|Forest and Mountain Biodiversity: Trends|
A joint undertaking of the DENR-Forest Management Bureau (FMB) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) in 2003 estimated forest cover at 7.168 million hectares or 23.89% of the total land area. This includes 2.47 million hectares of closed forest, 4.28 million hectares of open forest and 297,160 hectares of forest plantation. Of the identified forest covers, 6.432 million hectares (89.73%) are within forest lands while 0.737 million hectares (10.28%) are within alienable and disposable (A&D) lands (Figure 3). The forest plantations may have significantly contributed to the increase in forest cover, however, they are not seen to provide the appropriate habitat for indigenous species.
Although the figures on plantation cover are incomplete, the current programs aiming to address livelihood and production needs (e.g., the National Clonal Forestry Program) point to increase in plantation forests. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and EcoGov2 (2008), using land satellite imagery, noted that in Mindanao, there has been a decline in natural forest cover by at least 40,000 hectares per year. An increase in tree plantation cover by an average of 70,000 hectares per year in this area was observed, and could possibly mirror a national trend.
In 2006, the Philippine biodiversity conservation priorities were reinforced with the identification of terrestrial Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) using data from Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified by the Haribon Foundation and Birdlife International, the 2004 International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources now the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List, as well as point locality data from published literature, experts and scientists, and museum collections. A total of 128 terrestrial KBAs have been identified for 209 globally threatened and 419 endemic species of freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, and 62 congregatory bird species. An interesting analysis by DENR shows that PAs cover only 51% of the priority sites identified under the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priority Setting Program (PBCPSP), 44% of the IBAs, and 35% of terrestrial KBAs. In other words, PAs cover less than half of the priority biodiversity sites identified through scientific studies, and there are many PAs that are not considered strategic for biodiversity conservation. The current implementation thrust of DENR is to reconcile KBAs with the legally-protected sites. Conservation International or CI (undated) has also cited 5 Alliance for Zero Extinction sites from these KBAs which should be considered to be given highest protection priorities (Figure 4). These include Siburan, Mt. Mantalingajan, South and North Gigante Island, Mt. Kambinlio and Mt. Redondo.
The importance of identifying and establishing KBAs and IBAs is supported by new species discovered in the past 5 years. These new discoveries include the Calayan rail (Galirallus calayanensis), Camiguin hanging parrot (Loriculus camiguinensis), Philippine forest mouse (Apomys camiguinensis) and Rafflesia mira.