Explore it Wise on Benham Rise!

On April 12, 2012, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations adopted in full the country’s declaration the Benham Rise as part of the Philippine Extended Continental Shelf.  This effectively gives the Philippines sovereignty over the Benham Rise Region which covers a seabed area of 135,506 sq km.

The Philippines’ declaration over the Benham Rise has inevitably increased the area of the country’s marine bottom habitats.  The Benham Bank is the shallowest area of the Rise and within this shallow area emerged the peak of an isolated seamount, one among over 30,000 seamounts found in the world’s oceans.  Seamount habitats can be biodiversity hotspots because of available substrates for macrophyte and invertebrate recruitment and settlement, abundance of food, and the interaction of dynamic currents (e.g., the Kuroshio) with the supply of nutrients from the deep.

Recognizing the importance of knowing the resources available in this new Philippine territory for future economic benefits, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) funded the program “Exploration, Mapping, and Assessment of Deep Water Areas.”

The program seeks to learn the dynamics of the region and to generate benchmark data as basis for the national government to proactively plan and manage its territory. It is being implemented by the UP Marine Science Institute, UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and UPLB – School of Environmental Science and Management.

Filipino scientists conducted the oceanographic exploration and surveys at the bank’s shallowest part with a depth of 50 meterson board the research vessel M/V BFAR on May 3-18, 2014. The activity is a collaboration among  UPDiliman, UP Los Baños and DA-BFAR.  The team was backed-up by researchers, scientists and seasoned dive specialists from the UP Mindanao, UP Baguio, Xavier University, Ateneo de Manila University and from the local diving industry.

This pioneering research project initiated the assessment of the benthic marine biological features and resources of the Benham Bank Seamount, contributing to the efforts of documenting deep-water biodiversity in the Philippines.  Knowledge about these features and resources may also be linked to the productivity of the Benham Rise Region where fishing activities were done even before the country was awarded its claim.

Results of the surveys will input to the knowledge/status of the Philippines deep sea biodiversity, resource planning and management.  It will benefit the scientific community, government line agencies tasked to manage the resources, and the general public. It will also contribute to the effective management and scientific understanding of this globally significant area.

The exploration of Benham Rise is only one of the many research and development initiatives on aquatic concerns supported by DOST-PCAARRD.

PCAARRD will showcase its leading R&D initiatives during its participation to the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) on July 24-28 at SMX Mall of Asia, Pasay City.

The 2015 NSTW adopts the theme Philippines: A Science Nation Innovating for Global Competitiveness. PCAARRD, on the other hand, adopts Strategic Industry Program for Agricultural Growth (SIPAG) ni Juan as its theme to bolster PCAARRD’s commitment to DOST’s Outcome One.

Outcome One seeks to provide science-based know-how and tools that will enable the agricultural sector to raise productivity to world-class standards. PCAARRD pursues its commitment to Outcome One through its Industry Strategic S&T Plans, among other programs, hence the tagline SIPAG ni Juan.(S&T Media Service)