Symposium Day 2:
“Native flora support/regulate our ecosystems and safeguard us against calamities”
Alexandre Antonelli, PhD
Director of Science, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Professor, University of Gothenburg and University of Oxford
Title: The Benefits of Native Flora for Ecosystem and Human Health
Biodiversity provides multiple benefits for human health and well-being, and well-preserved habitats are essential for fully functioning ecosystems and the services they provide. I will highlight aspects of the research undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) that demonstrate the value of native flora, while also emphasizing its intrinsic value beyond the benefits it provides to humankind. The first stage in evaluating the native flora of a region is to document and understand its species and the threats they face. RBG Kew’s work extends from fundamental taxonomy – describing new taxa, producing Floras – to assessing extinction risk for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, to designating areas with exceptional biodiversity as Tropical Important Plant Areas worthy of protection. I will give some examples of this work from South-East Asia before talking more broadly about Kew’s work on pollination biology, ecosystem service evaluation, and the value of the genetic diversity inherent in native plant populations for resilience to climate change and disease.
Symposium Day 3:
“Native flora sustain our health”
Ramon A. Razal, PhD
Professor, Department of Forest Products and Paper Science, College of Forestry and Natural
Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños
Title: Beyond Timber Trees, Non-Timber Forest Plants Sustain People and their Ways of Living
Philippine forests abound with plants other than timber trees that have supported people beyond their day-to-day subsistence. Once derisively referred to as ‘minor forest products’, these resources have gained more respect with recognition of their economic and ecological value and the understanding that their harvesting and consumption could ease pressures on timber resources. Consequently, the label of this group of plants (and animals) shifted to ‘non-wood or non-timber forest products’ (NWFPs or NTFPs).
There are many categories of these products, but this presentation is limited to a) bamboos, b) selected plants producing chemical products, and c) some wild foods, representing three of seven categories described in the 2009 book “Non-Wood Forest Products of the Philippines” by Razal and Palijon. Bamboos are predominantly categorized as sources of fiber and structural materials, while also being a source of food and, in recent times, of health and wellness products. Among several plants that are used as sources of chemicals, we studied almaciga (Agathis philippinensis Warb.) for its resin, bitaog (Calophyllum inophyllum L.) for its seed oil, and native bagras (Eucalyptus deglupta Blume) for its leaf essential oils. Finally, we will describe some research needs to be addressed so that wild foods can be sustainably tapped to contribute to current food systems.
Symposium Day 4:
“Native flora are our unique natural heritage”
Michael Agbayani Calaramo, MSc
Garden Director and Curator, Northwestern University Ecological Park and Botanic Gardens
Founder, Herbarium of the Northwestern Luzon, Philippines
Title: Documenting and Conserving the Plant Diversity of Northwestern Luzon, Philippines Amidst a Changing Climate and a Global Pandemic
The Northwestern University Ecological Park & Botanical Gardens (NUEBG) is a private institution established in Ilocos Norte in 2007, geared toward documenting and conserving local biodiversity – the natural heritage of Northwestern Luzon, Philippines. The talk covers how NUEBG accomplishes its mission despite funding concerns, natural calamities, and the recent global health crisis.
Over the last decade, the NUEBG has spearheaded botanical explorations in several hotspots devastated by some of the strongest typhoons in recent history. Long-term monitoring sites were established in 11 critical ecosystems, 5 national parks, and a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region I. These expeditions and research ventures have provided bulk of the gardens’ botanical collections, which are now conserved ex situ in screen houses and plant conservatories while also serving as teaching tools for plant systematics, field botany, and restoration ecology as part of the Botanic Garden Education Program.
Despite a lack of government financial support, the NUEBG strives for innovation, continuing to push its capabilities to ensure that the region’s flora will survive any catastrophe – super typhoons, volcanic eruptions, war, and human overexploitation. Through its membership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), NUEBG has integrated international regulations and statutes, aligning its programs with the current Global Strategy on Plant Conservation (GSPC). The gardens now store seeds in compliance with Millennium Seed Bank protocol and function as a regional repository for plant tissues, propagules, and pollen as a member of the Global Genome Biodiversity Network. Additionally, NUEBG has also earned a level IV accreditation with the Arboretum Network (ArbNet), while the Herbarium of Northwestern Luzon (HNUL), with its 20,000 accessions, has been registered with the Index Herbariorum in New York. The NUEBG also partners with both national companies and local government units that act as patrons and collaborators for tree conservation, ecological restoration, and environmental management.
Overall, the NUEBG has risen to become a cathedral for native flora – a sanctuary complementing wild populations for narrowly endemic species that also enshrines them as unique national treasures.