Issue of January 11, 2015
Mt. Province

64th Courier Anniversary Issue
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DENR releases report on state of Cordillera’s forests
by Pryce E. Quintos

Environmental trends in Benguet forests showed positive and negative implications.

In the 2013 State of the Forest Report for Benguet, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited reduction of forest covers resulted in decreasing water availability and rising risk on water quality, soil erosion resulting in loss of fertility, and the increasing disastrous and hazard-enhancing effect of climate change.

The DENR, however, reported an increasing forest cover from 1987 onwards, although in different locations due to conversion of lands.

Data also showed increase in forest land use change over a period of 23 years, with 67,095 ha. from 1987 to 137,151.93 hectares in 2010.

Land cover data from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority show the forest cover of the province had an average increase of 3,045 ha. per year from 1987 to 2010.

The report stated despite gradual degradation of forestlands, regeneration and expansion were achieved through forest protection and law enforcement and reforestation and agro-forestry efforts by various stakeholders and partners.

The report also stated the province is losing 80 hectares of forest land annually, with around 17 ha. being lost to conversion of forest land to other uses and 63 hectares degraded due to forest fires and timber poaching. Satellite readings from 1987 to 2010, show that a net of 70,057 hectares of forestland were newly covered with trees at an estimated rate of 3,045 ha. per year.

Around 1,949 ha. were plantings in forestlands and private lands per year and 1,096 ha. per year from natural regeneration.

In terms of achieving the target of total forest expansion of 56,700 ha., about 31,752 ha. or 56 percent is targeted as sites suitable for forest restoration through reforestation and 24,948 ha. for natural regeneration through assisted natural regeneration and protection efforts.

The DENR said to achieve the target forest expansion in 50 years, all reforestation targets must be attained in 10 years and subsequent development planning that accelerates the attainment of the natural regeneration targets in succeeding 40 years, including mass-based replanting and protection efforts.

The report showed most areas in Benguet experience light erosion at 46 percent or about 142,483.75 ha. The province’s moderate erosion is at 32 percent or 97,471.12 ha. and its severe erosion is 17 percent or 51,442.99 ha. Its unique topography, slope, and land use make the province prone to soil erosion, the DENR report stated. The estimated soil lost every year is pegged at 28.8 million tons.

Around 66 million tons is the estimated loss of soil nutrients per year due to erosion. The value of soil fertility lost per year is estimated at more than P1 billion. This translates to the amount of fertilizer cost that may be required in restoring land productivity per year.

As for climate change mitigation, Benguet’s forests stock 21,077,345.36 tons of carbon. “The forest cover substantially contributes to climate change mitigation through its capacity to store and sequester carbon,” the DENR wrote in the report.

The State of the Forest Report highlights conditions and achievements, directions, policies, programs and projects toward a livable and progressive future.

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