DAVAO CITY — Silt coming from the deforested upland slopes along Davao’s watershed areas is putting the coastal biodiversity in peril, according to a watershed profile study commissioned by the Interface Development Interventions (Idis).
In a statement emailed to Sun.Star Davao, Idis said siltation, previous blast fishing, and wave action have been identified as the reasons why the reefs of the seven coastal barangays belonging to the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watershed system are in a “dismal state.”
“Based on the documents we have reviewed for this study, the coastal resources of these communities, particularly in five of them, is in poor condition,” said Philippine Eagle Foundation (Pefi) Conservation Director Jayson Ybanez, who presented the study at the Ateneo de Davao University last month.
The communities identified were Bago Aplaya, Binugao, Daliao, Lizada, and Sirawan in Toril District.
Idis commissioned Pefi, led by Ybanez as the lead researcher, to conduct the Resource and Socio-Economic Profile for the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watersheds.
Funding for this study was made possible through a grant from the United States Agency for International Aid (USAid) under the Foundation for the Philippine Environment’s Upscaling Forest Reforestation Efforts in Key Biodiversity Areas Project.
Other than the coral reefs, Ybanez also said that the area’s mangrove habitats, which used to be dense, are also disappearing.
“The earliest data we have is from 1956, when there used to be 154 hectares of mangrove forests. In 2001, this was reduced to 51 hectares,” he said.
The threats to these habitats are alarming since it leads to loss of species diversity.
Ybanez’s research team has already documented at least two threatened species of mangrove trees.
“These two are locally known as Tiduk-tidukan and Piapi,” Ybanez said.
The survey team was also able to document the existence of five species of pawikan, which are now classified as “threatened species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
These are the Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Green Sea turtles.
Idis Executive Director Ann Fuertes said that this situation underscores how extensive the impact of the watersheds is for Dabawenyos.
“Because watersheds catch the rain and send it out to the sea together with the accumulated soil, pesticides, garbage and other pollutants, they are good focal points for sustainably managing our city’s coastal resources,” she said.
“What we are seeing now is that there is a direct causal linkage between the threats to the upland and marine environments. If there is deforestation in our watersheds, the silt will come down and destroy the corals and mangroves on which our fisheries depend on.
Toxic pesticides in the run-off will kill the marine biodiversity which is present in our waters, she added.
“Given this scenario, it is imperative to address these linkages and the root causes in a sustainable and comprehensive manner at the socio-economic and policy level so that we can protect and restore what is left of these ecosystems,” Fuertes said. (Arianne Caryl N. Casas- SunStar Davao/Sunnex)