Taal as of December 2020 (Photo courtesy of Mr. Elfritzson Peralta)

RESEARCHERS from UST and the University of the Philippines (UP) emphasized the need for proper conservation and management of Taal Lake to protect its freshwater ecosystems a year after the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

College of Science Dean Rey Donne Papa and aquatic biology researchers from the University, together with scientists from UP, went to Taal Lake as part of the “Agham ng Bulkang Taal” program organized by First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities (Faith) Colleges last Dec. 5.

The Agham ng Bulkang Taal team (Photo courtesy of Mr. Elfritzson Peralta)

Upon their visit, the researchers noticed that there were portions of a circumferential road built too close to the littoral zone or the shore of the lake.

‘Yung littoral zone kasi ng lakes na ‘yan maraming tumutubo na mga aquatic plants that are being used as refuge ng mga maraming organisms. So, kung masyadong malapit yung kalsada, definitely, sisirain niya ‘yung part na yun,” Papa told the Varsitarian in an interview.

“As a biologist, you always have to consider ‘yung possible impacts niya sa environment. Sadly, some parts of the circumferential road mukhang hindi masyadong na-consider ‘yun,” he added.

When asked to compare the road project with the dolomite situation in Manila Bay, Papa simply said that people “need to talk to scientists more.”

“We always have to aim for sustainable development either way. Hindi naman kasi namin sinasabi ‘wag niyong kilusin’ o ‘wag niyong galawin,’” he said.

The Taal Lake circumferential road is a project of the Department of Public Works and Highways that aims to ease travel by connecting lakeshore cities and municipalities.

Taal’s fisheries

The team is also studying two commercially important fish that are caught in Taal Lake—the Sardinella tawilis and a biya (tank goby) species. 

They plan on educating local fishermen on how they can sustainably catch these fish without causing further harm to their population.

“We want to further guide policy makers and our colleagues from BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), for instance, who are currently the ones studying and monitoring the fisheries of these two organisms para later, mas mapakinabangan siya ng mas marami,” Papa said.

On the afternoon of Jan. 12, 2020, Taal Volcano erupted after 43 years of dormancy.

Papa and his team visited Lake Taal to conduct studies in Taal a month after, on Feb. 8.

“We collected some samples and then we already noticed some stark differences from way before,” Papa, a limnologist, said.

According to him, the samples they collected from the lake showed a low density of phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are organisms integral to the food chain and diet of fish such as the endangered Sardinella tawilis found only in Taal Lake.

The team also used a conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) profiler—a tube-like device with sensors submerged in water—to get vertical profiles of the temperature, conductivity and pH levels of the lake weeks after the eruption. However, their sampling equipment got damaged.

“Nagleak yung batteries when we deployed our [CTD profiler] to around 40 meters depth, which hasn’t happened before in any of the other lakes we visited before or in Lake Taal nung una naming trip,” Papa said.

Upon consultation with geologists from UP, the UST researchers deduced that the eruption might have caused changes in water quality and pressure which their sampler could not withstand.

The “Agham ng Bulkang Taal” program aims to promote island conservancy and provide solutions to improve lake biodiversity as well as the livelihood of lakeshore communities.

In a previous interview with the Varsitarian, Papa said that the Taal eruption should serve as a wake-up call for proper conservation and management of the lake.

Joining Papa in the aquatic biology team are Thomasian scientists Jonathan Briones, Dino Tordesillas and Elfritzson Peralta, together with Asst. Prof. Francis Magbanua from UP Diliman.

The same team will also embark this year on the UST-led Taal Post Eruption Ecological Research (Peer) Program funded by the National Research Council of the Philippines to conduct further research work on Lake Taal.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.