Philippines creates marine biodiversity database

The world’s epicentre of marine biodiversity is under threat. Researchers in the Philippines are developing a marine biodiversity database to help identify local hotspots requiring urgent management.

Sweetlips: The school of large fish, called sweetlips, was photographed in the Tubbatana Reefs Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Palawan, Philippines. While these fish seem to be unafraid of divers, in unprotected areas sweetlips are usually shy and will quickly hide among the rocks when a diver or swimmer approaches.

The Philippines hosts the highest diversity of shore reef fish species in the world. Human activities and climate change, however, pose a serious threat. Around 10% of the diversity of reef fish and their associated species have disappeared from the Visayas region in central Philippines in the last five decades, with an estimated 2% of total species lost per decade. Much of this is due to high fishing pressures: coastal communities in the Philippines are highly dependent on reef fish for their food security and livelihood.

To address this issue, researchers at the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute are creating a large database using existing information from their archives. Their aim is to compile and analyse archival data to identify local biodiversity hotspots requiring urgent management. The database will fill in information gaps related to diversity trends, issues and threats, as well as the status of management efforts in these areas. Initially, the researchers are focusing on consolidating information on marine fishes but will eventually expand this to include other marine taxa, particularly focal research organisms being studied in the institute. The researchers will also explore the potential of their database to support decision-making in biodiversity conservation.

Once the database is established, the researchers will focus on enhancing it using reference collections and information generated by ongoing programs from institutions across the Philippines. The team hopes that the identification of data gaps will help guide future research directions.

For further information contact:
Dr Hazel O. Arceo
Assistant Professor, Marine Science Institute
College of Science
University of the Philippines Diliman
E-mail: [email protected]

*This article also appears in Asia Research News 2015 (p.6).

Published: 25 May 2015

Contact details:

University of the Philippines-Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development LGF Phivolcs Bldg., C.P. Garcia Ave., University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City

(632) 927-2567; (632) 927-2309
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