By Roy Mabasa
Following the devastation brought by super-typhoon Yolanda in 2013, it was reported that there were families in Eastern Samar, who were able to survive because of the mangroves that protected their area.
This finding compelled Japanese and Filipino scientists, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to conduct a study that could help boost disaster resilience of coastal areas and enhance marine conservation in the Philippines.
Called the Comprehensive Assessment and Conservation of Blue Carbon Ecosystems and their Services in the Coral Triangle (BlueCARES), the project is meant to identify the dynamics of the blue carbon or carbon dioxide stored in marine ecosystems in the Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle, the global center of marine diversity, is composed of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands.
When the blue carbon system is damaged, an enormous amount of carbon is released to the atmosphere, adversely contributing to climate change.
Studies also showed that the Philippines has about 50 percent of the total mangrove species in the world. Mangroves are also among the carbon-rich forests providing protection against strong waves and storm surges.
According to JICA, studying the mangroves that survived Typhoon Yolanda was crucial in the study of blue carbon system conservation.
Japanese and Filipino scientists are studying the characteristics of the mangroves that survived Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Samar, saying it may help unlock findings that could help boost disaster resilience of coastal areas and enhance marine conservation in the Philippines.
The project sites in the Philippines include Palawan, Aklan, and Eastern Samar. The combined scientists from the Philippines and Japan surveyed and mapped mangroves using drones along the coasts of Hernani and Balangkayan in Eastern Samar.
In Balangkayan, mangroves were profiled, while soil and water samples were collected for carbon content analysis. These will be used to study the vulnerability of mangroves against natural disasters.
JICA Philippines Senior Representative Yo Ebisawa said the results of the survey will help the team prepare recommendations on disaster management in coastal communities.
“The project takes a long-range vision of hopefully contributing to a framework on blue carbon ecosystem conservation that is based on scientific evidence, and also identify conservation strategies at the local level,” added Ebisawa.
JICA has been working with academic institutions to come up with research to address global issues in the environment, disaster management, and health among others under its Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development or SATREPS.
SATREPS is the first tripartite cooperation among Tokyo Institute of Technology, University of the Philippines Diliman, and Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fishery in Indonesia.
The tripartite project in the Philippines is also establishing a “core and network” system through partnerships with academe, local government units, and government organizations for nationwide monitoring and implementation of blue carbon strategy along with capacity-building.
The study team aims to help guide the decisions of nations with rich biodiversity when it comes to battling against climate change.
Started in 2017 and will end in 2022, the BlueCARES study team already completed initial surveys in Busuanga and in Panay Island, and mapping of mangroves and seagrasses in Eastern Samar.
“Results of the survey in Eastern Samar will contribute in producing maps of mangroves in the Philippines, and studying their dynamics in the context of disaster management. The surveys are also important in formulating a blue carbon strategy in the country,” said Dr. Kazuo Nadaoka, BlueCARES Chief Technical Advisor.