HUNDREDS of conservationists, scientists, independent researchers, government representatives and students gathered for the 28th annual Philippine Biodiversity Symposium held from August 13 to 16 at the Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte.
With theme “Conservation Without Borders,” this year’s symposium highlighted the interconnection among various conservation efforts such as species protection, the ridge-to-reef approach and biodiversity management.
“The goal of maintaining the health of our fragile ecosystem depends on our pragmatic approach to conservation,” said Rainier Manalo, president of the Biodiversity Conservation Society of the Philippines.
Manalo emphasized the importance of ensuring the sustainability of all conservation actions and the vital role of the public and the business sector in upholding environmental and sociocultural development.
During the four-day event, high school and undergraduate research reports, presentations of scientific papers, and simultaneous talks and workshops were held.
Biodiversity conservation topics were tackled at the symposium, including taxonomy, flora and fauna, threats to biodiversity and issues, and conservation management.
Anson Tagtag, chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Management Bureau-Wildlife Management section, and Juan Carlos Gonzales, zoology professor and director of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)-Museum of Natural History, presented the updated Philippine Red List for terrestrial fauna or the list of threatened land-based wildlife species in the country.
During the plenary talk, Tagtag and Gonzales also explained the criteria used for the categories assigned, the basis of the threats, and the challenges and issues arising from its implementation across the Philippine archipelago.
Local conservation group Haribon Foundation also gathered conservation experts in a workshop that assessed current issues and identified new priority areas for conservation in the country, also known as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), using the updated global guidelines set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Unlike the previous versions, the new IUCN criteria for KBA includes the identification of threatened ecosystems, preservation of ecological integrity and preservation of biological processes.
Aside from the overall KBAs, the workshop also identified sites under the Alliance for Zero Extinctions (AZE) framework, which are said to be the most important site among all KBAs.
According to Haribon, AZE sites are critical to the sustenance of global biodiversity as they provide homes to threatened wildlife that are found nowhere else in the planet.
On the third day, participants also joined an exposure trip to the Leyte Sab-a Peatland, one of the two major peatland sites in the country that covers four barangay (villages) in the municipality of Sta. Fe and Alangalang, Leyte that are considered vital to climate regulation and wildlife conservation.
Other activities also included an institutional exhibit of groups involved in biodiversity research and conservation, including the Asian Species Action Partnership; Buhay-ilang Research, Education and Conservation Inc.; Center for Conservation Innovations Philippines Inc.; Center for Centered Conservation; Crocodylus Porosus Philippines Inc.; Energy Development Corp.; Forest Foundation Philippines; GIZ Ecosystem-based Adaption in River Basins Project; Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources Inc.; International Institute of Rural Reconstruction; Isla Biodiversity Conservation; Katala Foundation; Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc.; Talarak Foundation; TeaM Energy Foundation Inc.; Traffic Southeast Asia; United State Agency for International Development Protect Wildlife Project; UP Diliman Institute of Biology Biodiversity Research Laboratory; UPLB Museum of Natural History; Wetlands International; Wild Bird Club of the Philippines; and Zoological Society of London.]
The event was organized by the Biodiversity Conservation Society of the Philippines, a professional organization of wildlife researchers, scientists and conservationists, in partnership with the Leyte Sab-a Peatland Forest Restoration Initiative and Visayas State University.