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Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

An ecological assessment of Ulugan Bay, Palawan, Philippines, CSI info 12

Preliminary application of assessment to planning

Assessment briefings of staff

While gathering and analysing scientific data on Ulugan Bay’s environment and natural resources constituted a significant part of the assessment exercise, equally important was the demonstration of the practical applications of scientific analyses for integrated coastal management.

Using the data collected during the assessment, participants discussed criteria to establish the current status of the coastal resources and environmental conditions in Ulugan Bay. The criteria adopted were based on specific management objectives and the natural characteristics of the sites (see Table 3). These criteria provide a good example of the type of categories that need to be considered in the preparation of an integrated management plan. However, establishing a set of criteria is very site- and circumstance-specific. For this reason, the criteria established in Ulugan Bay might not be directly applicable in a different setting.

As an example, the Ulugan Bay assessment indicated the prime importance and urgent need for protection of Sabang (due primarily to its pristine mangroves) and to Bulalakaw and Tagnipa (due to the undisturbed condition of Bulalakaw’s highly diverse coral communities in the south-eastern corner of the bay, and the pristine old-growth condition of Tagnipa’s mangroves). This assessment was achieved through weighting of ecological and economic criteria, since the local population had identified ecological and economic concerns as the most immediate issues in Ulugan Bay at the preassessment hearings. However, in contrast, when pragmatic criteria, rather than the ecological/economic criteria, were considered paramount, Tagnipa and Oyster Bay were of prime importance and in most urgent need of protection.

Table 3. Criteria for the determination of management options
Ecological Criteria

The variety or richness of ecosystems, habitats, communities and species. Areas having the greatest variety are rated the highest. Note that this criterion does not apply to pioneer or climax communities or to areas subject to disruptive forces, such as shores exposed to high-energy wave action.

The absence of disturbance or degradation. Degraded systems have little value to fisheries and tourism and make only marginal biological contributions. In contrast, if restoration of degraded habitats is a priority, degraded systems score high marks.

The degree to which a given species depends upon an area, or the degree to which an ecosystem depends on given ecological processes occurring in the area. If an area is critical to more than one species or process, a high rating should be granted.

The degree to which an area represents a habitat type, an ecological process, a biological community, a physiographic feature or other natural characteristics.

Whether an area is ‘one of a kind’. Habitats of endangered species occurring in only one area are an example. To keep negative tourism impacts to a minimum, tourism may be prohibited while allowing for limited research and educational activities. Unique sites should always have high ratings.

The degree to which the area is a functional unit, that is, an effective self-sustaining ecological unit. The more ecologically self-contained an area is, the more likely its values can be effectively protected. Consequently, a higher rating should be given to such areas.

The degree to which productive processes within the area contribute benefits to particular species, including humans (eutrophic areas excluded).

An area’s susceptibility to degradation by natural events or by the activities of people.


Economic Criteria  Pragmatic Criteria

Importance to species
The degree to which certain economically important species depend on the area.

Importance to fisheries
The number of fishers dependent upon the area and the size of the fisheries yield.

Nature of threats
The extent to which changes in land use patterns threaten the overall value to people.

Economic benefits
The degree to which protection will affect the local economy in the long term.

The existing or potential value of the area to tourism development that is compatible with the aims of conservation efforts.

Whether immediate action should be taken, lest values of the area may be transformed or lost.

Which and how much of various habitats should be included in a given protected area. Note that the protected area must be large enough to function as an ecological unit to receive a high rating.

Degree of threat
Present and potential threats from direct exploitation and development efforts.

Of the potential protection status on the environment and its inhabitants.



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