Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park :: About

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The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 kilometers north-west of the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. The National Park is located in the Saint Paul Mountain Range on the northern coast of the island. It is bordered by St. Paul Bay to the north and the Babuyan River to the east.

The City Government of Puerto Princesa has managed the National Park since 1992. It is also known as St. Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, or St. Paul Underground River. The entrance to the Subterranean River is a short hike from the town of Sabang.

GEOGRAPHY

The topography varies from flat plains to rolling hinterlands and hills to mountain peaks. Over 90% of the park comprises sharp, karst limestone ridges around Mount St Paul, which is itself part of a series of rounded, limestone peaks aligned on a north-south axis, along the western coast of Palawan.

The focus of the area is a spectacular karst landscape which features both surface karst features (pinnacles, shafts, dolines and limestone cliffs), as well as an extensive underground river system.

The park has a limestone karst mountain landscape with an 8.2 kilometer navigable underground river. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it winds through a cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea. It includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, speleotherms, several large chambers exist, up to 120 m wide and 60 m high. The lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences.

The underground river (the Cabayugan River) arises approximately 2 km south-west of Mount Saint Paul at an altitude of 100 m, and flows underground for almost its entire length to an outflow into St Paul’s Bay. All rivers and associated tributaries are within the park, which is important in relation to catchments impacts on the water quality of the Cabayugan River.

Until the 2007 discovery of an underground river in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was reputed to be the world’s longest underground river. The area also represents a habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full mountain-to-the-sea ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia. It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site on December 4, 1999.

FLORA

The Park has a range of forest formations representing eight of the thirteen forest types found in tropical Asia, namely forest over ultramafic soils, forest over limestone soils, montane forest, freshwater swamp forest, lowland evergreen tropical rainforest, riverine forest, beach forest, and mangrove forest. Researchers have identified more than 800 plant species from 300 genera and 100 families. These include at least 295 trees dominated by the dipterocarp type of species. In the lowland forest, large trees such as the Dao (Dracontomelon dao), Ipil (Intsia bijuga), Dita (Alstonia scholaris), Amugis (Koordersiodendrum pinnatum), and Apitong (Dipterocarpus gracilis) are common. Beach forest species include Bitaog (Calophyllum inophyllum), Pongamia pinnata, and Erynthia orientalis. Other notable plant species include Almaciga (Agathis philippinensis), Kamagong (Diospyros pulganensis) Pandan (Pandanus sp.) Anibong, and Rattan (‘Calamus sp.)

FAUNA

Birds comprise the largest group of vertebrates found in the Park. Of the 252 bird species known to occur in Palawan, a total of 165 species of birds were recorded in the park. This represents 67% of the total birds and all of the 15 endemic bird species of Palawan. Notable species seen in the park are the Blue-naped parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis), Tabon scrub fowl (Megapodius cumunigii), Hill myna (Gracula religiosa), Palawan hornbill (Anthracoceros marchei), White breasted sea eagle (Halitutus leucogates ). There are also some 30 mammal species that have been recorded (Madulid, 1998). Most often observed in the forest canopy and along the shoreline feeding during low tide is the long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), the only primate found in the area. Other mammal species in the Park are the Bearded pig (Sus barbatus), Bearcat (Arctictis binturong), Palawan stink badger (Mydaus marchei) and the Palawan porcupine (Hystrix pumilus). 19 species of reptiles have been identified, eight of which are endemic (Madulid, 1998). Common species in the area include large predators like the Common reticulated python (Phython reticulatus), the Monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) and the green crested lizard (Bronchocoela cristatella). Amphibian fauna include ten species. The Philippine woodland frog (Rana acanthi) is the most dominant and frequently encountered. One species, Barbourula busuangensis, endemic to Palawan was also observed in the area. Notable are the nine species of bats, two species of swiftlets and whip spider (Stygophrynus sp.) found in the cave, and the Sea cow (Dugong dugon) and the Hawksbill sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) that feed in the coastal area of the Park.