This report presents super-typhoon Yolanda’s impacts on coral reefs of Eastern Samar, Philippines, and evaluates its implications on resource management in the area. Coral reefs suffer regular impacts of typhoons, and typhoons nowadays are stronger in magnitude, longer in duration, more frequent in occurrence, and larger in scale. Thus, there is a great need to understand the impacts and consequences of super-typhoons on reefs and the coastal communities. Yolanda is the strongest recorded typhoon to make a landfall. Here is the first account of Yolanda’s impacts on corals and benthic organisms, reef fish, and fisheries production. Our study sites covered Lawaan, Balangiga, Giporlos, Quinapondan, Salcedo, and Guiuan in Eastern Samar, Philippines—municipalities that were greatly damaged by Yolanda. To quantify the impacts of Yolanda on coral reefs, we compared coral cover and diversity, and fish abundance, biomass, and diversity between sites before and after Yolanda. We found that some reef areas were completely wiped out by Yolanda (i.e., the shallow branching reefs), but other reef sites were only partially damaged. The extent of damages depends on reef locations relative to Yolanda’s trajectory, depth, coral species composition, and reef condition prior to Yolanda. We also found that most reefs in the area already suffered degradation prior to Yolanda (i.e., due to overfishing, destructive fishing, and siltation from land). Active coral restoration, reduction in fishing effort, diversification of economic activities, and effective management of no-take marine reserves should play key roles in the recovery of resources and human lives in these devastated areas.
The authors would like to thank the Mayors and Local Government Units and Agencies of all the municipalities included in this research. The authors also thank the Local People’s Organization and Consortium in Eastern Samar: SEASPOC. Special thanks to Prof. Margarita de la Cruz for her guidance. Funding for this research came from the following: Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development UP OVCRD (131307 PhDIA), Natural Sciences Research Institute UP NSRI (Project Code: Bio-14-2-05), and UP Creative and Research Scholarship Funds—UP OVPAA. Especial thanks to Gino Asuncion, Czyrell Sinsuan, and Marlon Gutierrez who helped in the field work and data processing.
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