PH medicinal trees, plants in danger due to climate change, deforestation


Moringa (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

The country’s medicinal trees and plants are in danger because of climate change and deforestation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB) said.

With this, it called on for the implementation of active conservation efforts to protect and propagate medicinal plants amid climate change and other threats.

The DENR—ERDB said the the country has yet to maximize the economic value of medicinal plants.

ERDB Director Maria Lourdes G. Ferrer said forest species studies show interconnected relationships between nature and human health used by indigenous people worldwide for disease treatment.

There is a need to gather and preserve indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants and medicinal forest trees given their benefits and potential for economic activity, she added.

"As we embark on this intellectual journey, let us remember that our discoveries have the potential to touch lives, alleviate suffering and shape the course of healthcare and medicinal forest trees species conservation," said Ferrer.

According to ERDB Assistant Director Conrado B. Marquez, habitat protection through active forest management, governance, and adequate finance allocation are critical for medicinal forest trees to evolve and become robust to climate change.

He said that the ERDB  is currently working on a technology called “tree fortification.”

“We are trying to fortify trees in a manner that will make them more resilient to pests and to add to the viability and manageability of particular tree species," Marquez explained.

The tree fortification seeks to protect threatened tree species and increase their population.

In addition, the ERDV said it is doing other vegetative propagation measures such as cloning to address scarcity of species.

Per University of the Philippines Los Baños professor Dr. Pastor Malabrigo Jr.,  the country has 456 tree species with known medicinal value based on the database of medicinal species.

"We have 3,500 tree species.  It's safe to assume that we are underutilizing our plant resources. There are rare, threatened species, the public is not familiar with, which are not being used. We have to give attention to these," he said.

Recently, DENR-ERDB, the DENR's primary research arm and thinktank, led the ASEAN Conference on Medicinal Forest Trees in Pampanga, citing the enormous potential of medicinal trees for Filipino health and wellness.

At least 117 participants from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan took part in the three-day conference.