Trees replanted to restore natural forest

Nearly 5,000 trees have been planted through a Samoa Conservation Society (S.C.S) project whose ultimate goal is to restore forest.

The project has been implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E) at the O le Pupu-Pue National Park.

Project Coordinator, Faleafaga Toni Tipamaa said that they have started the monitoring of the seedlings that have been planted.

“The work is progressing very well,” he said in a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer on Friday.

The project has also employed 30 youth from (10 from each village) the villages of Poutasi, Saaga and Saleilua who for the first two weeks assisted in the clearing of the land and planting.

They have now moved onto the monitoring stage according to Faleafaga, where they will look at the growth of the trees and their survival.

The team would measure the height, the ground cover and look at the diameter of the tree as well as the health of each plant.

Faleafaga said this week they were at Togitogiga and concluded that the project is going well. They will then put together their findings and present their first progress update next Monday.

Asked what will happen if some of the planted trees are damaged, he revealed that they cannot be replaced immediately.

He said during maintenance in the next few weeks they would be able to tell which trees are dead and need to be replaced.

Faleafaga explained that 1510 trees have been planted in one plot, 1500 in the second one and 1550 in the third one, which adds up to 4560 trees which is nearly half of the total that the project aims to achieve.

He hopes that by the end of the year they should see some growth of the trees.

Faleafaga also stated that he is thankful for the partnership with the M.N.R.E as well as the Forestry Division’s research team.

In a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer on Friday, S.C.S. President James Atherton said restoration work started a month ago.

“They made a really good start, their target is 10,000 tress and they have already planted I think over 4,000 so there are already almost half way there and it’s a really long project,” he said.

Mr. Atherton said the national park has been overwhelmed with invasive species as a result of cyclone damage over many years.

The invasive species inhibit the recovery of the forest as it covers other trees and smaller plants.

Mr. Atherton said the first thing to be done in the restoration work was to go to the area and clear the vines which would allow them to plant underneath.

He added that the only native trees that are found in that area are in a very close spacing of around 2 meters with the idea being that after two years their canopies merge and then the weeds underneath will get shaded out.

“We are trying use nature to heal nature,” he said.

There are two main purposes for the project according to Mr. Atherton, which are forest restoration and carbon offsetting.

In terms of plant growth, he said that they are actually very fast growing in Samoa and trees can reach full size in 15 years.

He added that the trees will continue to grow but their growth rate slows down after 15 or 20 years.

Mr. Atherton also revealed that there is a related project that the M.N.R.E are leading called the payment for ecosystem services, which also uses carbon offsets as a way to generate international income flows

Mr. Atherton acknowledges the assistance of M.N.R.E, the UNDP Small Grants Programme, US Forests Service, Private donors, the Poutasi Development Trust, M.N.R.E’s Forestry Division and the villages of Poutasi, Saaga and Saleilua.

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