

CTI, with the six coral triangle-bordering countries as members, was launched in response to the threats to biodiversity.

“The Philippines is the center of marine biodiversity and we got the best in the world. (The) unfortunate side of that story is that because of the concentration of the population in the Philippines, we also are center of threats to the diversity,” Carpenter pointed out.

“The Philippines, unfortunately, has one of the worst records, in terms of threats to coral reefs that’s why it is even more important that we make the CTI work,” he added.

Carpenter said that among the countries in the coral triangle, the Philippines is in the “most bad shape,” closely followed by Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands.

“Indonesia is fast behind; they are starting to do all the bad practices that the Philippines has been doing for a long time. Papua New Guinea is remote, Solomon Islands is fairly remote, but at the apex of the coral triangle is also the apex of both biodiversity and threats, as well,” he said.

“As part of the CTI, I am here to help in the assessing of important parts of the coral reef fauna here,” Carpenter said, who just arrived from a one-week workshop as part of the CTI project held in Dumaguete City.

Carpenter, a coordinator of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said he joined other world experts in assessing the threat of extinction of wrasses in the coral triangle.

March 30, 2009, 9:06pm