Research Projects

Marine scientists around the world have written extensively about the valuable role of coral reefs to the global biosphere as they serve to protect the thousands, if not millions, of species of organisms that live within and around them.   A wealth of literature point to these marine organisms that make up the rich biodiversity of the Earth as potential sources of medicines for diseases that plague humanity.  Coral reefs also protect the shorelines, and sustain local economies through tourism and fishing, among others. Recognizing the importance of coral reefs, the SHORE Center has been undertaking scientific research projects that provide the basis for policy and advocacy that seek to contribute toward protecting, conserving, and rehabilitating the country’s coastal and marine resources.

For the period covering AY 2013-2014 to AY 2014-2015, the SHORE Center, with funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)  has  undertaken projects on the state of coral reefs and have determined their resilience or response to the severe impacts of climate change.

Under a three-year DOST grant, the SHORE Center has undertaken a series of surveys of coral reefs and associated organisms and their habitats (seagrass, mangroves).  The surveys form part of the National Assessment of Coral Reef Environment (NACRE) Program, an initiative to update the government and the public on the current state of the country’s coral reefs.

  1. Studies on Human Impacts on Nearshore Environments (SHINE 1): Coral Reefs

    • Maps the distribution of coral communities in representative sites around the Philippines;
    • Assesses the current state of these coral communities using commonly used metrics such as hard coral cover and biodiversity, and their vulnerability and resilience to threats such as coral bleaching;
    • Establishes a monitoring system to allow the quantification of changes in the structure of these reefs, and enable projections of their future state based on various scenarios.
  2. Studies on Human Impacts on Nearshore Environments (SHINE 3): Associated Habitats

    • Determines the historical and present extent of mangroves and seagrasses in selected sites around the Philippines;
    • Assesses the current state of these associated habitats and fauna employing commonly used metrics such as density, basal area, canopy cover, biomass and biodiversity, and their vulnerability and resilience to threats such as rise in sea level;
    • Establishes a monitoring system to allow the quantification of changes in the structure of these habitats, and enable projections of their future state based on various scenarios;
    • Develops and pilot tests a bio-economic model towards an ecosystem-based management of mangroves and seagrasses.

The SHORE Center administers a three-year Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) grant to undertake the CORVA Program in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute.  Implemented concurrently with NACRE, the CORVA Program gathers data for DENR’s use in drafting zonal policies and guidelines for the national marine protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).

Monitoring and Impact Research on Resilience of Reefs (MIRROR 2)

  • The main objective of this project is to assess the status of coral reefs in the select NIPAS sites, their vulnerability and resilience to various natural and anthropogenic threats, and the effectiveness of local management interventions.
  • The five (5) NIPAS sites which are initially covered by this project are:
    1. El Nido Managed Resource Protected Area;
    2. Siargao Protected Landscape and Seascape;
    3. Aliguay Protected Landscape and Seascape;
    4. Biri-Larosa Protected Landscape and  Seascape;
    5. Verde Island Passage.

Significance of the project

  • Local reefs contribute almost P1 billion to the Philippine economy each year (White and Trinidad 1998).
  • Development pressures will inevitably occur near reef areas and the stony corals (Phylum Cnidaria, Order Scleractinia), the main framework builder of coral reefs, may need to be relocated from coastal developments in an effort to conserve their species and maintain the ecosystem services that they provide
  • Research and development efforts focused on the rehabilitation of degraded reef areas through recruitment of juvenile corals and transplantation of fragments of adults. However, little work has been done on ways of relocating entire adult colonies from construction areas (e.g., wharves, jetties, pipelines and water intakes) and enhancing their survival.

Main objectives

  • The project seeks to develop and refine methods and technologies for selecting suitable relocation areas for stony corals, and the collection (dislodgement from their attachment points), transport, and reattachment of these corals.

De La Salle University, through its Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research (SHORE) Center was awarded by Sony Pictures Entertainment through their A Greener World Grant Program.

The grant covered lectures and field exposure to the three habitats found at Sitio Kay Reyna, Lian, Batangas. The savings will be spent on any marine conservation-related activity which will benefit the Lian Fisherfolk Association.

  1. 4-hour lecture (divided in 2 parts) covering the following topics:
    • Orientation on marine eco-system & conservation
    • Effects of climate change and its impact
    • Ways & means to help mitigate this impact
  2. Onsite whole day experiential lecture which includes:
    • Snorkeling to see the reef
    • Community interaction & engagement with the fishers & Sea Scouts
    • Tree planting at the mangroves

The Capacity-Building on Reef Assessment and Coral Taxonomy is a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology thru the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD). C-BRACT is an offshoot project to the 2015-2017 National Assessment of Coral Reef Environments-Synoptic Investigations of Human Impacts on Nearshore Environments (NACRE-SHINE), which is also the second nationwide assessment program of coral reefs and their associated organisms and habitats.

As a necessary next step after gathering information on the state of the Philippine coral reefs, the ultimate goal of C-BRACT is to facilitate the creation of a nationwide coral reef monitoring and management network that can be at the forefront of protection and conservation of the Philippines’ rich and diverse coral reef ecosystems.  This involves empowering and capacitating more people from all over the country, specifically key members of the marine science community and local and regional government personnel, on detailed assessment and monitoring of coral reefs and other benthos.

C-BRACT offers an intensive two-part training program: coral reef assessment and coral taxonomy. This is being carried out through lectures and field trainings based on the learnings and insights the team has gained during the three year- long NACRE-SHINE project.  Trainings are held at the Br. Alfred Shields FSC Marine Station (SMS) in Lian, Batangas. This allows participants to practically apply skills and knowledge in the reefs of Talim Bay and to explore the extensive collection of coral skeleton specimens for taxonomic study.

To further motivate interest and understanding in the Philippines’ extraordinarily rich coral species diversity, the C-BRACT team also works on the creation of the CoenoMAP website. CoenoMAP is a detailed taxonomic guide focusing on coral species described by Prof. Francisco Nemenzo, “Father of Philippine Coral Taxonomy,” and vulnerable and endangered corals found across the nation.

The Oscar M. Lopez Center For Climate Change Adaptation And Disaster Risk Management Foundation Inc., awarded De La Salle University’s Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research Center with a two-year grant entitled “Coral Reefs and Climate Change: Documenting and Sharing Reef Vulnerabilities and Resilience Using a Rapid Response Model.”

The project will provide a baseline evaluation of two reef systems in the iconic Verde Island Passage (VIP) in order to develop a set of tools and a “report card” that will enable local communities and industries to monitor the progress of climate change, its impacts on local reefs, and the success of mitigation undertaken to minimize impacts of these changes.

It aims to create a standard set of simplified tools that can be used by local communities to monitor climate change in tropical marine communities that are informed by, but not dependent on, the more detailed scientific methods that require more specialized knowledge. These tools will be developed and tested in collaboration with local communities whose input will be sought throughout the grant at every stage of development. Once produced, these tools will be shared in a capstone workshop with a larger regional group of stakeholders, including industry partners. It is hoped that this will empower communities through early detection of climate change parameters such as coral bleaching and other forms of environmental degradation.

This project is in collaboration with partners from the California Academy of Science, Old Dominion University and The Smithsonian Institute.

Ocean acidification is an effect of climate change that has recently gotten a lot of attention from scientists. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean and affects the carbonate chemistry of seawater, “acidifying” it, or lowering its pH (e.g. Feely et al. 2004). This does not mean that the ocean becomes an acid in the chemical sense of the word, it just means that the seawater pH will decrease. Results of extensive climate research predict that the pH of the oceans will go down 0.3 – 0.4 pH points by the end of the century, meaning the average seawater pH will go from approximately 8.2 down to 7.9 or 7.8.  This decrease in pH results in a corresponding decrease in the availability of carbonate in the ocean, which many marine organisms use to form shells and skeletons (e.g. Cohen and Holcomb 2009). Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable, as their framework consists largely of the carbonate skeletons of the marine animals known as corals (e.g. Fabricius et al. 2011). As ocean acidification will make it more difficult for corals to manufacture their skeletons, their growth will be affected and they will become more vulnerable to other impacts such as storms or disease (e.g. Hoegh-Guldberg et al. 2007). This is likely to impact reef growth as a whole and, consequently, the maintenance of all the goods and services that coral reefs provide.

“Acidification Impacts on the Demography of Corals” (AcID Corals) is a research project under the DOST-PCAARRD program “Acidification: How it affects the Marine Environment and Resources in the Philippines”. AcID Corals, led by ShORe director Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, primarily aims to quantify the effects of ocean acidification on certain coral species and communities through monitoring coastal sites of varying levels of acidity in Lian and Mabini, Batangas within a three year period.  Additionally, the project is also geared towards determining the likely impacts and consequences of ocean acidification on local coastal communities throughout the sites.