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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

Enhancement of Philippines’ research capability in understanding the role of mangrove ecosystem health in the adaptation and mitigation against natural disasters

PI:  Severino Salmo III (, Ateneo de Manila University
U.S. Partner: Ilka Feller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Institution
Project Dates: September 2014 to January 2018

Project Overview

Mangroves are coastal forests known to provide timber and fisheries products, function as habitat, and provide protection against erosion and storm surges. Mangroves also sequester huge amounts of atmospheric CO2 and stabilize shorelines. These ecological functions qualify mangroves as important adaptation and mitigation strategies against climate change. In the Philippines, the existence of mangroves has long been threatened by anthropogenic and natural causes, primarily by sea level rise. This is further aggravated by the archipelagic nature of the country, which is located in a typhoon path where at least 20 typhoons pass annually. To address mangrove loss, massive mangrove restoration programs have been implemented since the 1990s. Unfortunately, these restoration programs employ plantation of primarily Rhizophora mucronata in suboptimal conditions, thus yielding low survival and stunted growth and casting doubts whether this approach can effectively function as a barrier against natural disasters.

There is a lack of understanding of how the presence, loss, or condition of mangroves will affect their ability to respond and adapt to natural disasters. This research project aims to establish a better understanding of the relationship of the state of mangrove health to vulnerability to natural disasters in the Philippines. The project also aims to improve the capacity of Filipino researchers to monitor coastal systems. Data will be generated and ecological models will be developed to show how mangroves respond to typhoons and the sea level rise,  which is critically needed information to protect the Philippines from ongoing threats from these natural disasters. This capacity building project will strengthen skills and knowledge about coastal ecosystem responses and adaptation to climate change. The results of this study will be disseminated to the Philippines' academic communities, resource managers, NGOs, and policy makers in order to develop broader goals for coastal ecosystem management. Mangrove monitoring stations will be established to provide valuable information on coastal stability or vulnerability that will provide insights on how mangroves respond to climate change. These monitoring stations will serve as a model of mangrove monitoring systems that can be applied in other areas of the Philippines. The results of the study will be shared through workshops, conferences, and scientific meetings. The findings will also be published and shared on the website.

Summary of Recent Activities

3-191 Field Sample Collection
The project team collects samples during a field visit (photo courtesy of Dr. Salmo).
Dr. Salmo and his large team of students conducted field work at sites in Bani (Pangasinan, July 20, 2017), Calapan and Puerto Galera (Oriental Mindoro, July 27 and August 30), and Las Piñas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA, Metro Manila; August 25-26), which they monitored to assess surface elevation change and its adaptation or vulnerability to sea level rise. The assessment in Mindoro was financed with remaining PEER funds, while the assessment in Bani was co-funded through the PI’s other two projects. As with previous field visits, interesting differences continued to be observed in the conditions in natural mangrove stands versus planted stands.

Copies of a summary of the Third Partners’ Meeting on this project (held June 9-12, 2017) were delivered to all partners in the third quarter of this year. The document included the project summary and information on the institutional partners, technical data, results, and workshop outputs. Objectives and outcomes were also included to update the partners on project achievements with regard to improving the understanding of the relationship between mangrove health and resiliency against natural disasters and building the capacity of Filipino mangrove researchers and managers in monitoring coastal ecosystems. Lastly, a key workshop output—a scorecard system for mangrove assessment—was also included in the report. The different criteria set by the partners themselves were grouped into three main categories: biological, socioeconomic, and governance. The team hopes that this scorecard system will be used in future mangrove monitoring activities as a template for the Philippines.

Also this past summer, two B.Sc. Environmental Science students did a one-week internship in July 2017 on blue carbon assessment in the Silonay mangroves in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. The internship was arranged through a collaborative project with Conservation International-Philippines (CI-P). The internship was intended for the trainees to experience an actual biodiversity conservation program, and they presented their to the local community and technical personnel of CI-P. The PI will also be collaborating with CI-P in the assessment of carbon stocks in selected sites in the Verde Island Passage (VIP) from September 2017 to June 2018. The collaborative research is in line with the Blue Carbon program of CI-P and will cover the provinces of Mindoro (Calapan and Naujan), Batangas (Calatagan), Romblon (Romblon), and Marinduque (Sta. Cruz). Dr. Salmo continues to participate actively in the monthly meeting of the Blue Carbon Technical Working Group (BCTWG). The BCTWG (along with the Blue Carbon National Steering Committee; BCNSC) is coordinated by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) of the Philippines. Its main task includes research and monitoring of carbon stocks (including mangroves), inventory of greenhouse gases, and recommend policies for the research and management of blue carbon.

As the PEER project moves towards its close at the end of January 2018, the team will conduct limited field monitoring activities in Bantayan Island (October), LPPCHEA (December) and Puerto Galera (January 2018). The PI and graduate students will participate in the Biodiversity Symposium 2017 organized by the Society for Coastal Ecosystems Studies Asia Pacific (SCESAP) in December, with funding provided by the Ateneo de Manila University and DOST Scholarship program (for the graduate students). The project team, in collaboration with some funding agencies, will also prepare for the Eastern Luzon and National Mangrove Summits. While facilitating the formation of a national mangrove network, the current set of project partners will be linked and subsumed within the existing Marine Sanctuary Network being managed by the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines. Project proposals will be prepared to sustain the technical monitoring and activities of the network.

A new manuscript authored by the PI was recently published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research, entitled “Nekton Communities as Indicators of Habitat Functionality in Philippine Mangrove Plantations,” doi: 10.1071/MF17116. In August 2017, the PI commenced a two-year research fellowship granted by the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Creative Work (OADRCW) of the Ateneo de Manila University. During this period, he will be exempt from teaching duties so he will have the opportunity to become more engaged in research activities, primarily writing manuscripts. He will also develop project proposals involving technical research and management to sustain the gains of the project and the activities of the mangrove network.

The project website ( is regularly updated with resources on mangrove monitoring and management, as well as site information updates.

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