Volunteer in Marine Conservation Philippines

Completed Projects

The following projects are projects we have currenlty running or are part of continous efforts by MCP. Only the larger projects are described. Activities like the continous beach cleanups and smaller projects on base that have to do with improving the facilities are not explained.

Baseline study of most important fish families

One of our main activities is monitor the coast of Zamboanguita and parts of Dauin and Siaton. We do this to show the changes is the amount of species and amount of animals/plants along the coast, which gives us an idea of the effectiveness of the protection that is put in place, and shows us possible threats as well. This will help policy makers more effectively manage the protected areas reduce those threats.

As regulating fisheries and over-fishing is the most important factor in protecting the ecosystems here, we first focused on monitoring fish species. But as there are over 300 fish species in the Philippines, we cannot look at all the fish species at the same time, especially since many of our volunteers are not trained scientists. We would therefore only like to look at a subset of species, which are ecologically or commercially important, or are indicative of a specific threat. This way, we can make the monitoring less complicated. This selection of species is our set of “indicator species”.

In order to select these species we first needed to know which species are present, and how many individuals of each species we see at the different locations. This is what we did in our “baseline” study of all species.

Aside from giving us information on all the fish species present at the different locations, and the differences between those locations in the amount of fish for each species, this baseline study also allows us to compare later results for these species with the data we gather now, allowing us to show changes over time. To keep the method as simple as possible, and to make it less sensitive to differences between researchers and observation distance, we used the Rapid Visual Census method as described in Hill and Wilkinson (2004)1. To simplify it further, we only monitored a few families at a time, making teaching the species of these families to volunteers a lot easier.

The disadvantage of this method was that it took a long time to monitor all the sites thoroughly, especially since we want to analyse the data statistically, requiring multiple surveys per site. The advantage though is that it allowed us to survey at a high level of detail, while still making it mangeable for volunteers to be trained in a relatively short period of time.

Results

Currently the initial data analysis has been done, but more extensive data analysis is necessary to compile a comprehensive report.

The baseline survey helped us to create a list of indicator species which we use for our permanent monitoring activities. Altough the selection of these species was also based on the functional characteristics of the species, the data from the baseline survey gave us detailed species lists, information on the relative abundance of the different species and species diversity, and allowed us to compare the different species between the different study sites. As such, the data from the baseline survey allowed us to select a statistically representative set of species for all our study sites. We also saw differences in the abundance of these indicator species at our different monitoring sites, suggesting that those species are indeed an indicator of the physical or biological differences between those sites.

Additional analysis on physical characteristics of our sites, levels of protection and the abundance and occurrence of these species still needs to be done, which will provide us with a better understanding of the local ecosystems and it’s threats.

  1. Hill J., Wilkinson C (2004)   Methods for Ecological Monitoring of Coral Reefs Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville MC ; ISBN: 0642322376

Identification of indicator species for general reef health.

As part of our task in monitoring the success of local MPA’s, we needed to compile a list of indicator fish species that we can monitor easily, and give us a good indication of the changes in fish density and diversity at the different locations in Zamboanguita, Siaton and Dauin. The indicator species should furthermore be able to give an estimation of changes in anthropogenic threats like overfishing and nutrient pollution. A good basis for this list are the Reef Check and Reef.org protocols 1. We would also like to be able to contribute our data back to Reef Check if possible.

Results

Our approach to the selection of our indicator species was two-fold: functional and statistical. The functional approach means that we select species based upon their functional characteristics, like their diet, habitat, life history, migration and breeding behaviour. We selected a number of functional characteristics, all of which we wanted to be represented by at least one, but preferably multiple indicator species. But since it is not useful to monitor for species that hardly occur in the area, or occur in large and equal numbers on all our sites and therefore are unlikely to be a clear indicator of the wildly varying situations on our sites, we also needed statistical data on our species. This data we derived from the baseline survey. We selected species that were present in sufficient numbers to be useful for monitoring and furthermore showed differences in relative abundance between our sites, that varied in the level of protection, life hard-coral cover and siltation. When doing this selection, we made sure all our functional characteristics we represented by a number of species, and the percentage of species of a family represented in our list was more or less equal across the families. At the end a number of iconic or otherwise important species was added, and so were a number of families which are also monitored on the family level.

  1. Hill J., Wilkinson C. (2004) Methods for Ecological Monitoring of Coral Reefs Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville MC ; ISBN: 0642322376