Newton Agham Fund celebrates International Day for Biological Diversity

The Philippines contains 70% of the world’s plant and animal species. The country is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna that combine to create a complex mass of communities and ecosystems.

Biodiversity provides vital resources needed to sustain life on Earth. However, these resources require protection from the threats of habitat destruction and climate change.

The Newton Agham Fund continues to support UK and Philippine research collaborations that seek to protect, sustainably manage, and mobilise biodiversity in the Philippines, for example through its Institutional Links programme.

Better access to knowledge on Philippine biodiversity

In 2014, researchers from the UK and Philippines teamed up to create an online repository for information on Philippine biodiversity. A wealth of research exists on biodiversity in the Philippines. However, there were inconsistencies in how information was collected, managed, and analysed. Local institutions used different formats to store their data and this caused fragmentation across the body of literature.

It’s vital that researchers have quick and accurate access to information on biodiversity. This allows them to promptly inform environmental policymaking and speeds up the process for discovering new, potentially useful, species.

Beyond collation, the research team also incorporated a ‘text mining tool’ into their platform. Large, complex data sets can be analysed accurately and efficiently with the tool. It translates the human language into a computer-friendly format.

Information on biodiversity in the Philippines is now more accessible and searchable. Researchers can quickly locate specific information from a huge body of biodiversity literature. For example, researchers have uncovered new knowledge on species with medicinal benefits. The platform has been opened to the wider research community to support collaboration and knowledge sharing.

COnserving Philippine bIOdiversity by UnderStanding big data (COPIOUS): Integration and analysis of heterogeneous information on Philippine biodiversity

Project leads: Professor Sophia Ananiadou, University of Manchester – National Centre for Text Mining, UK and Professor Marilou Nicolas, University of the Philippines Manila, Philippines

Delivery partner: British Council, UK and Philippines

Harnessing Philippine microbial biodiversity to develop natural insecticides 

80% of cacao farmers in the Philippines are smallholders. They are less equipped to manage the threat of pests and diseases. Unlike larger plantations, they don't have the money or expertise to use pest management tools.

The infestation of pests such as the ‘cacao pod borer’ and the ‘cacao mirid bug’ can result in high annual losses. This not only affects the farmers that grow the cacao, but also the businesses further up the supply chain.

A team of scientists from the UK and Philippines have partnered to identify new, non-artificial approaches for cacao pest management. They investigated the diverse microorganisms found in the Philippines. Using genetic and biochemical analyses, the team characterised different microorganisms to identify compounds with insecticidal properties.

Novel substances have been identified thanks to this research. These substances can be used to develop products to manage cacao pests and diseases.

Their findings have already been published in reputable scientific journals, including American Chemical Society. The next step is to use the research to develop a formulated insecticide that Philippine farmers can use. Passing on new technologies will protect farmers' incomes and livelihoods from the threat of pests and provide them with economic security.

Assessing chemical and genetic diversity of Philippine microbes for discovery of novel natural products with applications in medicine and agriculture

Project lead: Professor Gregory Challis, University of Warwick, UK and Dr Edwin Alcantara, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Philippines 

Delivery partner: British Council, UK and Commission on Higher Education, Philippines

Boosting aquaculture productivity to benefit local communities

Aquaculture is a fast-growing sector in the Philippines. It involves the farming of fish and other marine life, such as crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic plants, under controlled conditions. The sector supports coastal communities by creating jobs and food security. However, the aquaculture industry can also harm the environment. It can damage sensitive marine habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds.

To limit the impact of aquaculture on these important habitats, a team of UK and Philippine researchers conducted a biophysical survey which assessed the conditions that affect the growth and productivity of aquaculture facilities.

The team also examined the socio-economic impact of aquaculture facilities. They spoke to local communities to hear first-hand how these resources provide sources of income, employment, and food.  

The researchers used the environmental data and input from the local community to develop a marine spatial planning tool. The tool will be used by local governments to sustainably manage marine resources and improve the productivity of aquaculture facilities.

Marine spatial planning of aquaculture facilities in the Philippines: protecting biodiversity whilst maximising economic returns for local communities

Project lead: Dr Joanna Murray, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, UK and Atty. Rosa-Liza Eisma-Osorio, University of Cebu, Philippines

Delivery partner: British Council, UK and Commission on Higher Education, Philippines


Find out more

The Newton Agham Fund Institutional Links programme is co-funded by the British Council, in partnership with the Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST).