By JP Pasaylo
Beyond the roaring waves at Cloud 9 that put this island frontier as one of the world’s surfing mecca, Siargao is also home to the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the country.
As tourists continue to flock to this island gem in Mindanao, volunteer environmental experts wade under 8,600 hectares of mangrove forest to conduct biodiversity assessment and inventory of flora and fauna in the area.
“Siargao is home to diverse species of flora and fauna. The mangrove forests and its biodiversity work hand-in-hand to feed thousands of families living within its peripheral areas,” said Deny Comon, executive director of Siargao Islands Wildlife Conservation Foundation, Inc.
The Foundation acts as a catalyst that promotes science-based knowledge, socially appropriate stewardship of Siargao Group of Islands’ natural resource in which wildlife and humans depend on an active role in preventing human-induced environmental degradation.
“We work together with academic institutions and scientific bodies to develop science-based approached for conservation that will serve as the backbone for the livelihood programs around these mangrove corridors,” said Comon.
A study by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revealed that these mangrove forests are among the few remaining sites where the endemic Philippine Ironwood (Mangkono) can be found.
Species of Philippine cockatoo, flying lemur, and tarsiers have also been spotted in the area. The Siargao mangrove is also home to 27 out of the 70 mangrove-species in the world.
The DENR also noted that the shallow waters hosting the forested landscape are also a refuge to marine turtles, dolphins, 106 species of fish, and 17 species of mollusks.
“The presence of these species means that the ecosystem is healthy. But the lack of information and knowledge on the biodiversity has become a problem,” added Comon.
She pointed out that the booming tourism activities in Siargao may affect the indigenous flora and fauna that found their homes under the massive landscape.
In response to this need, Del Carmen led by Mayor Proserfina Matugas Coro has commissioned the country’s leading scientists from the Department of Science and Technology, UPLB, University of Sto. Tomas, Museum of Natural History, and Mindanao State University to conduct a biodiversity audit in the area.