The University of Santo Thomas (UST) in cooperation with the International Society of Limnology (SIL) hosted the 1st Philippine Symposium on Freshwater Biodiversity and Ecosystems (PSFBE) last June 7-10 2016 at the Buenaventura Garcia, Paredes, OP Building, UST, Manila. Participants were a mix of young professionals, academicians and researchers from government and non-government institutions that deal with freshwater biodiversity and ecosystems research. The ERDB represented by Ms. Cynthia C. Marquez and Ms. Yves Christian Cabillon of the Coastal Zone and Freshwater Ecosystems Research Division (CZFERD) also took part in the symposium by presenting a poster titled “Phytoplankton as indicators of water quality of three river systems in NCR and Southern Luzon, Philippines.”

The course was composed of lectures in the plenary and parallel sessions, round table discussions, graduate student oral competition and poster viewing, and also covered diverse topics including Conservation Management and Policy, Philippine Freshwater Ecosystems, Freshwater Ecosystems of Tropical Asia/Taxonomy and Systematics and Biodiversity in Taal Volcano Protected Landscape.

After the opening ceremony and introduction, Dr. Rey Donne S. Papa, PSFBE 2016 Symposium Chair briefly discussed the symposium overview which was followed by the opening remarks of Sec. Juan Romeo Nereus O. Acosta, General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority and Presidential Adviser on Environmental Protection. Sec. Acosta emphasized that as climatic crisis continues, it has a significant impact on our freshwater ecosystems, with the potential for devastating effects on food and water resources.

Esteemed Professor David Dudgeon, Chair of Ecology and Biodiversity of the University of Hong Kong served as the keynote speaker. In his talk titled “Apocalypse in Anthropocene Asia: Can we conserve freshwater biodiversity in a rapidly-changing world?, ” Dr. Dudgeon pointed out that due to anthropogenic influences the freshwater ecosystems have become far more endangered than their terrestrial or marine counterparts.

The lecture was immediately followed by a series of parallel sessions wherein majority of the oral presenters came from the academe including UP Diliman, UST, UPLB, Ateneo de Manila University, Divine Word College of Calapan, National University of Singapore, Cebu Technological University, Southern Luzon State University, Marinduque State College, Far Eastern University, Mindanao State University, Cagayan State University and Angeles University Foundation, Western Philippine University and Imperial College London. Government agencies like Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and DENR-PENRO, South Cotabato and NGO’s like Fishbase Information and Research Group Inc. (FIN) also engaged in the oral presentation. Meanwhile, the plenary speakers came from the California Academy of Sciences, National University of Singapore, National Fisheries Research and Development Institute,National Taiwan University, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, and Shiga University of Japan.

TAALAMAN, the Lake’s First Biomuseum was also launched during the symposium. The first biomuseum of Lake Taal features live specimens and informative posters in wet and dry exhibits.This exhibit aims to showcase its rich and highly unique biodiversity and raise awareness on its protection and conservation.

The closing ceremony consisted of the impressions on the 1st PSFBE, distribution of awards, launching of PSFBE and the closing remarks was delivered by Prof. John Donnie A. Ramos, Dean of the UST College of Science.

Field trip to Lake Taal Conservation Center (TLCC) was also included on the day after the official closing ceremony of the course. This visit provided an opportunity for the participants to observe and engage with the many issues pertinent to freshwater ecosystems and management which they learned about in the plenary and parallel sessions and group discussions.

Based on oral and poster presentations, there is now an increasing trend towards the use of bioindicators as a tool for water quality assessment and monitoring. Likewise, benthic macroinvertebrates, fish and phytoplankton are the most well studied biological communities in freshwater ecosystems while little attention has been accorded to the study of microorganisms, particularly fungi. Cynthia Marquez and Yves Christian Cabillon, CZFERD