Healing Samoa’s forests

By Vatapuia Maiava 22 October 2016, 12:00AM

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) and the Samoa Conservation Society (S.C.S.) wrapped up the pilot phase of its first Carbon Offset Project (C-Offset) in the villages of Poutasi, Saleilua and Sa’aga yesterday.

The wrap up was held at the O le pupu-pue national reserve park in Togitogiga.

Carbon Offset is a form of climate change management where officials are able to work out the number of trees the nation needs to plant in order to offset or mitigate pollution.

“This project has two main objectives,” S.C.S. Secretary, James Atherton (Environmental and G.I.S. Specialist) told the Samoa Observer.

“One is to restore the national park; this (Togitogiga) was the first national park in the South Pacific established in 1978.

“It is a very important park for Samoa. It’s about 50 square km and it stretched from the center of Upolu, including the highest mountain, right down to the coast.

“It is also the most recent Lava flow, 3,000 years old. That’s why it’s very rocky here. Unfortunately cyclones have opened up this forest in the park and a lot of the forest has actually been damaged by repeated cyclones.

“Vines in particular, the fua lautetele, the broad leaf vine we see at the back has grown over these open areas and has suppressed the natural regeneration of the forest and basically stopped the forest from healing after the cyclones.”

The project will in many ways heal the forest after constant damage from natural disasters.

“So our project is trying to help nature heal by actually managing the broad leaf vine, cutting it back and most importantly planting native trees which you see here around me,” Mr. Atherton said.

“All the native trees that are found in this area, we’re planting with a very close spacing. So we’ve Malili, Asi, Tava, Maota and many other native species.

“We plant them very closely so after two or three years, the crowns or the branches of those trees merge and that suppresses all the weeds from underneath so the forest is allowed to heal.”

The other important objective of the project is to combat the scourge that is climate change.

“Secondly and importantly, the other purpose is trying to mitigate against climate change,” Mr. Atherton said.

“That means to try and do our little bit to reduce the impacts of climate change. Because climate change is a global problem and because we share the air with the rest of the world, whatever work we do here to reduce the impact of climate change will benefit the whole planet.”

And the best way to achieve that objective is to simply plant trees.

“One of the best ways to manage climate change is to plant trees,” Mr. Atherton said.

“Fifty percent or about half of the weight of the tree is carbon. Climate change is caused by too much carbon in the atmosphere mostly from industrial processes, factories, from power production using fossil fuels, for power and airplanes as well.

“One of the objectives of our project is to try and encourage businesses and individuals to think about their carbon footprint.

“Because a lot of the things you do in your life, even driving your car, flying on an airplane, turning on the air conditioner or your TV is actually resulting in more carbon dioxide being packed in the air.

“By planting trees, we can actually absorb a lot of that carbon. Forests are one the most important carbon sinks in the world.

“We need to plant more trees. About 16billion trees are cut down every year in the world, that’s a lot of trees.”

Mr. Atherton also explained that the project also contributes to an already existing project, the two million tree project.

“Here in Samoa we have a two million tree project which is planning to plant two million trees in the next few years; this little project here is contributing to that,” he said.

“We’ve planted over 600 trees in this little area as part of a carbon offset trial. Taking the carbon out of the air that we’re polluting. It’s our first trial to get the public involved in dealing with climate change and also restoring our biodiversity.”

By Vatapuia Maiava 22 October 2016, 12:00AM

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