The once spectacular primary forests of the Philippines are now a relic of a bygone era. What little primary forest does remain exists on the island of Palawan, the last sanctuary for the Palawan eagle.
Between 1990 and 2005 the Philippines lost a third of its forest cover, according to FAO estimates, but the country's deforestation is down since its peak in the 1980s and 1990s.
Widespread logging was responsible for much of the historical forest loss in the Philippines. Despite government bans on timber harvesting following severe flooding in the late 1980s and early 1990s, illegal logging continues today.
After temporarily lifting the log export ban in the late 1990s, the government has increasingly tried to crack down on timber smuggling and forest degradation. Additional threats to Philippine forests come from legal and illegal mining operations — which also cause pollution and have been linked to violent conflict — agricultural fires, collection of fuelwood, and rural population expansion. In recent years, deforestation has been increasingly blamed for soil erosion, river siltation, flooding, and drought; environmental awareness is now rising in the country.
Environmentalists in the Philippines now fear that plantation agriculture, especially oil palm, could emerge as the newest threat to remaining forests.
The continuing disappearance of Filipino wildlands is of great to concern to ecologists due to the high levels of endemic species. Of the 1,196 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles in the country, nearly 46 percent are endemic. Among plants, the number is around 40 percent. Only about 5 percent of the Philippines land area is under some form of protection.
A closer look at the forests of the Philippines
Estimates of current forest cover in the Philippines are highly variable between sources. According to the national Forest Management Bureau, forest cover in the Philippines declined from 21 million hectares, or 70% of the its land area, in 1900 to about 6.5 million hectares by 2007. This data is very similar that to the U.N. FAO, which is usually based on government data. Both the government and the FAO show an increase in overall forest cover since 1990.
In contrast, data first published in 2013 by Matt Hansen and colleagues paints a much different picture, estimating 2012 forest cover at nearly 20 million hectares, using a 10 percent tree cover definition of forest. Hansen puts dense forests — areas with more than 50 percent tree cover — at 17.4 million hectares, or nearly three-fifths of the archipelago's land cover.
Hansen et al 2013
Hansen et al 2013
However annual loss data between the various sources is similar. FAO estimated that forest cover in the Philippines declined by an average of about 54,750 hectares per year between 1990 and 2010. Hansen puts the figure at about 51,400 ha per year between 2001 and 2012, increasingly slightly over the period. At 3.2 percent, MIMAROPA or the area formerly known as part of the Southern Tagalog Islands — including the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan, had the highest rate of loss between 2000 and 2012, accounting for 42 percent of all forest loss in the Philippines during the period.
Hansen et al 2013
Philippines environmental news updates
|Total forest area||Dense forest area||Forest gain||Forest loss||Total land area|
|>10% tree cover (ha)||% total land cover||>50% tree cover (ha)||% total land cover||2001-2012 (ha)||% total forest cover||2001-2012 (ha)||% total forest cover||(ha)|
|Agusan del Norte||250875||86.1%||226179||77.6%||3903||1.6%||7242||2.9%||291360|
|Agusan del Sur||790820||92.4%||759500||88.7%||17280||2.2%||48442||6.1%||856309|
|Davao del Norte||267847||76.9%||226594||65.1%||4896||1.8%||8264||3.1%||348314|
|Davao del Sur||423007||70.0%||354343||58.7%||7155||1.7%||8882||2.1%||604087|
|Lanao del Norte||225190||79.5%||199083||70.3%||1176||0.5%||3943||1.8%||283331|
|Lanao del Sur||294877||83.9%||271254||77.2%||964||0.3%||6949||2.4%||351576|
|Surigao del Norte||167643||84.2%||151673||76.2%||1031||0.6%||2155||1.3%||199027|
|Surigao del Sur||396702||92.6%||380925||88.9%||7465||1.9%||18139||4.6%||428458|
|Zamboanga del Norte||484838||76.0%||419478||65.8%||13187||2.7%||26041||5.4%||637981|
|Zamboanga del Sur||344226||65.5%||281327||53.5%||7678||2.2%||11572||3.4%||525809|
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
||Philippines Forest Figures
Total forest area: 7,162,000 ha
% of land area: 24%
Primary forest cover: 829,000 ha
% of land area: 2.8%
% total forest area: 11.6%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -157,400 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -2.1%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: -20.2%
Total forest loss since 1990: -3,412,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-32.3%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: 2
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 7,162,000 ha
Primary: 829,000 ha
Modified natural: 5,713,000 ha
Production plantation: 304,000 ha
Production plantation: 316,000 ha
Plantations, 2005: 620,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 8.7%
Annual change rate (00-05): -46,400,000 ha
Above-ground biomass: 1,566 M t
Below-ground biomass: 376 M t
Area annually affected by
Fire: 6,000 ha
Diseases: 1,000 ha
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 3,000
Critically endangered: 46
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 403,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 138,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $60,272,000
Wood fuel: $722,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $60,994,000
More forest statistics for Philippines
Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Palawan palm oil presence likely to grow, industry rep denies harmful impact
Plans to convert eight million hectares of land for palm oil production on Palawan island in the Philippines have been met with opposition from environmental and social advocacy groups, with a petition to cease development sent to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by an anti-palm oil expansion group. But an industry representative denies claims that all eight million hectares will be cultivated to the detriment of wildlife and human communities, maintaining palm oil expansion will be beneficial to the people of Palawan.
Advocacy group lashes out against palm oil expansion on Philippine island
In the first week of November, an anti-oil palm expansion group sent a copy of their petition to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous People for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights hoping to elevate their concerns over land-grabbing issues faced by tribes in Palawan, Philippines, due to planned palm oil expansion in the province.
'Too many people': Philippine island being deforested despite extensive protections
About an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital Manila is Palawan, a long, narrow island home to about a quarter of all the animal species found in the country. But the province is losing its forests at a rapid clip due to human population increases, logging, quarrying, mining, and even a huge palm plantation.
How protected are they? Report finds world's Protected Areas may relax, shrink, even completely disappear
On March 1, 1872, the United States Congress declared 3,400 square miles of land spanning three states as the country’s - and the world’s - first national park. We call it Yellowstone. Today, there are over 160,000 PAs spanning 12.7 percent of the planet’s land surface.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Empower youth leaders
Want to save forests? Don't forget the youth, says Pedro Walpole, the Chair and Director of Research for the Environmental Science for Social Change, a Jesuit environmental research organization promoting sustainability and social justice across the Asia Pacific region. 'Youth leadership in environmental management is key,' Walpole told mongabay.com.
'We will win this war': Yeb Saño speaks out on global warming
Ahead of the upcoming Climate Change Summit to be held in New York, September 23, a Filipino man who last year made headlines around the world on the subject is speaking out.
Have scientists discovered a new primate in the Philippines?
Despite some media reports, scientists have not yet discovered a new species of big-eyed, nocturnal primate—known as tarsiers—in the Philippines. Instead what they have discovered is an intriguing population that is genetically-distinct even from nearby relatives, according to a new open-access paper in PLOS ONE.
NASA: Forest loss leaps in Bolivia, Mekong region
New satellite data from NASA suggests that deforestation is sharply increasing in Bolivia and Mekong countries during the second quarter of 2014.
The Philippines: where 'megadiversity' meets mega deforestation
Ongoing loss of forest cover in the Philippines places it among the top ten most threatened forest hotspots in the world, with the archipelago ranking fourth, behind Indo-Burma, New Caledonia and Sundaland (a region encompassing Australia and parts of Southeast Asia). According to a report issued by Conservation International, only seven percent of Philippine forests remain intact.
Philippines targets 8M ha for palm oil production
The Philippines is proposing to convert 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of 'idle, denuded and unproductive lands' for oil palm plantations, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer
Extreme cold and drought in U.S. linked to climate change
The U.S. Midwest and Northeast experienced one of the coldest, snowiest winters on record this past season. This might seem contrary to warming trends forecast by climate scientists, but a new analysis released today in Science
points out that climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions may actually have contributed to the well-below average temperatures seen in parts of the U.S.
Chinese poachers caught with 555 marine turtles, most dead (PHOTOS)
On Friday, eleven Chinese fishermen were caught by Filipino police with 555 marine turtles, 378 of which were dead. Officials in the Philippines have since released the 177 living turtles. But the incident has sparked an international standoff between the Philippines and China as the Chinese nationals were arrested in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Weird and mysterious: scientists find new shark species
A long snout with teeth jutting from the sides? Check. Catfish-like barbels dangling from its chin? Got them. Gills on the side of its body? It has those, too. These are characteristics of a bizarre group of sharks known as sawsharks. And until recently, only seven species were recognized. However, a new discovery raises that number by one more.
The enemy of your enemy is your ant bodyguard: spider uses one predator for protection against another
The notion of spiders using ants as bodyguards seems a bit contradictory, but that is exactly what occurs on the tropical forest floors of the Philippines. The jumping spider strategically nests within the vicinity of the aggressive Asian weaver ant as a defense tactic against its main predator, the spitting spider.
The smoothtooth blacktip shark and four other species rediscovered in markets
) magazine recently ran an article on the rediscovery of the smoothtooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon
) in a Kuwaiti fish market. Believed extinct for over 100 years, the smoothtooth had not been seen since the naturalist Wilhelm Hein returned from a trip to Yemen in 1902. With its reappearance, scientists scoured Kuwaiti markets and discovered an astounding 47 individual smoothtooth blacktips.
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