Three years of botanical exploration turned fruitful for a team of researchers from the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) as they discovered a new endemic plant species in the Mount Arayat National Park (MANP) in Pampanga.
The Pyrostria arayatensis was discovered in the lowland forest of the 3,715-hectare MANP in 2017 and published in the international scientific journal of Annales Botanici Fennice on August 10, 2020. The species belongs to the family Rubiaceae and is endemic to the Philippines.
The discovery of the new plant species was part of the dissertation of Dr. Marlon Suba, together with experts Axel Arriola, Grecebio Jonathan Alejandro, Nicolas Raphael Arcangel, Jomari Jalipa, Joaquim Gerardo Jurilla, and Jose Manuel Villasenor.
In the Philippines, Pyrostria is currently represented by P. elmeri, P. obovatifolia, P. oligophlebia, P. ramosii, P. subsessilifolia and P. trifloral, while the conservation status of P. arayatensis is still unknown, the study read.
According to Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Luzon (DENR-Region 3) Executive Director Paquito Moreno Jr., the discovery of the new plant species is an indicator that MANP has sustained its healthy biological diversity, as rare native plants continuously grow in the area.
“Even at the very start when this group of researchers applied for a gratuitous permit to do their research in the area, we were positive that something good and noble would come out of this,” Moreno said in a statement.
He pointed out that the preservation of the ecological value of MANP is among the priorities of the DENR-Central Luzon, since diverse flora and fauna flourishes in this mountain while serving as a natural habitat to rare and threatened species of plants and animals.
Moreno reminded the public that not all could do bioprospecting, exploration and scientific research on wildlife in a protected area, unless they secure a clearance from the Protected Area Management Board—the governing body in charge of the management and operations of the protected area.
He also urged the public to protect and conserve the MANP as an important ecosystem in region as any disturbances that threaten its biodiversity is strictly prohibited under Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018.
Poaching any wildlife, cutting and transportation of timber and forest products and illegal occupation of lands within the protected area are just some of the activities not tolerated by the ENIPAS law, and any person found violating its provisions may be penalized or imprisoned, Moreno added.
Based on current data, MANP is home to 49 species of trees and plants, 86 species of birds, 14 species of mammals, and 11 species of reptiles. Of these, two species of plants are endemic, the Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) and the Chamberlain’s Pitogo (Cycas chamberlaini).
Mount Arayat has been declared a national park in 1933 under Presidential Proclamation No. 594 signed by former President Manuel Quezon.