Project title: Biodiversity of the limestone karst formations of north and north-central Palawan
Project leader(s): Raab Bustamante, Dr Alastair Robinson
Organisations involved: Philippine Taxonomic Initiative Inc.
Project summary: Ultramafic peaks comprise the majority of Palawan’s upland areas, but significant and highly biodiverse limestone formations exist in south, central and, in particular, northern Palawan. The North Palawan Block (which runs from the Malampaya sound north to Coron Island) and the Saint Paul formation (pictured) in north-central Palawan are the most significant of these sites. The latter alone protects some of the most intact and noteworthy lowland and upland forests within the Palawan biogeographic province, with a full mountain-to-sea ecosystem that includes a mosaic of eight intact Palawan Moist Forest formations (primarily forest on limestone soil, as well as forest on ultramafic soil, montane forest, freshwater swamp forest, lowland evergreen tropical rainforest, riverine forest, beach forest and mangrove forest). Despite being recognised by the WWF Global Report as containing the richest tree flora in the region, with high levels of endemism, botanical exploration of this region has been historically poor owing to lack of funding and the challenging nature of the terrain. This project seeks to identify accessible, intact sites from which to survey the local flora under the auspices of the relevant authorities, to carry out such surveys, and to use the surveys as platforms to train local botanists in field research techniques. Brief preliminary studies have identified over a dozen new species across seven genera in the region, including Begonia, Amorphophallus, Epithema, Impatiens and a number of orchid genera.
Date started and progress to date: This project is currently ongoing.