Survey’s exciting discoveries
The Samoa 2016 Biodiversity Rapid Assessment Programme (B.I.O.R.A.P) has left locals rapt with the preliminary findings presented in the team’s wrap up last week.
The three weeks’ Survey of Samoa’s Key Biodiversity Areas (K.B.A) came to a successful end with the preliminary findings presented to various environmental stakeholders last Friday.
The B.I.O.R.A.P which was carried out in some of Samoa’s main biodiversity areas, specifically the Central Upland and Cloud Forests of Savai’i accessed through the villages of A’opo and Taga as well as the Falealupo peninsula coastal rainforest in Savai’i and the Uafato coastal rainforest on Upolu provided some new and exciting findings of plants, reptiles, insects and birds to name a few.
One of the most exhilarating findings was the two confirmed sightings of the native Manumea bird at Uafato.
A significant find at Taga in Savai’i is what might possibly be a ‘new’ gecko species native to Samoa. At A’opo a new species of ‘red orchid’ was found and this B.I.O.R.A.P made the first recorded sighting of the Friendly Grounded Dove at Falealupo, making it only the third site known in Samoa for this bird.
In terms of insects, new species of moths and micro-snails were found that are new to science and waiting to be named.
These recent findings are a small part of the extensive B.I.O.R.A.P survey findings that was documented by international and local experts that led a team of more than 60 people consisting of scientists, university interns from the National University of Samoa and the National University of Singapore, conservation agencies, M.N.R.E technical staff and people with traditional and hunting knowledge from the local communities around Samoa.
The Samoa 2016 B.I.O.R.A.P is a coordinated initiative by the government of Samoa through the Ministry of the Natural Resources and Environment and spearheaded by the Project for Strengthening of Multi- Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes (S.M.S.M.C.L Project) of Samoa and the Conservation International (C.I) through its CI Samoa division.
It is an integral part of the S.M.S.M.C.L Project, which aims to ensure Samoa’s productive landscapes are protected and sustainably managed to mitigate land degradation by integrating Sustainable Land Management principles into planning framework actions across multi- sectoral arrangements.
In this context, the B.I.O.R.A.P is aimed to assist with the development of multi- sectoral approaches to the management planning and implementation of the selected K.B.A which fall within the Project’s priority areas.
The C.I Asia Pacific Field Division and C.I Samoa provided the scientific expertise through a team of experienced scientists from America, Fiji and New Zealand which carried out the field ecological surveys with the locally selected teams researching the specified K.B.A areas’ plants, vegetation and avifauna and also collected information on mammals (native and introduced/invasive), reptiles and invertebrates. Their findings will establish the baseline biodiversity information needed for the revision and establishment of effective multi-sectoral conservation and management plans at each of the K.B.A sites.
A key element to the success of this K.B.A B.I.O.R.A.P has been the strong engagement of the local communities to ensure their understanding of the value of these efforts and their support of these activities to protect the environment they live in and the nature that they depend upon.
The B.I.O.R.A.P has been a channel that has allowed the transfer and exchange of knowledge between the Survey team and the local experts. The scientists and technical team members have passed on to the villagers survey techniques and skills as well as training in scientific surveying techniques. The local communities in turn have shared with the Survey team their own local and traditional knowledge and have led the teams in the pre-surveys especially regarding the cutting of the transect trails and identifying specific areas where the different teams should focus on.
Another crucial component of the B.I.O.R.A.P is capacity building and the local team of villagers and MNRE staff were able to improve on their technical and research skills and put into practice the training they received from the scientists.
These components and documented findings will now be analysed, researched further and confirmed in Samoa 2016 B.I.O.R.A.P Final Technical and Scientific Reports that will be submitted to Samoa by the end of this year.
These Reports will include findings, lessons learnt and recommendations from the surveys providing a way forward in conserving and managing these K.B.As.
These materials including maps, photos, presentation slides and a short documentary will also be provided to the Project to present to the communities afterwards.