ACB working with experts to improve database of plants in ASEAN Heritage Parks

CALOOCAN CITY, Feb. 6 (PIA) -- Amid the ignited interests in plants in ASEAN countries, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) is supporting a project aiming to document endemic and threatened plant species in Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in the Philippines to improve the database of plant species in the region.

Both natural parks are designated ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP), which best represent the species and ecosystems of ASEAN and are known to harbor high levels of biodiversity. The AHP Programme is a flagship program of the ACB and includes 49 AHPs, nine of which are from the Philippines.

The ongoing collaboration between the Department of Forest Biological Sciences (FBS) and Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME) under the College of Forestry and Natural Resources of the University of the Philippines Los BaƱos, with support from the ACB’s ASEAN Heritage Parks Programme commenced in December 2020 and tapped a research team led by Dr. Manuel Castillo, a plant taxonomist and professor at UPLB.

Dr. Castillo said the primary aim of the project is to conserve and protect endemic and threatened plants especially against the rampant poaching fueled by the current boom of plant-selling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information will be helpful in conducting long-term research and extension activities for Philippine plants.

“This is to raise awareness on the status of threatened plants being sold in the market and deter poaching activities in the two protected areas,” Dr. Castillo said.

In terms of its flora, Mt. Makiling Forest reserve is home to about 940 genera, 2038 species, 19 sub-species, 167 varieties and several forms and cultivars representing 225 families of flowering plants and ferns. It is known to host plant species, such as Rafflesia lagascae (formerly known as Rafflesia manillana), Medinilla magnifica and Nepethes alata. Some of the rare animal species found in the area are the Philippine Eagle-Owl (Bubo philippinensis) and the Philippine pgymy fruit bat (Haplonycteris fisceri), which are both endemic in the country.

Like Mt. Makiling, Mt. Malindang is an important biodiversity refuge and one of the ecologically valuable areas in Mindanao, with equally high endemism.

Each AHP may be involved in exchanging endemic and threatened plants that are abundant in their respective areas, which may be developed and translated into a bigger research project later on.

ACB has partnered with other development organisations in previous years to strengthen the ASEAN Member States’ taxonomic capacities. Most recently, joint projects were funded by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund, which resulted in the development of field guidebooks in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysia.

“The ongoing work of our partner scientists will contribute to a common and deeper understanding of existing plant species that require protection. This will help improve the ASEAN Clearing House Mechanism,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said.

The ASEAN Clearing House Mechanism is a regional platform for sharing biodiversity information, experiences, best practices, and lessons learned to service needs of ASEAN Member States in decision-making related to biodiversity conservation and their commitments to multilateral environmental agreements. (PIA NCR)


Source: Philippines Information Agency (

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