Butterflies as Bio-indicator of Ifugao Ecosystem Vigor

Butterflies as Bio-indicator of Ifugao Ecosystem Vigor

The Ifugao socio-ecological production landscape (SEPL) that includes the muyung (woodlot/forest) and payoh (rice terraces) is home to a rich indigenous flora and fauna. The muyung plays important economic and environmental functions within the Ifugao Rice Terraces landscape. However, it is currently beset by unregulated land-use conversion into inorganic agricultural farms causing the decline of its biodiversity richness. Despite this, stewardship of the muyung is still a cultural obligation of the Ifugao people.

On August 7, 2020, the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program through the Ifugao State University’s IRT-GIAHS Research and Development Center organized a re-greening activity at Kinakin, Banaue, Ifugao.  This is to support the establishment of a butterfly sanctuary through reforestation activities such as tree planting and dissemination of sustainable forest management concepts. The group started planting 300 citrus seedlings in 2019 and recently planted more fruit and indigenous trees in the area. These trees will not only home butterflies but as plant food for them. In the future, the area will serve as an educational and environmental attraction for natural heritage conservation activities.

This effort is an offshoot of the research-project of Arky Ralph T. Dulnuan, ISMTP alumnus, with his study, Species Composition and Seasonal Change of Butterfly Assemblage in Different Elevations in Mount Inulitan, Kinakin, Banaue, Ifugao. The presence of butterflies is a bio-indicator of the Ifugao SEPL of its ecosystem health and a representative of a rich biodiversity since they are particularly perceptive to environmental alteration. In Ifugao, it is believed that the presence of butterflies is a sign of good weather in a village. For the indigenous peoples, the butterflies visiting a household is believed to be carriers/channels of the souls of ancestors.

Dulnuan conducted rapid assessment of species composition and seasonal change of butterfly assemblage in three different elevations in Mount Inulitan, Kinakin, Banaue, Ifugao to provide baseline information on the species and prospective use in planning in the establishment of a butterfly farm and conservation.  28 species of butterflies, belonging to 4 families and 7 subfamilies were found in the study site. Variations in the diversity indices of the butterfly were observed over the months with the highest values during dry season in the months of July and August. Butterfly association with plant species such as citrus and churnuan were recorded in the study sites.  The network of butterfly and the host plant may be explored further to facilitate the conservation of butterfly and sustain the environmental quality of Kinakin, Banaue, Ifugao.

Surrounding the area are unregulated inorganic farming activities converting the forests into vegetable farms aided by massive use of inorganic fertilizers and other synthetic inputs. In order for the butterflies to thrive in the area considering the inorganic agricultural application, the trees planted will serve as protection and buffer zone.

Thereafter, a community meeting was conducted to plan for the sustainability of the re-greening activities and the butterfly sanctuary project including other related activities such as propagation of heirloom rice through the production of rice wine for commercial and ritual purposes.

The owner of the woodlot who is an indigenous knowledge holder shared indigenous practices and systems on muyung conservation among the participants particularly the younger generation. Forest management is a cultural practice in Ifugao. During the sharing, it was mentioned by the elders that hunting in the forest has been passed down by their ancestors where it is considered as an heirloom to them.

The values of being responsible and the observance of reverence to nature is innate among the villagers that was taught to them by their bloodline who are mumbaki (native priests). During hunting and gathering for timber and other forest resources, offerings and prayers must be done for permission and gratitude to nature and the unseen to allow the use of the ecosystem services. #Clyde B. Pumihic



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