Pacific Ocean




Agusan Marsh

A silvery kingfisher sits on a branch.

The Agusan Marsh is a wetland ecosystem in the Philippines. It is made up of marshes, lakes, rivers, and swamps that connect.

The Agusan is home to many plant and animal species. I come here to photograph them. More than 200 endemic and migratory birds live here. Some come from as far as Russia, Japan, and China in winter. It is also home to more than 100 species of flowering plants and trees.

Plants and animals share this wetland with the Manobo Tribe. These indigenous people live in floating houses in the marsh.

Here, the landscape changes from water to land by season. During the wet or rainy season, it becomes a vast bay. It stores rainwater. It shields the land from tropical storms. It protects cities and towns from floods. It also filters the water and cleans it.

Marshland Dangers

Despite being a protected area, the Agusan Marsh is in trouble. Climate change is a constant threat. The water levels in some areas are falling due to drought.

At the same time, recurring typhoons have caused disaster. Stilt houses in floating communities are destroyed by flooding.

A purple swamphen rests amid water lilies.

A brahminy kite soars above the Agusan River.

There are other challenges, too. Layers and layers of peatlands are being burned to clear the land for building. As a result, roosting sites of birds, such as egrets, have been disturbed by plumes of smoke.

The burning of these peatlands also releases tons of carbon into the air. This speeds up the impact of climate change by raising temperatures. This in turn disturbs the ecological balance.

peat fires in the Augusan Marsh

The Manobo live in houses that rest on the water.

Strength in Community

All is not lost, however. The Manobo and people who care about the environment are working together. They want to protect the marsh.

By enforcing environmental laws, they are putting an end to many damaging practices. They are pressuring companies to stop burning peatlands and cutting down the swamp forests. This shows respect for the marsh.

a bird’s-eye view of the Manobo village in the marsh