It seems like the City of Pines is on its way to having the scent of pines again!
Experts from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have begun developing a tool to track pests that are destroying the pine trees in Baguio City, particularly two species of bark beetle.
In 2019, DILG Secretary Roy Cimatu expressed his worry that the city may lose pine trees as he spotted many dying trees during the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni homecoming in Baguio. (Read: Baguio Bishop Hits Property Developer for ‘Murder’ of Pine Trees)
The state of pine trees
Around 2,000 pine trees have died from pest infestations between 2015 and 2019, which caused a setback for the DENR mandate to protect the remaining 50,000 surviving pine trees among Baguio’s 2.5 million trees, Shirley Jaene Valdez, a member of the DENR’s Watershed and Water Resources Research, Development and Extension Center said in a news report from Inquirer.
She added that a 2019 study by the Benguet State University concluded that seven species of the bark beetle have been ravaging pine trees inside Camp John Hay, which hosts one of Baguio’s forest reserves.
Cimatu had tasked his agency’s Cordillera office to make sure the city did not lose more pine trees. He also ordered a fresh inventory of the city’s forest cover. (Read: LIST: Al Fresco Restaurants to Visit on Your Next Baguio Trip)
Many tourists visit Baguio, which is home to tropical pine forests, lending the city the nickname “City of Pines.” Cimatu has mentioned that he received complaints about the state of the city, especially the pine trees during his visit in 2019.
Effects of urbanization
According to the 2019 Baguio urban carrying capacity study undertaken by consultancy group Certeza Infosys Corp., the city’s urban forest covers 23% of its territory. The ideal forest cover should be 30 to 40% of the Baguio area. It shows a wide gap between the ideal forest cover and the current state of Baguio’s forest cover.
Valdez said that aside from pests, rapid urbanization, and extreme weather have been the primary reasons for the city’s diminished forests. (Read: Diocese of Tagbilaran Plants 60k Trees in a Single Day)
Despite receiving the highest rainfall from the country, the unusual and strong downpour in recent decades may also “affect the resiliency of forests,” she added.
The DENR has organized several pine tree projects such as planting 3,500 Benguet pine trees in The Mansion grounds and recently, a Geographic Information System forecasting tool for curbing bark beetle infestations, which started in July.
Valdez stated that the bark beetle project would “determine the population and attack periods of the pests using traps to be installed in 12 test sites inside Camp John Hay, Panagbenga Park, and the Botanical Garden.”
Improvised funnel traps
The tool that they are working on is improvised funnel traps. According to Valdez, it will lure the beetles using turpentine and other attractive scents to help analysts compute the ratio of beetles inhabiting an infested tree “since it would be improbable to make a headcount.”
This project will map the rate and behavior of bark beetle infestation and create “an early warning system” if the spread of pests becomes a full-blown upsurge, she explained.
Upon trial, the first traps that were set up at the Botanical Garden have also lured other insects, including species that may be destroying the pine trees. (Read: CBCP Launches Nationwide Program for the Care of Environment)
Valdez concluded that these tools may serve as short-term solutions to the alarming devastation of pine trees in Baguio.