Species dependent on lowland dipterocarp forest are intrinsically at risk from extinction because so little of this habitat now remains in the Philippines. On Polillo primary forest, which has never been logged, is at least as speciose as that on mainland Luzon, but is limited to only a few locations. Logged forest in the Polillo Islands retains a similar species composition and provides essential strongholds for a number of globally threatened species, and islands endemics preventing isolation and inevitable extinction. Such areas may explain why many forest specialists still survive in the Polillo group.

PRIORITY AREAS:

Table 3 (download as a pdf file) gives a summary of records for indicator species, which were found during surveys, both formal and informal.

Ecological surveys in 2001 focusing on key indicator and flagship species identified conservation priority areas towards which protection efforts could be focused:

Apparently, Polillo is still able to sustain a diversity of fauna and flora because degraded forest is extensive enough to provide refuges for forest species. Continual degradation of these (completely unprotected) areas will inevitably result in the loss of species from the islands because the protected areas alone are too small and isolated to provide population reservoirs. Conservation of the much larger tracts of degraded forests is a more challenging proposition, but one that will be necessary to preserve Polillo's rich fauna and flora.

FOREST PROTECTION:

The threats facing forest on Polillo are mainly induced by poverty; illegal logging and slash and burn agriculture. Of the remaining forest only two sites have any reasonable future security: Sibulan watershed and Aluyon Community forest. Unless actions are taken to curb current unrestricted forest degradation, effects of which are exacerbated by hunting, many species could be lost forever. It would be beneficial if everybody on Polillo understood the value and functions of their forest and wildlife and the vital need to protect them. For future generations to appreciate these natural resources, the motivation and cooperation of whole communities is required. It is essential that methods of protecting natural resources are evaluated within local communities, for example increased wardening, legislation, buffer zone development, landownership decrees, alternative livelihood programmes, "spiking" trees and other community initiatives.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Community awareness and action: Environmental education is the most realistic method to address biodiversity conservation in the long term. Although intractable economically rooted problems cannot be resolved quickly or easily, the importance of the environment can be communicated, particularly to children who are the future stakeholders. As a result of raised awareness, residents may consider the impact of future development and agriculture practices, and future (and current) generations may take pride in their environment in the light of changing economic and social factors.

2. Protection of remaining forest: Forest that has never been logged is of great important for conservation and should be prioritised for protection, however these surveys have shown even heavily logged forest to be of great value. It is essential that formal measures be taken to protect some of these areas. Members of Aluyon Barangay recognised their forest as a rare and vital resource particularly as a source of clean water and granted the watershed 'community forest' status, where felling trees is prohibited. Such local initiatives may well prove to be the most effective form of protection. Fully protected areas where any timber extraction and hunting is totally forbidden are a useful option, however there is a great need to work with individual forest owners to highlight the value of their forests and to discuss measures to ensure their protection for future generations.

3. Vigilance against the capture and trade of wild animals: Several birds including those unique to Polillo are ultimately threatened by extinction as a result of hunting for example the cockatoo and kagit. All residents should be aware of the threat this poses and vigilant against the hunting and trade of wild birds

4. Other

For more information contact: hampsonkatie@hotmail.com

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