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Mount Apo


Category: Critical Plant Sites
Date Posted: 2005-12-26


Mount Apo, an extinct volcano, is the highest peak in the Philippines, reaching 2954m above sea-level. It is located in the southern part of the Central Cordillera of Mindanao (the Bukidnon-Davao Cordillera). This extends across the entire island from Diwata and Sipaca Points.

The northern and north-eastern slopes of Mount Apo and neighbouring mountains are gradual, but those on the west descend abruptly to Cotabato Valley and those on the east abruptly to the lowlands of Davao. The south-eastern slopes is bissected by the Marawin and Sibulan rivers. At 2400m, there is a flat, plateau-like area which covers 6-7 km2 and a cone of about 5OOm in height. The north-eastern slopes of Mount Apo drain into the Davao and Tab rivers and their tributaries.

Vegetation

Forests extend up to 2700m and cover about 50km2. The lower slopes, between 300 and 5OOm, have been cleared for crops, including both lowland and up land varieties of rice, cassava and bananas. Durians (Durio zibethimus) and coconuts are often planted in gardens. Secondary woodland develops in areas not utilized for cultivation.

Primary rain forest occurs at l000-1600m, and includes the dipterocarps Hopea plagata, Shorea guiso and Dipterocarpus grandifloru. The forests are festooned with epiphytes, the most abundant of which are ferns (e.g. Polypodiaceae, Aspleniaceae, Davalliaceae) and orchids (e.g. Vanda sanderiana, endangered and endemic to Mount Apo).

Flora

There are estimated to be more than 800 vascular plant species and an abundance of bryophytes. Among Mount Apo endemics collected between 300 and lOOOm are members of the genera Pipturus, Saurauia and Poikilospermum, as well as Homalanthus populneus, Elephantopus spicatus, Piper apoacum and Vanda sanderiana (the latter may possibly be extinct in the wild). Endemics at mid-altitudes include Agathis philippinensis (also found in upper montane forest in Mount Apo), Lithocarpus submonticolus (Endangered) and Peperomia elmeri (Endangered).

Social and Environmental Values

Mount Apo is a majestic mountain with spectacular scenery which makes it a popular destination for adventure tourism and hiking. Hiking to the summit usually takes four days from the Kidapawan side. However, the construction of a service road to the geothermal site has made access easier. Apart from its lush vegetation and diverse wildlife, the attractions of Mount Apo include several hot springs and lakes (including Agco Blue Lake at 1200m and three summit lakes), the sulphurous volcanic cone, Marbel River (with its milky white water), several waterfalls, including Todaya Falls on the eastern flank, and the semi-circular summits of Mount Talomo and Mount Sibulan.

Six ethnic tribes live in the area. Mount Apo is a sacred place for the 450,000 Lumad tribal people and is their last remaining home.

The fauna of Mount Apo includes several threatened animals. Mount Apo falls within two Endemic Bird Areas or EBAs (one lowland and one high land ERA) which cover Mindanao. Seven lowland and 24 highland restricted-range birds occur on Mount Apo National Park and it aIso harbours a small population of the highly threatened Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jeffreyi).

Threats

A major threat is the geothermal power station. It could lead to the development of settlements, commercial areas and cultivated lands around the plant. Roads have been built to allow access to drill sites. At present, there are more than 7000 families occupying 258 km2 within the park. Much of this area is used for shifting cultivation, which is itself another major threat. Illegal logging, and the increase of squatters who pan for gold, are also threats to the park.

Conservation

Mount Apo has long been a focus for botanical and zoological expeditions. The first attempt at the summit was in 1859. But it was not until the third expedition in 1880, undertaken by Don Joaquin Rajal, Dr. Joseph Montano and Father Gisbert, that the summit was reached and the first biological specimens collected. Subsequently, there have been many botanical and zoological expeditions.

Mount Apo was declared a reserve forest and National Park in 1936. The park is now under the management of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR). Mount Apo has been listed in the ASEAN List of Critical Areas for Conservation.


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