KOTA KINABALU (Mar 27): The Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) at Pulau Gaya completed installing and commissioning Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS) and Calcification Accretion Units (CAUs) on February 2.
Reef monitoring structure installed at Pulau Gaya
The successful deployment was led by Professor Dato’ Dr Aileen Tan, director of the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (CEMACS), Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.
“This is the first step in a research collaboration between MERC and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, following the protocol established by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),” said MERC’s project director Alvin Wong in a statement issued in conjunction with the award from the Malaysia Book of Records for the MERC – The First Ocean Acidification Monitoring Station for South China Sea held at Le Meridien on Monday.
The award was presented to ECHO Resorts owner, Gillian Tan by The Malaysia Book of Records Senior Record Consultant, Edwin Yeoh.
He added that this was also an effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life below water.
“The research under the title ‘Research and Monitoring of the Ecological Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reef Ecosystems’ would improve the understanding of ocean acidification and the potential damaging effects of ocean acidification on marine resources and ecosystems,” he said.
“Ocean acidification due to increased anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere is expected to reduce the pH of seawater. The reduction of pH or the increased acidity along with lowering of carbonate saturation are expected to create negative impacts on coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and other marine habitats,” Alvin further explained.
He added that the role of ARMS was to monitor the health and biodiversity of coral reefs, which mimic the physical structure of a coral reef.
“The structure is equipped with a sensor that continuously monitors the seawater temperature. Monitoring of seawater carbonate chemistry (pH and total alkalinity) and water parameters (temperature and salinity) would also be conducted to better understand the current situation. The joint effort with lOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) would monitor the ecological impacts of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems and expand this research and monitoring effort across the Indo-Pacific region and globally as part of the International Global Ocean Acidification – Observing Network (GOA-ON). This data will also be used to develop strategies for conserving and protecting these important ecosystems,” he said.
MERC has been listed as one of the centres of excellence in its contribution to biodiversity and conservation and is recognised internationally by the ASEAN Biodiversity Centre. With this international recognition, it would position MERCE globally as the first site in the South China Sea, contributing to the lOC-WESTPAC regional ocean acidification observing programme and GOA-ON.
“MERC’s involvement in ocean acidification monitoring comes after earlier achievements in producing and restocking endangered species and introducing more suitable marine food fish species for culture,” he said.
“MERC’s first record with the Malaysia Book of Records was in 2010 as the pioneer in Malaysia to successfully produce all seven species of the endangered giant clams found in Malaysian waters. Giant clams are produced to be returned to the sea to increase the population and to allow these slow growing, sessile animals to reproduce on their own,” he added.
In 2019, an associated company to MERC, Bayu Aquaculture Sdn Bh (BASB) was awarded a record by the Malaysian Book of Records for successfully producing the first backcross grouper, said Alvin.
“This backcross grouper was introduced as a new species to be cultured to meet the growing demand for fish as a source of protein. The species has characteristics that support it as an ideal candidate for aquaculture. Following the success of producing the first backcross grouper, BASB went on to produce fish fry from more species that have never been produced from hatcheries in Malaysia,” he said.
“The objective is to provide more varieties of fish fingerlings for culture to meet the greater demand for affordable fish. BASB received another record with the Malaysia Book of Records in 2020 for being the first to successfully breed Streaked Spinefoot in hatchery and providing fish fingerlings for aquaculture.
Spinefoot, or also known as rabbitfish, is a relatively cheaper fish that was until then, only caught from the wild. The acceptance of Streaked Spinefoot led BASB to propagate more varieties of rabbitfish. In 2022, BASB was awarded three additional Malaysia Book of Records for being the first to produce Orange Spotted Spinefoot, White Spotted Spinefoot and Vermiculated Spinefoot,” he added.
Alvin also said that MERC would continue propagating endangered species for restocking to save it from extinction.
“Following the success in propagating giant clams, MERC went on to propagate hard and soft coral, and other marine species including seahorse simultaneously. BASB would continue propagating species that are good candidates for aquaculture including molluses and crustaceans to increase food production through aquaculture.
“However, water parameters remain the ultimate factor that determines the success of these efforts. The survival of endangered species in the sea as well as the survival of fish and other species cultured in aquaculture farms depends on good water quality. Water quality determines the success or failure of marine conservation efforts as well as food production from the sea,” he said.
Alvin added that changes to water quality due to climate change would affect the health of corals and subsequently impact the diving industry.
“Our rich marine biodiversity remains an important attraction to the diving community and contributes significantly to our tourism industry. MERC has in recent years witnessed coral bleaching and giant clams dying after recording increased water temperature,” he said.
He added that reliable data gathered from the deployed ARMS, CAUs, recorded seawater temperatures and seawater chemistry can assist in the development of climate change vulnerability assessments and further inform coastal resource managers and policy makers as they develop climate adaptation plans for the coastal communities of Malaysia.
In addition, these data will be linked into a larger regional effort by the International Oceanographic Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) region focusing on establishing baselines and monitoring the ecological implications of ocean acidification on coral reefs, he said.
He added that in 2015, eight WESTPAC countries (Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand) committed to establishing Climate Monitoring Stations based on standard techniques to better understand the effects of climate change.
“This effort will encourage significant comparison studies across gradients of biodiversity and oceanographic conditions,” he said.
“MERC believes everyone has a role to play and has no hesitation in accepting the responsibility as the first private organisation for the Ocean Acidification monitoring programme in this region and would be the first contributor to fill significant existing knowledge gaps in the South China Sea. MERC would continue to work with CEMACS in data collection as well as maintaining the ARMS and CAUs set-up,” he said.
Source: Borneo Post Online
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