The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) of the University of the Philippines in Los Banos is implementing a project to evaluate the impacts of the increasing geographical distribution of a major invasive alien species (IAS) in Mindanao. Funded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Central Office (DENR-CO) through its Foreign-Assisted Special Projects Service (FASPS), the project aims to quantify the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic impacts of Piper aduncum for an enhanced environmental management of Allah Valley Protected Landscape (AVPL).
Piper aduncum, locally called buyo-buyo, is a small tree belonging to the family Piperaceae, and is characterized as a plant that reaches a height of about 7 to 10 m, with alternate leaves, spiky flowers and fruits with very small seeds. A tropical plant that is native to Mexico and Bolivia, it has also found its way to South and North America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific (Rogers and Hertemink, 2000). In the Philippines, P. aduncum was believed to have been introduced in 1994 through migratory birds in western Mindanao (Department of Science and Technology - Forest Products Research and Development Institute, 1994). Today, this species occupies most open areas in the island of Mindanao, whether on flat, sloping or steep slopes of mountains, agricultural and agroforestry fields, or even peri-urban areas (Japitana, 2016).
In the Allah Valley Protected Landscape (AVPL), some view that the impacts of this species on biodiversity conservation could be negative, while others have noted its potential for fuel wood production and as a source of income and soil erosion control, in comparison to when an area is colonized by grasses. With these contrasting views, various stakeholders have debated over the merits of letting P. aduncum thrive. Thus, the DENR called for the formulation of a framework covering the documentation and evaluation of the different consequences arising from the presence of P. aduncum to aid better decision-making, and to serve as template for the evaluation of other controversial IAS in the future.
In response to the call, a research team from SESAM was organized with Dr. Rico Ancog and Dr. Leonardo Florece as project leaders. During the team’s presentation at the DENR Central Office before the DENR Technical Working Group (TWG) on November 15, 2018, Dr. Ancog elaborated the importance of employing a comprehensive impact evaluation framework that covers the environmental, socio-cultural and economic aspects related to IAS. For his part, Dr. Florece highlighted the importance of the current project potentially to provide policy guidance for the control of IAS in the context of protected area management. The project received statements of support from national government agencies such as the Biodiversity Management Bureau and the Forest Management Bureau, among others.
During the project inception, the SESAM research team presented the details of the project to the TWG of AVPL in one meeting conducted at the Office of the Regional Director of DENR Region XII, South Cotabato, on December 5, 2018.
Dr. Hadja Didaw Piang-Brahim, Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services for Region 12, underscored the timeliness and importance of the project given the on-going concern of IAS.
Similarly, Forester Leonisa Alfaro, Protected Area Superintendent of AVPL, emphasized that the results of the project would indeed contribute to improve their management plan.
On the other hand, PENRO Shalimar Disomangcop commended the team for recognizing the presence of IAS in AVPL as a topic that needs attention.
“As long as we are in our current positions, be rest assured of our unwavering support, not only throughout the duration of the project, but also throughout the sustainability period,” he said.
He believed that the outcomes of the project would definitely be of help to their future actions and management practices toward Buyo-buyo and other IAS as well.
By the end of 2019, the project should have accomplished most of its objectives for the management of P. aduncum in AVPL. This includes an assessment and documentation report on the environmental impacts of P. aduncum on AVPL, an excel-based evaluation tool that will help and serve as a decision-making tool for the stakeholders and local units involved in the management of AVPL, and policy recommendations for the management of P. aduncum. (UP-SESAM/ Stellah Grace Aclan and Jomari Christian Baggay)