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Researchers Find 'Center of the Center of Biodiversity' in the Philippines

Oct 24, 2016 11:26 AM EDT
Philippine crocodile
A seven-week-old Philippine crocodile
(Photo : Getty Images)

Led by the University of Kansas, an expedition seeking through the ridges and geographically isolated areas in the Philippines found out that it tripped on "the center of center of biodiversity"--the Philippine island of Mindanao. 

Originally aimed to further broaden the information available on herpetology in the Philippines, the University of Kansas led by Rafe Brown, the curator-in-charge of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, mentioned in an article that they have found a really diverse area in the northern portion of the Mindanao region in the Philippines.

"The Philippine archipelago is recognized as a globally significant conservation priority--a biodiversity hotspot," Brown said. "For example, 95 percent of Mindanao's amphibians don't appear anywhere else in the world. The terrestrial biodiversity of the Philippines is amazing, and this part of Mindanao is the center of the center of that diversity. The biodiversity is so high in this one pocket of northeast Mindanao largely because the ranges of so many species in the archipelago overlap in this one area. We knew it was really diverse, but we didn't have a sense of this one area being the bull's-eye, the epicenter of this diversity."

Read here: Rafe Brown and Colleague's Published Report on Philippine's Amphibian and Reptile Distribution in Mindanao Region

Based on their findings featured in ScienceDaily, the expedition was able to identify 126 species made up of 40 frogs, one caecilian, 49 lizards, 35 snakes, one freshwater turtle, and one crocodile. These discoveries were accounted as 36 of the total known reptiles and amphibians in the country.

Aside from raising the rich diversity in the area, the team has also called the attention of the agencies and the people to take a closer look at the status of Mindanao. Adding up the conflicts between religious beliefs, they have duly noted that Mindanao's environment is at high risk of degradation due to anthropogenic activities and destructive extractive industries. Their group has highlighted that from 85 percent original forest cover, it is now down to an alarming six percent, with 15 percent second growth forest.

"Giant U.S. logging operations made it big under the Marcos administration. They deforested Mindanao in about 40 years. Mindanao formerly supported incredibly diverse forests with trees as big around as your house standing 250 feet tall. I saw a bit of it left in Cotabato in 1991 during my first trip to the Philippines before it was cut down in the early '90s," Brown explained.

The research team was composed of University of Kansas graduate students and researchers from Father Saturnino Urios University, University of Oklahoma, the National Museum of the Philippines, and Silliman University. Their paper was published in a free open access journal.

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