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Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao, Philippines is the only protected forest noted for its unique bonsai field or 'pygmy' forest of 100-year old trees in an ultramafic soil. Mt. Hamiguitan has been found to have five (5) vegetation types and these are the agroecosystem, dipterocarp, montane and typical mossy and the mossy-pygmy forest. This serially nominated property is found to possess high and varied ecosystem with many endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. One of the endangered bird species located is the majestic Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). It has been identified by Conservation International as one of the Philippines 'hotspots' that is included by the Philippines Eagle Alliance as one of the first priority sites in Eastern Mindanao for conservation and protection.
The Philippine eagle is of outstanding universal value for science and conservation, whose nesting and feeding areas are located in dipterocarp forests including closed canopy forests. It is the second largest eagle in the world. The aviator Charles Lindbergh, as representative of the World Wildlife Fund, proclaimed it as "the air's noblest flyer." The Philippine eagle is the nation's symbol and is locally known as "haribon" or bird king. With a wingspan of two meters, this bird of prey boasts the largest surface area in its wings among all eagle species. Like the giant panda of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary, recently inscribed as a World Heritage Site at the 30th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Vilnius last July, the Philippine eagle is a wonder of nature of great charisma. This bird is not found elsewhere in the world and has become the symbol of Philippine conservation efforts. Widespread destruction of its habitat and collection is driving this species to extinction.
The 6,834-hectare total surface area of Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is characterized by five (5) vegetation types, namely, agro-ecosystem (75-420m asl), dipterocarp (420-920m asl), montane (920-1160m asl), typical mossy (1160-1350m asl) and the mossy-pygmy forest (1160-1200m asl). Each of these forest type harbors endemic, threatened, rare and economically important species of flora and fauna. The mossy-pygmy forest occupies approximately 225 hectares of the sanctuary. Trees have an average height of only 1.4m with a diameter of 8 cm. Two dominant species that can only be found in this forest type are Leptospermum flavescens and Wendlandia nervosa. Other species include Tristaniopsis micrantha, Dacrydium elatum, Calophyllum blancoi, Symplocos polyandra, and Agathis philippinensis (Almaciga) which has the highest average height of only 2.4 m. Madulid (1991) reported that this type of vegetation is associated with ultramafic species, such as, Calophyllum sp. Norman (2004) explained that the stunted growth of trees could be attributed to a high concentration of chromium, iron, nickel and magnesium in soil.
Inventory of flora species in each vegetation type revealed that the montane forest has the highest species richness of plants with 462 species, followed by dipterocarp forest with 338 species. Mossy and agro-system have the lowest species richness value of 246 each. The highest diversity index of trees (1.7) could be observed in the montane forest while a diversity index of 1.273 was observed in the mossy forest. The mossy-pygmy forest has the highest diversity index (1.498) for shrubs, herbs and vines. Assessment of the conservation status of the 477 identified species revealed that 163 species (18.56%) are endemic, 35 species (3.99%) threatened, 33 species (3.75%) rare and 204 species (23.23%) economically important. Eight (8) species, namely, Elaeocarpus verticillatus, Patersonia lowii, Astronia lagunensis, Nepenthes argentii, N. mira, Schizaea inopinata and S. malaccana, have been found to be new record in Mindanao and one species, Nepenthes maxima, as new record in the Philippines. Based on sampling plots, endemicity of trees per vegetation type revealed that as elevation increases, endemic species also increase. This property is therefore found to be very rich in endemism.
The IUCN Red List has identified at least 11 endangered vertebrate species. The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources and Development (PCARRD) reported that the mountain is inhabited by five endangered species, 27 rare species, 44 endemic species and 59 economically important species. In July 2004, the Mt. Hamiguitan Range has been declared under Republic Act 9303 as a protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary. Out of the 14 species of mammals observed in Hamiguitan Range, seven species (50%) were found as Philippine endemic and three species (21.4%) as Mindanao endemic with six threatened species. Two endemic species of mammals in Hamiguitan Range, Acerodon jubatus (Golden-crown Flying Fox) and Tarsius syrichta (Philippine Tarsier) are endangered; three endemic species are vulnerable, Sus philippinensis (Philippine Warty Pig), Cervus mariannus (Philippine Brown Deer), and Haplonycteris fischeri (Philippine Mossy-pygmy Fruit Bat); and one endemic species is threatened, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Asian Palm Civet). For birds, a total of fifty-three species were found, of which ten species (18.9%) are Mindanao endemic and 20 species (37.7) are Philippines endemic, respectively with four threatened species. Two endemic species of birds, Phapitreron cinereiceps (Dark-eared brown dove) and Pinelopides panini (Tarictic Hornbill) are endangered; one is near-threatened, Aethopyga primigenius (Grey-hooded sunbird) and one vulnerable, Mimizuku gumeyi (Giant-scoop Owl).
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary belongs to the 15 biogeographic zones in the Philippines considered to have the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area. This site is therefore nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its outstanding universal significance.
Mount Hamiguitan is highly significant in the Philippines' 7th ranking among the 17 biologically rich countries of the world. The site represents the fast disappearing habitats of globally important species of plants and animals. The diversity of habitats and plant and animal species in this property is attributed to the geologic setting, that is, Mount Hamiguitan is an ultramafic terrain giving rise to an ultramafic forest and associated diverse habitats and flora and fauna. At the national level, this sanctuary is a conservation interest. At a global scale, it is known to be a habitat of globally important species of plants and animals.
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary located in Davao Oriental, Mindanao is the only protected forest noted for its unique bonsai field or 'pygmy' forest in an ultramafic soil that is a result of the development of rock weathers that has left the soil with an unusually high concentration of iron and magnesium, thereby causing it to be unproductive. This forest type has a substrate predominated by rocks called ultrabasic or surpentines. Mt. Hamiguitan has been found to have five (5) vegetation types and these are the agroecosystem, dipterocarp, montane and typical mossy and the mossy-pygmy forest. In the pygmy forest, only a specialized group of plants grow on this type of forest, those that are often low, heath-like shrubs such as the Nepenthes alata, a facultative species, and obligate ultramatic species of Nepenthes, which has been found to be numerous in the area. It has been declared as a protected area in the Philippines as it is found to possess a varied ecosystem with many endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. Also endemic in Mt. Hamiguitan is the majestic and Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). The Hamiguitan Range has been identified by Conservation International as one of the Philippines 'hotspots' that is included by the Philippines Eagle Alliance as one of the first priority sites in Eastern Mindanao for conservation and protection.
Mt. Hamiguitan is a declared Protected Area under Republic Act 9303 as a Wildlife Sanctuary. The management system is in place and is being managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Protected Area Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippines. Mt. Hamiguitan presents the highest and richest bio-diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area having unique, rare and threatened endemic species of outstanding universal value. Its outstanding value comes from its being a sanctuary, habitat and center of endemism of rare and threatened species.
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is being compared with the following Natural and Mixed properties:
1. Kinabalu Park (N ii, iv/ 2000) in the State of Sabah on the northern end of the island of Borneo in Malaysia. This is dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Like Mt. Hamiguitan, it has a very wide range of habitats, from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. It has been designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia and is exceptionally rich in species with examples of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, as well as pan-tropical flora. The Kinabalu NP is a 75,400ha park north Sabah; lowland montane tropical rainforest; high biodiversity with 75 of Borneo's 135 ficus species (13 endemic), and 72 Fagaceae species; 25% of fauna species are endemic, 290 species of butterfly and moth.
2. Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia (Peninsula) 434,000ha area is one of largest tropical rainforest reserves in Southeast Asia; lowland montane evergreen rainforest. Like Mt Hamiguitan, this National Park has a high biodiversity with over 2000 flora species. The 2189m Mt. Tahan is the highest point on the Malaysia Peninsula.
3. Gunung Mulu National Park (N i, ii, iii, iv/ 2000) in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia. This property is important both for its high biodiversity and for its karst features, Gunung Mulu National Park. It is located on the island of Borneo in the State of Sarawak and is the most studied tropical karst area in the world. Like Mt. Hamiguitan, this park contains a rich biodiversity of species. The 52,864-ha park contains 17 vegetation zones, exhibiting some 3,500 species of vascular plants. Its palm species are exceptionally rich, with 109 species in 20 genera noted.
4. Gunung Leuser NP in Sumatra, Indonesia is one of largest tropical rain forests protected areas in Indonesia (835,500ha). It has montane, swamp, subalpine and lowland dipterocarp rain forests. Like Mt. Hamiguitan, it is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna found only in this part of the world. Over 2000 flora species, a biosphere reserve, ecosystem development project and Orang-utan Rehab Centre (orang-utans, gibbons, tigers, monkeys, elephants, leopards, Sumatran rhino) waterfalls, hot springs, volcanic rock are found in the area.
5. Kutai Game Reserve in Kalimantan, Indonesia is a 200,000 ha biosphere reserve that is a best example of tropical rainforest on Kalimantan. It is one of Southeast Asia's largest lowland montane rainforests with 262 dipterocarps and 83% of Borneo's forest species. Like Mt Hamiguitan, it is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna found only in this part of the world.
6. Irian Jaya Tropical Forest Protected Areas in Irian Jaya is one of the largest expanses of pristine tropical rainforest (35 million ha) in Southeast Asia. It has lower montane forests occur below 3000m and upper montane and subalpine forest above 3400m; swamp, eucalyptus, beach, and mangrove (2nd largest behind Sundarbans) forest; sago palm is staple foodsource. It has two national parks and seven nature/game reserves. Like Mt Hamiguitan, it is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna found only in this part of the world.
7. Lorentz National Park (N i, ii, iv/ 1999), Indonesia (2.5 million ha) is the largest protected area in South-East Asia. Like Mt Hamiguitan, the Lorentz Park is found to have a high level of endemism and the highest level of biodiversity in the region.
8. Andaman Island Protected Areas in India which is a six national parks and 94 wildlife sanctuaries on Andaman and Nicobar islands covering 70,800ha. It is found to have a high rate of biodiversity of flora species, especially on Andaman like Mt Hamiguitan.
9. Western Ghats, India which is over 15 million ha of area with eight national parks and 39 wildlife sanctuaries. It has moist evergreen forest across mountain range. Like Mt Hamiguitan, it is rich in species diversity (84 of India's 112 endemic amphibians). It has monkeys, squirrels and bats live in tree canopy, with deer and elephants that browse in lower branches and understorey. Clear felling in the property was stopped in mountainous areas by Chipko movement.
10. Southern Laos Tropical Forest Reserves in Laos is the most extensive undisturbed tropical evergreen forest region in Laos. Like Mt Hamiguitan that is considered as a priority area for conservation, the Southern Laos Tropical Forest Reserves has the lowland tropical forest of Belovens Plateau (80,000ha) Xe Piane (15,000ha) and Bung Nong Ngom National Parks which have been identified as priority areas for conservation. It consists of dense evergreen and semi-evergreen monsoon forests and open deciduous forest in flatter areas. And like Mt Hamiguitan, this property is found to have numerous flora and fauna including threatened species. In the Southern Laos Tropical Forest Reserves are found such threatened species as the black gibbon, clouded leopard, tiger, Asian elephant and kouprey. This is being proposed as a transborder site with Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.