NATURE'S SUPPORT TO THE PHILIPPINES
Written and photographed by Michelle Ward
Encompassing over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is home to over 20,000 plant species, 612 bird species, 270 species of reptiles and over 200 different species of mammals. The Philippines is home to 10 of the rarest species in the world, including the endangered dwarf buffalo, the monkey-eating eagle and the Philippine tarsier.
With this rich biodiversity, comes important ecosystem services that support human life. These natural services stretch 2.2 million square kilometres (849,425 square miles), are of critical importance. They provide food, fresh water, livelihoods and climate resilience to more than 100 million Filipinos. In fact, it is estimated that biodiversity contributes around 5% of the Philippines' gross domestic product and supports livelihoods for nearly 15% of the country’s labor force.
The forests and oceans of the Philippines store vast amounts of carbon — playing a significant role in the global solution to climate change. Globally, our oceans store more than 30% of the carbon emitted by humans. Yet as this quantity continues to increase, oceans are taking on too much, causing them to become more acidic. This has several knock-on effects such as the death of calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. With 30% of all fish species relying on coral to survive, we could witness a huge witness a huge decrease in fish populations if we continue to excessively pollute carbon dioxide into the air.
Regionally, the Philippines is a part of the Coral Triangle, a transboundary seascape which more than 130 million people from five nations rely upon. However, due to population growth, poor land use planning, industrialisation and unsustainable land and sea, these services are becoming depleted, causing increased poverty, inequalities and decreased food security.
So what can we do to help? You can travel to the Philippines and support eco-tourism such as wildlife tours, snorkelling and scuba diving. Do not support companies that feed wildlife, pollute the ecosystem or extract resources unnecessarily. It's also a good idea to explain to companies what you support as a tourist. We can all do our part at home by switching to sustainable sources of energy such as solar, wind and electric cars. This alleviates the pressure on the forests and oceans to store carbon. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation and only buy products that part of the Rainforest Alliance.