Alien species are invading Philippine forests and lakes, threatening endemic and indigenous flora and fauna, officials said on Wednesday.
Authorities call them IAS (invasive alien species) or aggressive plants and fishery introduced from abroad which are supplanting local varieties.
One example is the Matica plant, locally known as “buyo-buyo,” a flowering shrub native to tropical South America, which has been wreaking havoc on forests and agricultural lands since its introduction in the country, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
Dangers to wildlife
The African bull frog and the African snail also pose a danger to native wildlife, said Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) Director Mundita Lim.
In Laguna Lake, the introduction of janitor fish or knife fish is overpowering native lake fish. Authorities suspect ornamental fish owners let loose the fish in the lake.
Next to habitat destruction, IAS are considered the biggest threat to biodiversity, authorities said.
IAS are coming into areas where they do not naturally occur, posing economic or ecological harm to the natural environment. Some species have also been found to be hazardous to human health.
In the face of such threats, the DENR has launched the Philippine component of an internationally funded project on the management of IAS.
Invasion prevention project
The project is called “Removing Barriers to Invasive Species Management in the Production and Protection Forests in Southeast Asia,” and funded by the Global Environment Fund through the United Nations Environmental Programme.
The DENR’s PAWB is the agency tasked to implement the region-wide project that also has components in Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Funding for the whole program is $6.8 million, but the Philippine component will be allotted $375,937.
Lim said the project would focus on the prevention, control or eradication of invasive weeds, including the Matica plant, which has been blamed for the degradation of natural forests in Southeast Asia.
“Buyo-buyo is a shrub known to be highly aggressive,” according to the DENR.
“It has been linked not only to the degradation of natural forests but also to the suppression of natural regeneration of forests in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In fact, it was found to have already colonized vacant agricultural areas, and in gaps within natural forests in the Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve,” it said.
The pilot demonstration area for the Philippines will be in the Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, Lim said.
She said the first part of the project would center on building capacities and forging partnerships with local communities in managing buyo-buyo with techniques in weed management, appropriate biological control and habitat restoration.
The country’s numerous porous ports have made it difficult to prevent the introduction of such species. In December 2011, five people were arrested after they were caught bringing in dozens of banned, carnivorous piranha fish.