Nature Girl is Mother Earth's DoctorSitting at my dorm room in Hale Manoa, I can see that even though sometimes it takes awhile, the impossible still happens..........
When I started environmental work in 2008, I was young and had so many goals and fresh ideas. After participating in, initiating and organizing various green community involvements (most are one-shot deals while only some are sustainable), I learned that it's best to hone the strategies that can bring long lasting impact. It turns out that if I focus on just one problem, I can deliver so much more.
My undergraduate thesis is about the molecular identification and characterization of diatom assemblage in both Taal main and crater lakes. While working on it, I got the privilege to have met limnologists, lawyers, journalists and many other lake stakeholders. Like a lass who felt love at first sight, I fell in love with the lake all of a sudden.
I was so interested in conserving both beautiful lakes that I volunteered to do water quality assessments for an NGO and even brought colleagues to perform lake clean-ups. It seemed like the most long lasting impacts are those local to you, the ones you really put your heart into.BackgroundLakes take a long time to respond to conservation measures; that even if all of us stop discharging nutrients into Taal Lake today, it will take 2- years to have a perceptible impact. It may be hard to believe but Taal lake, like any other lakes, suffered from environmental degradation.
Taal Lake is a body of water surrounding the Taal Volcano located in the province of Batangas, Southern Luzon. It is the third largest lake in the Philippines. It was declared a protected area in 1996 under the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was assigned in taking care of it. Taal is a unique resource which is most worthy of preservation and conservation. The lake, land and water immediately surrounding it provide valuable residential, economic, recreational, and environmental opportunities.In the last decade, however, the lake turned from mesotrophic to eutrophic, which means it has more nutrients than it used to have causing frequent episodes of algal bloom, red tide and fish kill. Studies indicate that sediment is the major factor affecting lake water clarity especially in Taal lake and its tributaries. These waters provide spawning habitat for many of fishes for which the lake is renowned.
Furthermore, the lake is the home of the world's only freshwater sardine, the Sardinella tawilis. However, sediment of high nitrogen and phosphorous levels encourages excessive aquatic plant growth - algae. The presence of algae in a lake is usually a good thing. Aquatic heterotrophs depend on it for food, oxygen production, and nutrient cycling. But then, too much algae can be particularly bothersome and problematic. What causes algae to accumulate rapidly and proliferate in nuisance levels? EXCESSIVE NUTRIENTS entering the lake basin. While most of the nutrients come from unregulated fish farming, other nonpoint sources of nutrients to lakes include eroded shores, stormwater, sewage from developed facilities, animal manure, agricultural fertilizers or chemicals. Collectively, the sediment particles transported from these areas carry with them many contaminants, including phosphorus, pesticides, and heavy metals into the aquatic system. Excessive algal growth reduces light penetration and available dissolved oxygen thus, upsetting the lake ecology.Ingredients for successStrong local institutions and enduring commitment of local leadership. At the very least, everyone seems to understand the need to involve local communities in protecting Taal Lake. The mayors of the 13 lakeside towns assigned a person from their municipality who could be trained and hired by the DENR as a full-time park ranger.A Powerful Symbol. Environmental Lawyer and PUSOD TLCC Board of Trustee Ipat Luna first handedly took care of the integrated management. “People have to be convinced,” she says, “that when they obey the law and reduce their profits, there will be a public benefit that extends to them also.”Social memory. After a drastic fishkill that happened last May 2011, residents and government officials became alarmed of the condition of the lake. Moreover, a strict implementation of the Taal Volcano Management Plan was observed.Overcoming social obstacles: Manpower is needed in lake clean-ups. However, we can only rely to volunteerism at some point. People may already know about the social benefits but they will be more encouraged to protect the environment if there are economic benefits at stake.Transforming waste into resources. The invasive macroalgae harvested by local residents in several lake clean-ups was transformed into biofertilizers. This way, the locals will get incentivized and be encouraged to keep the lake clean. Also, some of the collected algae will also be used in composting.Coadaption between social system and ecosystem. After strong regulation of fish cage farming and control of runoffs, the lake became mesotrophic/oligotophic again. There are no more endangered species of fished and birds that are on the list. Fishermen were able to catch fish anytime of the day, anyday of the week.