Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rico J. Puno vs. The Mahogany Gang

Our shool's molave tree. I christened thee
"Rico J. Puno"
Since becoming a bonsai hobbyist for about three years now, I have learned bits of the taxonomy of our local trees. I also dabbled into horticulture and a bit of tree surgery, which is really important in bonsai. Of course the meditative art and philosophy is there too.

Because of bonsai, I have develop a deep fascination with trees.

Dendrophilia or love of trees is what it is called, not to be mistaken with paraphilia which is the sexual attraction to a tree, kinda painful to imagine if you ask me.

Trees are fascinating because aside from providing shades, the air we breathe, and the timber we need, and gazilion other stuffs, they also have this incredible ability to convert energy into matter. 

Trees have been demonstrating Eienstinian physics way before Einstein even wrote his famous E=mc2. I don't know how the formula works but basically it means that matter can be converted to energy and vice versa. Ok, I'll leave it at that and not get into the physics, which is hieroglyphics to me.
The beauty of this tree is its gnarled trunk and the tree holes.
In bonsai this is called uro. I was reminded of the game played
by Scout and Boo in Harper Lee's novel "To kill a mockingbird"

I have planted trees into pots and watched their roots break their pots and then mature into trees yet they have not consumed the pot and the surrounding soil around them. 

Far from it, when their roots grow and ramifies into networks of secondary and tertiary roots, they push the earth surrounding them up thus creating the illusion of creating more earth.

Being a consumer and an organism that belongs to the second and third level of the food chain, I find it hard to imagine that something could grow and develop without devouring anything to fuel its growth proportional to its size. 

The donated mahogany seedlings growing rapidly.
Anyway, enough with the law of conservation of matter. 

About five years ago an organization donated mahogany seedlings to the school which was planted in the school campus. Now the mahogany seedlings have developed into fifteen foot young trees. 

The growth rate is amazingly fast and that's why mahogany became a popular timber crop trees in the Philippines. It is said that one ten-fifteen year old mahogany tree could give a return on investment rate of hundreds of thousand pesos per tree. 

Large amount of money considering they are maintenance free and the seedling are cheap and even given away. Profit is one of the reasons why many farmers and farm owners planted this tree on their lands.

But money always cost something.

It may have been economically profitable but ecologically it's a different thing. Mahoganies are alien species and invasive at that.  It is displacing our native trees.

Most of our native fungi, algae, and insects are not familiar with the foreign species hence they do not inter act with the tree. One case is what happened in Bohol's Bilar Manmade forest. Mahogany was planted in the reforestation program in Bohol and the trees developed  rapidly to become a beautiful forest. But there's one chilling discovery, there were no fungi and algae that grew on the trees, no fungi and algae means no insects, no insects means no birds-- biodiversity destroyed.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Molave, as a native species, has a relationship to the land, water, and other organisms that has developed over a million years. Certain fungi live with the roots, certain insects feed on the plant parts, while others pollinate the flower. Birds and mammals live along the branches and feed on the seeds. No such relationship exists for the newcomer. The result is ten hectares of mahogany in a biodiversity-dead zone. There are no birds, no insects, only a nearly dead soil due to the lethal chemicals that leak from the rotting leaves (emphasis mine). Native species are rarely found as seedlings beneath the canopy, and so, most significantly, there is no future for ten hectares of mahogany.”
Our school's narra trees.
The department should learn from this and instead give away or require schools to plant, aside from narras, threatened native hardwood trees. This will educate our pupils on the diversity of our tree species, awaken concern for the threatened species and the importance of diversity in our ecology.

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