On 24 October 2019, Nha Trang, WESTPAC officially started the implementation of the 3rd phase of the UNESCO/Korean Funds in Trust funded project “Enhance the Capacity for Species Identification and Genetic Analysis on Marine Organisms in the Coral Reef Ecosystems in the Western Pacific” (DRMREEF-III).
The two day inception workshop was attended by around 20 experts from more than 10 institutions in seven countries, aiming to inform participating institutions of its objectives and come up with an action plan for the implementation for this project (2019-2021).
The Western Pacific region has the world’s highest concentration of coastal marine biodiversity and endemism. It is considered that many more species still remain unidentified in the region. Protection and rational use of the marine biological resources in the Coral Triangle and neighboring coral reefs is important for livelihood and prosperity of the region. To conduct a scientifically credible conservation process, it is important to establish and/or provide baseline information, such as information on the extent of the current biodiversity and its dynamics.
This project aims to build the regional and national capacity for species identification with the introduction of genetic method “DNA Barcoding”, and eventually make an inventory of the marine organisms living in the Coral Triangle and neighboring coral reefs as precisely as possible alongside other traditional taxonomic tools and alternative forms of molecular systematics. In addition, monitoring the recruitment of the organisms in each part of the region will contribute to the improved understanding on the life cycle of each species as well as the dynamics of biodiversity and ecosystem structure in each place, which can be done by use of DNA barcoding techniques and bio-acoustics technologies.
The project has completed its first phase (2013- 2014) and second phase (2016- 2018) with expected outputs, notably on the establishment of a regional research network among relevant institutes are interested to develop their capacity for DNA taxonomy in the identification of marine organisms in reef ecosystems; and an enhanced capacity for species identification and genetic analysis by use of DNA Barcoding which could be demonstrated by a series of molecular laboratories established, since the project inception, in some of participating institutions.
The two-day inception workshop concluded a roadmap for the phase III (2019-2021) which included: the enrichment of the WESTPAC marine biodiversity portal; the operation of recruitment monitoring in selected site(s); and publication of a WESTPAC marine biodiversity book focusing on the regional level distribution and the barcoding information. Finally, participants also explored to develop a project contributing to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), building on established network to use eDNA to look into the ecosystem structure and functions.