Effect of marine protected areas on biodiversity and trophodynamics in the southeastern part of The Philippines (Region XI)

In Progress: October 2013 -

Examining prey community dynamics inside and outside an MPA may provide a measure of how altering human influence affects ecosystem interactions and thus its overall functioning. The present study aims to test the effect of MPAs on biodiversity and trophic interactions at the basis of food webs in coastal ecosystems with main focus on harpacticoid copepods. This research project has 3 main activities. First, in order to assess structural biodiversity patterns, epiphytic meiofauna samples will be collected fromThalassia leaves inside and outside MPAs. Analysis will focus on the number of species and their distribution in a standardized area. The second activity involves the use of chemical biomarkers such as stable isotopes and fatty acids in order to explore and clarify trophic interactions (trophodynamics) inside and outside MPAs. The last main activity will involve analysis of genetic biodiversity, with a focus on the dominant copepod species and the connectivity between their populations. When structural and functional diversity don’t differ between MPAs and non-MPA zones this could imply that there is a good mixing in the area, independent of the level of protection. On the other hand, significant genetic heterogeneity between the sites would imply a limited gene flow between the copepod populations in the sites (MPAs, nonMPAs) .
The present study will mainly provide information on the basal of marine food webs, which have hitherto been totally neglected in MPA research . This PhD research will yield insight in the overall functioning of coastal ecosystems in relation to the level of protection (MPA or not) . The output will be highly relevant for (1) our general knowledge on the impact of human activities in coastal areas, and for (2) the impact of the establishment of MPAs on ecosystem functioning.