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Philippines

Puerto Galera

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Conservation benefit: Seagrass protection through mapping and public outreach campaign

Date Approved: 02.2021

Seagrass

This project protects seagrass, which traps more CO2 than any other marine ecosystem, slowing global warming.

This project funds the mapping of seagrass beds near Puerto Galera, an area of rich biodiversity in the Philippines’ famed Verde Island Passage. In just one 2015 expedition, biologists, including Dr. Terry Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences, found 100 new species there. The Puerto Galera area is home to huge numbers of fish species, whale sharks, several kinds of sea turtles, an enormous variety of corals—and extensive seagrass beds.

Seagrass provides myriad environmental benefits. It forms the base of complex marine food webs; shelters many fish, crustaceans, and other animals during some part of their life cycle; mitigates coastal erosion and storm damage; and improves water quality. Perhaps most important, an acre of seagrass can store about three times as much carbon as an acre of rainforest. But seagrass is being rapidly lost around the world.

In the Verde Island Passage, the threat to seagrass is the anchors of the many boats that carry snorkelers and divers from around the world. Anchors tear up the plants, and because seagrasses are so slow-growing, the meadows may not recover for decades, if ever.

A 2020 Seacology project mapped seagrass beds around Formentera Island, in the Mediterranean, and used the data in a free smartphone app that lets boat operators avoid dropping their anchors on seagrass. The mapping data collected here will be added to the app’s database so that boat operators in the Philippines, like those in the Mediterranean can avoid mooring over seagrass beds.

A project coordinator in the Philippines will promote the free app through posters, media (traditional and social), and outreach to dive operators and boat charter companies. Because many tourists, and even many boat operators, aren’t aware that seagrass is both critically important and threatened, the messaging will also stress the importance of seagrass conservation.

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