Philippines Freshwater | WWF

Philippines Freshwater

El Nido, Palawan Islands, Philippines.

About the Area

The largest lake in the Philippines, Laguna de Bay, is shallow and close to sea level and was probably part of the ocean a long time ago. The second largest, Lake Lanao, is 2,296 feet (700 m) high in the mountains, and several rivers feed its deep basin, which supports a very productive fishery, as well as a unique group of fish found only here. The streams and lakes of the Philippines freshwater ecoregion support high numbers of endemic species, particularly fish.

The seven thousand islands with more than 21,000 miles of shoreline, numerous rivers, swamps, and unique mountain lakes - harbour fish and freshwater crab species that evolved over thousands of years from marine ancestors to fill new habitats and conditions over time. For example, the Taal herring, found in Taal Lake, is a sardine that has adapted to live in a freshwater environment.
88,000 sq. km (34,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:

Small Lakes

Geographic Location:

Conservation Status:
Local Species
This ecoregion was home to 30 endemic fish species, including a radiation of 18 endemic cyprinid species in Lake Lanao - all thought to have evolved from the spotted barb.

The vast majority of the fish species that inhabit the fresh waters of the Philippines (234 out of a total of 330) return to the sea to spawn. Endemic species such as Puntius lindug, P. baoulan, and P. tumba have been driven to the brink of extinction by introduced species.

This ecoregion also supports disjunct populations of the highly endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) along with 41 endemic freshwater crab species.

This ecoregion is also home to 41 freshwater crab species, all of which evolved here and are found only here.

Featured species

Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis)

The Philippine crocodile is a relatively small species - males generally do not grow larger than 3 metres, with females being smaller. Has a relatively broad snout for a crocodile, and heavy dorsal armour. Mainly restricted to freshwater areas - e.g. small lakes and ponds, small riverine tributaries and marshes.

The diet is mainly aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates. This species constructs a relatively small (around 1.5 m wide x 0.5 m tall) mound nest, into which the female deposits between 7 and 20 eggs. Incubation time is approximately 85 days. The female exhibits parental care.

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The introduction of Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and Tank goby (Glossogobius giuris) have caused the near-extinction of the Lake Lanao species flock. Logging, mining, agriculture are serious threats to the water quality of the ecoregion's freshwater habitats.
WWF’s work

Philippine coastal community cited as best place to observe whale sharks
14 Jan 2005

Donsol, the Philippines – Time Magazine has identified the WWF-supported whale shark interaction programme in the Philippines’ Donsol River as the “Best Place for an Animal Encounter”.

Donsol is known as the whale shark capital of the world because of the high number of whale sharks, locally known as butanding, found in its municipal waters. For decades, whale sharks have migrated to the mouth of the Donsol to feed on plankton.

WWF-Philippines, together with Donsol's local government, local police, women groups, and fishing communities, set up the Task Force Sagip Kalikasan (TFSK), which regularly monitors the municipal waters, particularly against illegal pangulong or purse seine fishing — fishing by industrial nets that encircle schools of fish at one time.

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