On May 30, 2014, about 50 people from different government agencies, academe, private sector, enforcement agencies, NGO’s and people from the community gathered to attend the launching program of the Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS). It was held at the grounds of the PNP Maritime Group – Special Boat Unit in Honda Bay, Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City.
The short program was conducted to introduce ARMS. Ms. Jhorace Engay from DENR-BMB discussed its purpose and importance as well as the importance of oceans and biodiversity. ARMS was spearheaded by the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB) in partnership with USAID/Philippines, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources of Palawan (PENRO), and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.
ARMS mimic the complexity of coral reefs to attract and collect colonizing invertebrates. ARMS provide a systematic, consistent, and comparable method to monitor biodiversity and cryptic species. Cryptic species are very small invertebrates that live in reefs and are not normally seen, and some are not even known. They are the building blocks of reefs. Coral reefs are arguably the most biologically diverse marine ecosystem. However, the diversity is poorly understood.
The deployment of ARMS is part of a global effort to monitor the ecological impacts of ocean acidification, ocean warming, and other stressors, by providing a standardized measure of changes in biodiversity of small and cryptic species that live within coral reefs.
ARMS have been adopted as a key biodiversity assessment and monitoring tool as part of NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan with support from the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program and Coral Reef Conservation Program and as a central component of the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Marine Biodiversity Project. More than 850 ARMS have been deployed throughout the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.
After the short program, at around 10 o’clock in the morning, the group of divers, composed of divers from the Philippine Coast Guard and technical staff and divers of PCSD; the staff of PCSD and DENR as well as some members of media, headed for Snake Island where ARMS was installed.
The ARMS was deployed underwater at a depth of about 15 meters. It will remain underwater for a year or two until they will be retrieved and the organisms therein are counted, photographed, preserved for genetic processing, and identified.
This activity was conducted simultaneously with two other biodiversity conservation sites in the country. These sites are in Carabao Island in Cavite and Mactan Island in Cebu. These island sites were chosen in conjunction with the celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD).