Rene Abesamis, Ph.D.


Rene Abesamis, Ph.D.

Enhancing local capacity to identify and protect climate-resilient coral reefs in the central Philippines

As the marine environment warms due to global climate change, some areas—known as climate refugia—are expected to experience less or slower overall change than others. In climate refugia, certain combinations of conditions—including depth, water clarity, exposure to land-based pollutants, vulnerability to storms, and coral diversity—can enable the long-term survival of species and ecosystems that would otherwise be lost. Recent research suggests that the central Philippines harbors climate refugia for coral reefs, and many small marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established in the region to protect reef ecosystems. However, it is unknown whether these MPAs largely overlap with climate refugia or provide adequate protection for climate-resilient reefs.

Rene Abesamis will work with stakeholders at the local and national levels to identify climate-resilient coral reefs in the Philippines and lay the groundwork for their protection. Working in two MPA networks in the South Negros Marine Key Biodiversity Area (SNMKBA), he will collaborate with local researchers, train citizen scientists to survey and assess reefs, and streamline processes for sharing information with environmental managers. Abesamis will also collaborate with leading scientists to develop indicators, such as coral diversity and reef fish abundance, that can be used to map resilient reef sites in the region. The findings and lessons learned in this project, which emphasizes the key role of local stakeholders, will be used to inform the Philippines’ National Coral Reef Strategy as well as plans to protect 30% of the country’s marine territory by 2030.

To learn more about Abesamis, read his bio.

See the full list of 2024 Pew marine fellows.

A man wearing scuba gear glances at an underwater coral reef while taking notes on a clipboard.
Rene Abesamis observes and takes notes on the appearance of a coral reef while diving in the Philippines.
Francisco Guerrero

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