The Philippines is one of the few countries that is, entirety, both a biodiversity hotspot and a mega-diversity country, placing it amongst the top priority hotspots for global conservation. Kaingin – the local term for shifting cultivation, is a widespread land-use in forest-agriculture frontiers in upland areas of the country, and regarded as one of the key drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Whilst kaingin is not yet a recognised land-use, it is still the mainstay of livelihoods to millions of upland rural farmers in the Philippines. We investigated the conservation value of post-kaingin secondary forests in an upland area of Philippines along a fallow gradient. Fallow areas that have been abandoned for less than 5 years, 6-10 years, 11-20 years and 21-30 years were identified and inventoried following a modified Gentry plot approach. Tree diversity, species composition and forest structure parameters were measured, and recovery rate of diversity and forest structure parameters were compared with that of undisturbed forests. Altogether, 2918 tree individuals were measured from 100 transects of 250m2 size. 131 tree species belonging to 86 genera and 46 families were identified, with 10 species being listed as critically endangered globally. Species richness was significantly (p <0.00) high in 21-30 years old fallow sites (45.80±5.93), whilst Shannon’s diversity index (3.37±0.1), species evenness (0.88±0.02), stem number (145.80±16.53), basal area (7.81 m2±2.23) and leaf area index (6.08±0.95) were highest in undisturbed secondary forests followed by in sites under 21-30 years old fallow category. Recovery of tree diversity and forest structure was highest in fallow areas that have been abandoned for 21-30 years after being subject to kaingin. Our study confirms that regenerating secondary forests following kaingin holds greater conservation value as compared to the undisturbed forests, and can be considered as a cost-effective restoration approach in Philippines and in other tropical countries where this traditional land-use is persistent. Incorporating this land-use in the REDD+ rewarding mechanism with greater understanding of fallow dynamics could be beneficial both for local livelihoods and for the environment.
2015 Student Conference on Conservation Science Australia, Brisbane, Australia 19-29 January 2015