Philippine Science Letters
vol. 3 | no. 1 | 2010
published online May 7, 2010


Deforestation, Swidden Agriculture and Philippine Biodiversity

by Raul K. Suarez, Percy E. Sajise



It is thought that about 90% of Philippine land area was once forested. This has now been reduced to <20% and, if the current rate of deforestation is maintained, it is projected that no forest cover shall remain within the next decade. Forest destruction has occurred in two steps, beginning with logging, followed by various forms of swidden cultivation. We examined the literature in search of data with which to test the hypothesis that swidden cultivation is “not bad” for biodiversity in the Philippines. The great biodiversity and endemism of forest flora and fauna are such that, in most cases, number and kinds of species in the swidden do not adequately substitute for what is lost in the course of forest destruction. However, studies comparing forest and swidden biodiversity have been inadequate and have failed to consider ecosystem function and services. Because many indigenous and endemic species evolved as forest specialists, the continued deforestation of the Philippines shall likely lead to their extinction. The valuation of ecosystem services provided by Philippine forests may yet reveal that the benefits derived from their conservation would greatly exceed those currently derived from their destruction.