Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New coral species discovered off Kalayaan islands, Batangas

By TJ Burgonio

MANILA, Philippines -- New coral species have been found in the waters off the Kalayaan group of islands, and Batangas despite a much diminished coral cover, according to a University of the Philippines marine biologist.

Edgardo Gomez, professor emeritus of the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI), said the new species Leptoseris kalayaanensis was found in the waters off Kalayaan islands in Spratlys a couple of months ago.

He added that there were 36 coral species per square meter in Talim Bay, Batangas, which he said could be “new species or new records.”

“Believe it or not, we have some nice corals left in the Philippines,” Gomez said in a recent forum at the UP campus. “Many species are waiting to be discovered.”

Gomez presented a paper written by Professor Wilfredo Licuanan on Philippine reefs during a forum on the Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building for Management Program, and based his disclosures on this.

Six countries, including the Philippines, contain over half of the world's reefs. Together with Indonesia, the Philippines has a high diversity of coral reefs.

Only 4 to 5 percent of the 27,000 square kilometers of the country's coral reefs are in excellent condition, according to studies.

“Many of our reefs are under threat. Look at the entire region. In the '80s, we had some reefs that had high cover. Twenty years later, there's less cover,” Gomez said in the forum.

In Visayas, for instance, more than half of the reefs are in poor state, according to him. “This is alarming. We hope degradation would stop,” he said.

Coral reefs may be found around the country except in some portions of north and south central Mindanao and east of northern Luzon. Well-developed reefs are found in the Visayan Islands, around Palawan, on shoals in the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea, according to UP studies.