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The Philippine Bambusetum

Volume 2 Number 7 - December 1996

F.M. Schlegel & F.T. Tangan

The Philippine Bambusetum was established in 1988 by the DENR-FAO-UNDP Bamboo Research and Development Project in Baguio. A joint group formed from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippines, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Mission Statement of the Bambusetum is "To contribute to the ex situ conservation of Philippine bamboo species and to assemble a collection of temperate, subtropical and also tropical bamboo taxons from other parts of the world at one selected site."

The Philippine Bambusetum is also a centre for bamboo information, training and extension and a useful facility for scientists, instructors and students for research and observation. In the near future it will be a source of newly introduced species for bamboo diversification purposes in watershed protection schemes.

Of the approximately 1,200 species of bamboo known throughout the world about 750 species are found in tropical Asia where they are most abundant. In the Philippines, bamboos constitute a characteristic feature of the landscape, some of the species are abundant; others are very rare or even seriously endangered and many are still not well known.

The main activities are to:

  • maintain international and national contacts and information exchange with similar institutions;
  • carry out a productive international bamboo genetic resources exchange;
  • constitute the primary source for diversification of economically important bamboo species in the Philippines for raw material production;
  • watershed protection and also landscaping;
  • evolve into a centre for bamboo information and extension;
  • constitute a facility for scientific and technical experimentation on bamboo species;
  • grow into the most complete collection of temperate and subtropical bamboo species;
  • propagate newly introduced species for distribution to upland farmers, and
  • constitute a protected area for endangered Philippine bamboos.

Location, General Topographic, Edaphic and Climatic Description

The Philippine Bambusetum is located, 250 km north of Manila, within the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). It is situated within the Loacan Experimental Forest, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It is about 7 km south east of Baguio City.

At present the Philippine Bambusetum covers 4.4 ha. It is representative of the hilly Benguet pine forest land in the province. The slopes, ranging from 25% to 33% are mainly oriented to the SW and NW aspects. The altitude of the area varies from 1,528-1,570 m above sea level. The soil is characterized by a disturbed upper level of maximum 12 cm. It has a clay-loam texture and a pH value of 5.66 to 5.75. The subsoil, situated from a depth of 12 to 45 cm has a silty clay loam texture with an increased participation of parent material. The climate is composed of two seasons: a dry season extending from December to April and a wet season from May to November. The average annual rainfall reaches 2,996 mm and the mean annual temperature is 22.20ºC.

The natural vegetation of the area is dominated by a fairly open second growth Benguet pine forest (Pinus kesiya Royle ex Gordon - 22 to 25 years old) and small clearings that are covered with shrubs, ferns, herbs and other ground covering species (see list of the flora). Before its acquisition by DENR, the area was subjected to extensive cattle grazing, frequent fires, firewood gathering activities and various topsoil disturbances.

The area is divided into three parts - a temperate, a subtropical and a tropical section.

The Bamboo Species at the Philippine Bambusetum

At present, the Philippine Bambusetum has 68 bamboo taxa of which 17 are native to the Philippines. Of the remaining species, 13 are long-standing and documented introductions in the Philippines, 8 are unknown introductions, detected and identified by the Philippine Bambusetum, and 31 taxa were introduced by the Philippine Bambusetum.

Nearly all the native species were collected from original sites. For each species the ecological requirements were analyzed in order to allocate them to the correct temperate, subtropical and tropical section of the Bambusetum. Most species have shown good development under the favourable subtropical climate. The only limiting factors are the dry season and the varying topsoil conditions.

Conservation of Endangered Native Bamboo Species

One of the objectives of the Philippine Bambusetum is the conservation of bamboo genetic resources which are rare, vulnerable or endangered. Therefore ex situ conservation has been initiated with the collection and cultivation of the vulnerable dwarf native species Yushania niitakayamensis (Hayata) Keng. P., called "Utod" locally. Utod is a dwarf bamboo (30-9Ocm), which grows in a slightly clumped pattern. It is only found at high altitudes on Mt Data and Mt Pulog, Luzon Island, (from 2,300 m upwards), and at Mt Xbiguayan, Mindoro Island, from 800 m upwards. Utod has a very disjunct distribution. In the Philippines it is a genetic resource seriously endangered by the extensive conversion of the mossy forest to farmland.

Other endangered bamboo species in need of ex situ conservation are: Bambusa cornuta Munro "Lopa" - it is an erect, facultatively climbing bamboo that reaches a height of 7 m. Bambusa merrillii Gamble - this is an erect bamboo which reaches a height of 15 m. Sphaerobambos philippinensis (Gamble) Dransfield - is a scrambling bamboo, reaching a height of 4-6 m.