PHILIPPINES Scuba diver Brian Kramer photographed some of the vast marine life in the 7,107 islands of the Philippines.
The islands of the Philippines lie within the coral triangle, an area that encompasses more than half of the world's coral reefs, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Both marine and terrestrial species diversity peaks in the Indo-Pacific region. The Convention on Biological Diversity Fourth National Report - Philippines reports that in the Philippines alone there are more than one thousand reef-associated fish species, as well as hundreds of different species of coral, mollusks, and algae. According to a 2005 study by Carpenter and Springer, marine shorefish diversity in the Philippines is the highest in the world.
The Philippines reef ecosystem also provides resources to support more than 60 percent of the people living in the nation's coastal regions. In addition, the colorful spectrum of marine life draws foreign divers and tourists that fuel the country's ecotourism industry, which provides an economic incentive for conservation of this uniquely rich ecosystem. Direct threats to the variegated seascape include destructive fishing methods, pollution and illegal fishing. Another threat stems from the rapidly growing population of Crown-of-Thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), due in part to over-fishing of its predators. Pollution is also to blame; the plankton blooms caused by coastal and offshore pollution provide food for the starfish and allow for higher rates of starfish maturation. Crown-of-Thorns starfish are effective coral predators – the World Wildlife Fund-Philippines reports that after only a few months of infestation at Green Isle Bay in Palawan, live coral cover dropped from 70 percent to 10 percent. The effects of climate change, such as warmer waters, changing precipitation patterns, increasing carbon dioxide levels, and rising sea levels, will impact the entire ecosystem as well. Conservation efforts should ensure that the needs of local reef-dependent communities are addressed while limiting the human impacts on the reef ecosystem.