Eroding islet threatens 38,500 seabirds in Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs
By Keith Anthony S. Fabro
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) — Around 100 species of birds in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) in Cagayancillo, Palawan are at risk of losing its breeding ground following observations that the bird islet on the North Atoll is progressively eroding.
“If the erosion of the bird islet continues, we might lose it, and the birds will no longer have a home, a place for breeding,” Retch Pagliawan, Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) researcher told Philippine News Agency in a chance interview over the weekend.
Pagliawan said its vegetation area has also decreased, hence, speeding up the erosion.
“The main impact of that is actually for the breeding birds,” she said, adding that Tubbataha is the last intact seabird habitat in the Philippines.
The erosion, particularly on the northeastern part of the 1.5-hectare bird islet, has alerted the TMO, prompting it to seek help from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).
An oceanographer and geologist from UP-MSI will be conducting a study in April 2017, and will eventually propose biodiversity-friendly measures that would halt the erosion, she added.
Pagliawan explained that this natural phenomenon, being brought by the movements of waves and currents was already observed in 2004, since they began measuring the islet.
An important nesting ground, Latest TMO data shows that the two islets in TNRP – the Bird Islet in North Atoll and South Islet in South Atoll – now support at least 38,500 seabirds.
It is the main rookery and breeding ground of the seabird species Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, Great crested Tern, Sooty Tern, Black Noddy and Brown Noddy.
The TMO also noted that “it is the only known breeding area of the worcestri subspecies of Black Noddy, one of the few breeding areas of Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy” in the country.
The critically endangered Christmas Island Frigate bird (Fregata andrewsi), regularly occurring with up to five individuals at a time, as well as the Chinese Egret, Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit, also seek refuge in the islets on TRNP, according to TMO.
Believed to be locally extinct over 20 years ago, the Masked Booby reappeared again on the bird islet on May 11, 2016.
Considering most of the seabird species breeding at TRNP are threatened at national or regional levels, since last year it has been included in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), an international network created to conserve migratory birds and its habitats. (PNA)