04/02/2015

Blogs from the field - There and back again

New update from Neil and Nigel who are currently out in the Philippines.

Tropical forests tend to be lush. When a tree falls either through age, or by being felled, the vegetation that can grow the quickest, and spread out into the sunlight can gain a quick advantage.  Over time, bigger, stronger trees will emerge, but the key word is ‘time’ – it takes several decades for some of the larger species to dominate the forest.  That’s why it can be relatively ‘easy’ to determine if one is in primary, un-cleared forest, or secondary forest.  If the clearing is relatively recent, then the floral mix is even more obvious.

The Canaway Valley, being steep sided, is composed mainly of primary forest, and species that prefer such habitat, including the critically endangered Negros bleeding heart dove, the flagship species for our forest conservation project on the island.

But the forest is being lost at an alarming rate; it’s difficult to comprehend the destruction that just a few individuals can make in such a pristine environment.  The people that clear the forest to produce farming lots are tough – incredibly tough – they need to be to put in the effort to chop down huge trees and tangled vegetation.  Their rewards are crops for subsistence, and cash crops such as carrots and bananas.  And where they have cleared and haven’t planted the forest tries to take over again, albeit with a different mix of vegetation as the plants scramble for survival and to gain the sunlight they need.

Climbing the steep-sides of the valley I was stunned to find myself in a farming lot, miles from anywhere.  It just shows how great the needs are of the people if they come this far through the jungle in search of ‘flatish’ areas to farm.  And at the edges of the lot the huge ‘hollyhock’ type plants spring up; travelling through them I feel like a hobbit, such is the immensity of their leaves.

It isn’t going to be easy to hang into the forest, but we are going to try our best.

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