Case study: coral reefs - Cebu, Philippines

Cebu is part of the 'Coral Triangle' - an area of the west Pacific Ocean.

The Coral Triangle is made up of coral reefs around the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Malaysia and Indonesia, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Value to humans

Coral reefs provide many economic benefits. Skeletons of coral provide sand for beaches, and these spectacular landscapes attract tourists who provide valuable income for local people. Coral reefs protect coastlines from strong currents, waves and tropical storms, and reef fish feed local populations with a valuable source of protein.

Threats to biodiversity

There are many threats to the biodiversity of this important ecosystem, some coming from the large numbers of tourists who visit them for a variety of leisure activities. Coral colonies are threatened by souvenir collection from divers, and shallow reefs can be trampled by visitors. Fuel spills from powerboats and jet skis can affect coral communities and the fish that inhabit the reefs.

Other threats come from local people, including overfishing as well as the use of cyanide and dynamite to stun fish. Local sewage disposal and runoff from farm fertilisers are additional problems. Coral reefs also suffer damage from large-scale projects like new port developments, and extraction of coral limestone for use in the construction industry. Reef bleaching continues to be a present and potential future problem due to the effects of global warming and increasing water temperatures.

Sustainable management

Sensitive sustainable management can protect the coral reefs for future generations without harming the prospects of people using them today. Threatened reef fish species can be protected and allowed to recover through effective policing of protected areas, sustainable management rules for local fishermen (including catch quotas), and a ban on the use of cyanide and dynamite for fishing. Education programmes providing information for tourists can help people to understand the importance of this ecosystem, while local coral farming can help to develop new reef areas. Controls on global warming need international co-operation, but would help to reduce the issue of coral reef bleaching.

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