BAGUIO CITY – Conserving and managing Cordillera biodiversity – and elsewhere in the country – in the face of global change requires sufficient evidence to assess status and trends of species distribution, yet there exists a crunch of ecological diversity data that the public can easily access, a Cordillera highland-based study noted.
Biodiversity is such an expansive territory demanding interplay between and among biodiversity, humans and society. Hence, to enrich research literature on biodiversity is the need for more hand-in-hand, inter and multidisciplinary research.
Titled, “A Review of Biodiversity-Related Reports in the Cordillera Highlands, Northern Luzon, Philippines, “the study was conducted by Zenaida G. Baoanan, Department of Biology, College of Science, University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio; Corazon L. Abansi, Institute of Management, College of Social Science, UP-Baguio, and; Cecilia Fe S. Abalos, Department of Communication, College of Arts and Communication, UP-Baguio. It traced how CAR biodiversity-related studies evolved through the years.
In terms of the number of studies, the researchers were surprised to find that before 1995, there were years with no reports and studies published by local researchers only started in the mid 1990s.
Neither did it increase despite the Philippines involvement in the International Convention on Biological Diversity on the Earth Summit which happened in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro.
It was only 1995 onwards that reports became regular. But still, very few taxonomists worked on the rich Cordillera biodiversity, the researchers explained.
It followed that the taxa under investigation became dependent on field expertise of taxonomists in the academe.
Their study is part and parcel of the project “Compendium of Biodiversity Research in the Cordillera Highlands of Northern Luzon,” under the interdisciplinary research grant of Cordilleras Studies Center, UP-Baguio.
Considering “the rich biodiversity in Cordillera due to its unique and biotic conditions, there is a dearth of biodiversity data available to the public. Very few are published,” the study concluded.
In going into the root core of the problem, the researchers found out knack, availability of funds to propel researches and system of classification and the property of such being published remain as problems leading to biodiversity gap information.
“The lack of expertise, funding opportunities and taxonomic works’ publishability are the main impediments in this gap in biodiversity information,” the researchers reveal.
And they underscored in such conditions, “It’s high time to explore the digital world of data publication” and a network of biodiversity researchers from different disciplines be constituted to enjoin in knowledge sharing that will further help develop biodiversity research.
Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is known as “watershed cradle,” north of the Philippines but many don’t realize it is tagged by scientists as the “Ecological Zone” of Northern Luzon. This natural heritage is a precious asset providing, supporting, regulating, provisioning, and cultural services unique to Cordillera.
Whether its natural richness has been adequately documented to reference future generations remained the core objective of the study and commenced by gathering biodiversity datasets from various sources starting with libraries, research offices, universities and internet search engines with open access.
Following the search, the researchers categorized the studies they documented into three levels of organization: species, ecosystem and diversity, marking these where in CAR it was studied and the year.
They discovered accessibility of these biodiversity data is deficient and only concentrated in the province of Benguet. Moreover, the majority of the biodiversity-related studies in Cordillera are unpublished. Out of 226 (24%) reviews, only 54 reached a global audience through international publication.
A closer look at the distribution of biodiversity studies in the provinces in CAR reveals most studies concentrated in Benguet, at 58 %, Kalinga, 9%, Mt. Province, 9%, Ifugao, 6%, Apayao, 5% and a mere 1% for Abra. Roughly 11% of secondary sources cover several sites in CAR in their studies.
Of the 226 studies reviewed, studies on flora ranks first (130/226 or 57%), followed by fauna (66/226 or 30 %) and ecosystem, (30/226 or 13 %). Of the total sources, 144 (64%) are unpublished project reports. Examples cited were reports from Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR, Ecosystems Research and Development Service (ERDS), terminal reports of funded projects, graduate and undergraduate theses.
Of the remaining 82 (36%) secondary sources, 19 (out of 82 or 24%) have been published in the local weeklies in CAR, 9 out of 82 or 11% published nationally and 54 out of 82 or 65 % managed to land on international circulation.
“Deficient,” is the word the researchers used when it comes to accessibility of biodiversity data from Cordillera uplands, with only 54 out of 226 peer-reviewed studies read by a global audience. Majority of unpublished materials were graduate (23 out of 144) and undergraduate 104 out of 144 theses.
Researchers inferred the fact that many universities in CAR do not require publication of research to earn a degree, while there are also the impeding ethical concerns on publishing students’ works and involving them in funded and collaborative projects deemed vital in increasing universities’ research productivity.
Few other unpublished studies include biodiversity project outputs (17 out of 144). There are some funding agencies which do not require publication of project deliverables. As a result, “these vital biodiversity pieces of information are confined in the archives and are not accessible,” the study states.
Some of the published studies on ecosystem biodiversity were conducted at forests of Central Cordillera mountains by Penafiel, 1995; Austria, Austria and Romero, 2001; Banwa,2011. More specific habitats in the municipalities of Benguet are Cuevas and Balancod, 2014.
For the province of Ifugao, come Baguinon and Miel, 2013; for Apayao, Abano et al., for the national parks as Mt. Pulag are the studies of Lit et al., 1998; Buot, 2001 a.b, 2002, 2010; Buot and Okitsu, 1998.
For Mt. Data, is the study of Kowal, 1996; for Balbalasang-Balbalan, Kalinga, Malabrigo, 2013, and; land areas of Busol Watershed in Benguet, Balancod and Gutierrez, 2001, Baoanan, et al., 2001.
On fauna and flora studies, 130 were done on flora and 66 on fauna as the UP researchers found these delved into genetic diversity, species diversity, taxonomy, management and utilization. Most of the faunal studies dealt on species diversity involving inventories (47/66 or 71%), followed by 12 studies on taxonomic identification of a particular species.
Reports on genetic diversity and management only took a “fair share” of two studies each with three on utilization, the researchers pointed out. Arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans and others) and birds were widely studied, most of these have not been published.
Published materials pointed mainly on mammalian diversity in Central Cordillera by Rickart, Balete, et al., 2011; Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, Heaney et al., 2003 and Rickart, 2011; Ifugao Rice Terraces, Stuart et al., 2007; Mt. Amuyao, Mountain Province, Rickart et al., 2016; Mt. Santo Tomas, Benguet, Reginaldo and de Guia, 2014, and; Baguio City Forest Patches, Reginaldo et al., 2013.
Examples of taxonomic studies published were, revision of the name of the Luzon endemic rat from Rattus latidens to Abditomys latidens (by Musser, 1982) and the new species of shrew mouse Archbold Omys from Kalinga (by Balite et al., 2006) and two others discovered in the larger Luzon area (still, by Balite, et al., 2007).
A published study on amphibians and reptiles in Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park has been credited to Diesmos et al., Baoanan and Obanan, on the other hand, studied land snail diversity at Mt. Polis, Mountain Province in 2011 while Aquino, in 1997, came up with a study on utilization of wild animals as food and got disseminated.
Biodiversity is a precious asset to present and future Cordillera generations as the tribal people rely heavily on ecosystem services for sustenance and livelihood. Species survival and integrity of habitat are closely linked between ecosystem services and hum and well-being.
It is therefore imperative to continue doing bio-diversity related research to contribute to people’s perception of their environment and how the knowledge can be utilized, the researchers concluded.
The researchers are grateful to the Cordilleras Studies Center, UP-Baguio, Commission on Higher Education Aid-in-Grant for HEI Faculty and Staff affected by K to 12 transition, Sushmita Zen Banaag, Yvonne Riza Picpican, Christian Banasan, Cindy Poclis and Klanz Baoanan for the successful implementation of the study.