Be a citizen scientist and help watch over our reefs.

  • May
  • 13

Be a citizen scientist
and help watch over our reefs.

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Photograph by Massimo Mazittleli

This month, the Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch announced that our reefs are at risk of undergoing a nationwide bleaching event. Save for the northern coast, Camarines Norte, and the Verde Island Passage, the entire country is on first bleaching alert level ‘Watch’.

Coral bleaching, a process where corals are stressed and lose their color due to the loss of their symbiotic algae and food source, makes corals more vulnerable to disease and death. It occurs when ocean temperatures rise or pollution spreads underwater, among other factors, such as low tides and sunlight levels. The good news is that since we’re still in the bleach alerts’ early phases, the situation is manageable; the Philippines has seen a trend in speedy recovery thanks to our islands’ unique topography. The current Watch alert means our corals are experiencing low levels of heat stress—the early beginnings of a major coral bleaching event. According to marine scientist Tara Abrina, the major threat to our corals this year appears to be coming from an outbreak of Crown of Thorns, a species of sea stars that eat coral polyps. While naturally occurring, an infestation of COTs can be detrimental to a reef system especially if it’s already weakened from thermal stress.

Divers (and snorkelers!) of all levels can aid research by simply reporting what they see underwater. This is where you come in: Help marine scientists monitor our corals by keeping your eyes peeled on your next beach trip. If you have the instruments available, take a photograph of the site and keep note of details such as water temperature and depth (available on most dive watches). Any kind of information will help. It’s data that can better our understanding of our reef health and potentially lead to action that will strengthen reef systems against infestations. Simply put, it’s an easy way of making the most out of your vacation this summer and making it count towards something bigger.

Log your findings on form.jotform.me/61241912098454 or through the Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch app on Google Play. Spread the word and help save our reefs!

WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR

Coral bleaching. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food, turns white or very pale, and is more susceptible to disease. A healthy, resilient reef can either resist a stressful event, like bleaching, or recover from it. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive if water temperatures return to normal quickly.

Crown of Thorns. They’re naturally-occurring sea stars that feed on corals to balance the wider reef ecosystem. An outbreak of these sea stars threatens the reefs because they could end up eating all the corals away. Apart from the PCBW, report your findings to local government because many of them are trained to handle an infestation. Whatever you do, DO NOT TOUCH these poisonous creatures.

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Report all your findings (photos/videos):
Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch web form
or Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch App (Android).

More info on coral bleaching:
oceanservice.noaa.gov

See the alerts:
Coral Reef Watch