Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Philippines at war

Yes, the Philippines is at war. I am not kidding. This is according to Natural Resources and Environment Secretary, General Angelo Reyes. In the recent national workshop on invasive species two week ago, the General sounded the call to arms. And the enemy is the alien and invasive species. Invasive species have the potential to wreck havoc on our ecology, disrupting farming activities and causing disease among farm animals and of course humans.

Well as in all wars go, recognizing the enemy is THE problem. The question is what is really an invasive or introduced species? People have been introducing species to different countries for the purposes of increasing food production, controlling pests and diseases and ornamental uses. People also introduce species as pets and companions.

There are a lot of introduced species that have been part of the Philippine environment for so long that they are considered “native”. The example is the stately acacia tree that lines many roads and that defines the University of the Philippines Campus in Diliman. These trees were introduced by the Spanish early in their colonization of the Philippines. The tree is native to the American dry tropics where it can still be found in the savannah. The tree is introduced but is not invasive in the Philippines since the seedlings are easily eaten by grazing animals and the tree is only found where humans have planted it.

Thus species that got here with human intervention are definitely introduced. But how long should they be here in order to become naturalized. The Australian Dingo or wild dog was definitely introduced by humans and had probably contributed to the extinction of the Tasmanian Devil and Thylacine on the Australian mainland. But it was introduced about 4000 Years ago and now figures prominently in Aboriginal myths. So is the Dingo invasive?

The question may be answered by how damaging the introduced species is to the environment. The invasive species workshop was hosted by Marikina City, a river city invaded by the plecostomus or Janitor Fish. We don’t know how damaging this fish really is except that it has multiplied in the Marikina river. But this river has been relatively polluted. So who’s to blame?

And so the problem really is us. We have to be more aware of the fragility of our environment in this issue.

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