Eight out of 11 species of giant clams in the world are found in the Philippines; there are new species of orchids on Mt. Lantoy in Cebu; fruit bats show a unique behavior of eating roots and leaves instead of the usual fruits; there are 457 indigenous vegetables belonging to 255 genera and 90 families; and new plants were discovered on mountain ranges.

These are only some of the new information on the country’s rich biodiversity which can be seen on “Saribuhay,” a YouTube series that features the outputs of the Biodiversity Science and Technology Program of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD).

Northern pit viper

“Saribuhay” is a portmanteau or blend of two Filipino words sarisari and buhay, which respectively means “diversity” and “life.” The program puts more science in biodiversity protection and conservation efforts

Saribuhay documentary series

The Saribuhay documentary series, which starts airing via DOST-PCAARRD’s YouTube channel https://youtube.com/dostpcaarrd this month, tackles the accomplishments of the four sub-programs in biodiversity—namely, terrestrial (flora and fauna), marine, indigenous plants and native animals.

A preview of the series was shared during an online news conference on October 28.

The program aims to sustain and take care of the Philippines’ biodiversity through the formulation of policies in the access and benefit-sharing of our genetic resources.

The DOST-PCAARRD Biodiversity S&T Program is part of the “Big 21 in 2021,” a compilation of the DOST’s 21 outstanding outputs this year.

The guests at the news conference on “Saribuhay” discuss the importance of their research projects on biodiversity. They include Tina Baradas, Dr. Allan B. Siano and Dr. Maan M. Acedera. Also present were DOST-PCARRD Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo T. Ebora and Bunny Joven.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said in a taped message that the DOST’s 21 high-impact programs this 2021 underscored the importance of protecting and conserving the country’s rich biodiversity.

“The country is rich in biological diversity where globally important species of plant, animals and microorganisms can be found.  The Philippines is dubbed as the center of biodiversity in the world,” he said in Filipino.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, wherein scientific researches to discover new species of plants and animals, including the implementation of various projects to protect and conserve them, are given importance.

“The biodiversity science and technology program of of DOST-PCAARRD is supported by the DOST to protect and conserve, and study and promote the sustainable use of biodiversity, knowledge, products and services,” he said.

He noted that the DOST is part of the team that crafted the policy on access and benefit-sharing of the country’s genetic resources.

DOST-PCAARRD Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo T. Ebora highlighted the councils prominent projects and accomplishments related to biodiversity at the online presser.

Cebu’s flora and fauna

Under the project, “Flora and Fauna Assessment Using Permanent Biodiversity System in Cebu Island Key Biodiversity Areas,” researchers examined the flora and fauna on Mt. Lantoy, Mt. Kapayas, and Nug-as Forest.

The project was led by the Cebu Technological University together with the University of the Philippines Cebu, Bohol Island State University, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), National Research Council of the Philippines, University of San Carlos, and Central Visayas Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources R&D Consortium.

It was able to discover new species of orchid on Mt. Lantoy, and recorded distribution of new species of the northern temple Philippine pit viper and two endangered bird species—the Cebu black shama and Cebu hawk-owl.

The program was also able to record the distribution of native tree species and discover the unique behavior of fruit bats that eat roots and leaves instead of the usual fruits.

Mindanao mountain ecosystem

At the same time, the project, “Biodiversity in Selected Mountain Ecosystems of Mindanao for Conservation and Sustainable Development,” reported three new species of plants on Mt. Hamiguitan, Mt. Apo, Mt. Pantaron Range and Mt. Tago Range.

It likewise reported a flowering plant that sources its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi; new species of snout beetle on Mt. Hamiguitan; and the four-spined pygmy devil on Mt. Pantaron Range, which wasn’t recorded in over a century.

The project was led by the Central Mindanao University, UPLB, Davao Oriental State University and the Philippine National Museum.

The Indigenous Plants and Native Animals Biodiversity S&T Program project, “Documentation of Indigenous Vegetables in the Philippines,” led by UPLB, documented indigenous vegetables from 20 provinces in the country and recorded 457 indigenous vegetables belonging to 255 genera and 90 families.

Native pigs

At the same time, the project, “Conservation, Improvement and Profitable Utilization of the Philippine Native Pigs,” developed six native pig breeds through organized community-based breeding and selection led by Marinduque State College, together with the Bureau of Animal Industry-National Swine and Poultry R&D Center, Isabela State University, Benguet State University, Kalinga State University and Eastern Samar State University.

The pigs are Markaduke from Marinduque; Quezon black from Quezon province; ISUbela from Isabela province; Benguet from Benguet province; Yookah from Kalinga province, and Sinirangan from Eastern Samar.

The native pig breeds boast of high-quality meat compared with commercial hybrid pig breeds.

Marine biodiversity

The Marine Biodiversity S&T Program oversees the ecological and ecosystem diversity management and conservation, assessment and monitoring, and sustainable use of the country’s marine resources.

The projects under the program are the following: Exploration, mapping and assessment of deep-water areas (Philippine Rise); Assessing the status of giant clams and advancing culture techniques; Studies on the biology and utilization of commercially important mollusk species on Panay Island in Western Visayas, Philippines.

DNA barcoding and genetic diversity of selected marine fishes along the north bifurcation of the North Equatorial Current; DNA barcoding of selected marine fishes in Davao and Sulu archipelago.

Stock assessment and reproductive biology of blue swimming crab (Portunus pelagicus Linnaeus, 1758) and other crustaceans in Maqueda Bay, Villareal Bay, Zumarraga Channel and Southeastern Samar Sea; and Central Visayas R&D Center for Biodiversity Project 3:  Biodiversity conservation and sustainable utilization of seagrasses in Camotes Islands, Cebu.

These projects were led by UP Diliman, UP-Marine Science Institute, Davao del Norte State College, Western Philippines University, De La Salle University, UPLB, UP-National Institute of Geological Sciences, UP Mindanao, UP Visayas, Samar State University and the University of San Carlos.

They were able to discover that eight out of 11 species of giant clams in the world can be found in the Philippines; and recorded 75 percent to 100 percent of live corals in Benham Bank of Philippine Rise.

The project likewise contributed to marine biological features and resources in Benham Bank Seamount that led to the declaration of 50,000 hectares of the area as a Marine Protected Area and more than 300,000 hectares as Special Fisheries Management Area, according to the Proclamation 489, Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve in 2018.

Moreover, 150 reef fish species were recorded in Northern Luzon and 373 reef fishes in Southern Mindanao.

More than 304 reef fishes were also recorded in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Of this number, 200 genetic barcodes were added to the biodiversity database of UP Mindanao.

On Panay Island, it recorded a high mollusk diversity as well as the high production of cephalopod fishery.

Under the program, a hatchery protocol was developed to address the low catch rate of blue swimming crab in southeast Samar and Maqueda Bay.

An additional red alga and 11 species of seagrass were also discovered in Camos Island.

Unlimited benefits

Ebora said among the benefits of having a rich biodiversity is having a diversity of food source and of various products that can be derived from these natural resources.

“There’s no limit to the benefits from biodiversity depending on the knowledge we have and the technology we have to explore these benefits,” he said.

Ebora said through science and technology, the Philippines will be able to know the importance of the country’s biological resources, hence, effectively protecting and conserving them.

“We cannot protect what we do not know,” he said, highlighting the need for more research and development to explore the country’s rich biodiversity.

Images courtesy of DOST-PCAARRD photo and Screenshot

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