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Pierre Sigaud2, Lex Thomson3 and Soren Hald4

The Pacific Sub-Regional Workshop on Forest and Tree Genetic Resources was held in Apia, Samoa, from 12 to 16 April 1999. National experts from 18 countries and territories attended, as well as representatives from international, regional, bi-lateral and national agencies. The objective of the workshop was to assist countries in the South Pacific to assess the status of their forest genetic resources and to prepare a regional plan of action. During the workshop, participants presented reports on the status of forest and tree genetic resources and discussed the main constraints in the sub-region. Based on the discussions, priority tree species were identified, a sub-regional plan of action prepared and recommendations made for follow-up and implementation.


The Pacific Sub-Regional Workshop on Forest and Tree Genetic Resources was held in Apia, Samoa, from 12 to 16 April 1999. This meeting is part of a series of workshops facilitated by FAO to assist countries and territories in the preparation of regional action plans on forest tree genetic resources, following the recommendations of the 13th Session of the Committee on Forestry in March 1997. The previous meeting, which included countries of the Sahelian zone of Africa, was held in Ouagadougou in September 1998 (see Forest Genetic Resources No 26, pp 9 -12). The present meeting, the first of its kind in Oceania, was strongly supported by Heads of Forestry of the Pacific Islands.

The major sponsors and organizers were the South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources (SPRIG) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), FAO, the Pacific Island Forests & Trees Support Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC/PIF&TSP), the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and the Forestry Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology, Samoa. Additional support was provided by other regional and international organizations including IPGRI, ACIAR and the Pacific/German Regional Forestry Project.

The meeting was attended by 60 participants from 18 countries and territories and 10 international, regional or national organizations and corporations. The following islands were represented: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. In addition to the organizers mentioned above, the following international, regional, bilateral and national organizations and corporations were present: Cirad-Forêt (France), CSIRO (Australia), the FAO FORSPA project, Fiji Hardwood Corporation Ltd, IUFRO, Queensland Forestry Research Institute (Australia), University of the South Pacific, and the US-Forest Service.


Participants reported on the diversity of values and functions traditionally attached to forests and trees. They also stressed that great pressure on forests and woodlands was leading to an overall loss of biological diversity and forest genetic resources. Several reasons were mentioned, including widespread deforestation, forest fragmentation, the removal of trees in agricultural and horticultural systems, and the failure to protect and plant trees throughout the South Pacific. The effects of changes in the physical and biological environment, caused by extreme climatic events or introduction of invasive agents, were also highlighted. In several islands, there was an urgent need for targeted conservation measures. In addition to technical considerations, addressing land tenure issues and the need to involve local populations were reported as crucial factors in planning sustainable forest management. Issues common to several countries and territories, and opportunities for exchange of experience and know-how were identified.

Four thematic areas were proposed for discussion and possible incorporation in the regional action plan:

  1. prioritization of species and operational needs;
  2. ways to support conservation, sustainable use and management of forests and trees;
  3. issues related to germplasm collection, exchange and access;
  4. institutional strengthening, training and regional collaboration.

For discussion under 1 and 2, participants split into three eco-geographic groups covering Polynesia and eastern Pacific (American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa and Wallis & Futuna); Melanesia (Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) and Micronesia/Central Oceania (Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, FRS. Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau).

The relevance of an initial single-species focus, suggested as an entry point of the action plan, was debated and endorsed. It was recognized that such a strategy, based on an utilitarian approach and on priority species and tree populations, could help focus discussions on operational needs and requirements. In addition, such an approach complemented other conservation strategies focused on ecosystems, which were presently addressed in other fora.

Theme 1: Identification of priority species and activities

Based on information provided by participants or gathered from country and territory reports prepared beforehand, ten top priority native species and ten high priority native species were identified by each eco-regional working group. Priority genera and species consisted of (i) those common to all islands (Calophyllum ssp, Cordia subcordata and Intsia bijuga); (ii) those common to Melanesia and Polynesia (Pometia pinnata, Santalum ssp.), or to Polynesia and Micronesia (Terminalia ssp., Thespesia populnea); (iii) those specific to a given sub-region (such as Acacia and Agathis species in Melanesia, Pandanus tinctorius in Micronesia, and Planchonella samoensis in Polynesia). Pinus caribaea and Swietenia macrophylla were cited as the most important introduced species in Melanesia and Polynesia. The lists were compiled and complemented, for each species, by scoring of technical activities most urgently needed (including exploration and collection of germplasm, evaluation, improvement, conservation in situ or ex situ). Details of operational activities, by top priority species in the three eco-geographic zones, are given in Table 15.

Table 1: Indigenous tree species identified as highest priority for genetic resource operations and activities in the Pacific Islands, by eco-geographic zone
Indigenous TreesBiological informationGene- cological studiesGermplasm collection & researchField testing & evaluationSelection and breedingGermplasm supplyEx situ conservationIn situ conservation
1. Acacia spp.
2. Agathis macrophylla211*1*3231*
3. Calophyllum spp.2(T)2223222
4. Cordia subcordata222*23321
5. Diospyros spp.2(T)222
6. Endospermum medullosum121*1*1121
7. Intsia bijuga211*22231*
8. Pometia pinnata221*11223
9. Pterocarpus indicus211*11231
10. Santalum spp.111*1*1*121
1. Calophyllum inophyllum12122221
2. Calophyllum neo-ebudicum23323
3. Cordia subcordata 221*23221
4. Intsia bijuga222*23221*
5. Planchonella samoensis3

6. Pometia pinnata11111111
7. Santalum spp.111*1*1111
8. Syzigium inophylloides 12112111
9. Terminalia richii (malili)12322312
10. Thespesia populnea (milo, miro)11122221
1. Artocarpus spp.1131123
2. Barringtonia asiatica2223

3. Calophyllum inophyllum122133
4. Cordia subcordata112223
5. Intsia bijuga33333

6. Morinda citrifolia333323

7. Pandanus tectorius11111122
8. Pisonia grandis112213

9. Terminalia spp.2122233
10. Thespesia populnea331122

1 Top priority, action urgently needed; 2 Action within next 5 years; 3 Action within next 10 years; Blank = Action not required;
* Action in progress; (T) = taxonomic study needed
A: Biological information includes natural distribution, ecology, phenology; genecological studies (morphology, isozyme, DNA); Germplasm collection and research includes evaluation and ex situ conservation; research on seed physiology & storage regimes.
B: Field testing & evaluation includes trials at provenance, progeny and clonal levels; Germplasm supply refers to development of seed production stands, clonal hedges etc for production of reproductive materials for general plantings

Production forestry is a major sector in the economy of the Melanesian countries and, accordingly, the identified priority species are mainly commercially important timber trees. In contrast, the Northern and Central Pacific includes many small atolls, has a less diverse tree flora, and the identified priorities accordingly mainly comprise widely-distributed, multipurpose coastal-area tree species. Cocos nucifera (coconut) is considered to be the region's most important multipurpose tree. However, coconut was excluded from consideration in the present workshop because work on improving and conserving its genetic resources is already being undertaken by Agriculture Departments in the region, with networking being provided through IPGRI's "COGENT". Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit) and Pandanus tectorius (screwpine) are also multipurpose tree species of vast economic and cultural significance throughout the Pacific Islands, but were only identified as priority species for action in Micronesia. This may be largely attributed to their close association with the agricultural sector, and the limited importance of commercial timber production outside Melanesia.

Theme 2: Conservation, Sustainable Use and Management of Forests and Trees

Participants discussed action recommended to promote and implement sustainable forest management practices for ecosystems and priority tree species. Participants recognized the need for a multidisciplinary approach, which should include land use planning and multiple use management of forested areas; they also noted the compatibility of conservation (including in situ and ex situ strategies) and sustainable utilization. The importance of the traditional role of local communities through customary regulation systems in the protection and conservation of forest trees was emphasized, although it was recognized that in some cases land tenure issues had hindered centralized conservation efforts. Specific strategies for the coordination of action on priority tree species would vary according to the ranking of each species and its geographical coverage, from regional collaboration projects to national or local undertakings. Recommendations were made on reforestation and conservation programmes, on protection measures against pests, diseases, fires and invasive species, and on the need to focus research on the priority species identified during the workshop.

Theme 3: Germplasm Collection, Exchange and Access

The complexity of the issues related to access and exchange of germplasm, both within countries and among countries, was presented through several viewpoints. Forest genetic resources are included in the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements. In addition to legal considerations, general issues related to the sharing of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources, quarantine and plant protection regulations and invasive species were presented and discussed. The region's major plantation programmes use exotic tree species and rely on seed import; exchange of indigenous germplasm between countries is so far limited, and is exchanged mainly for research purposes. Historically people in the Pacific have moved useful tree germplasm widely within the region, and introduced several tree species from South-east Asia. Germplasm exchanged should be documented, and its origin and phytosanitary quality certified. The experience of SPRIG, which has developed an internal Code of Conduct for Access and Transfer of Forest Genetic Materials, and the CGIAR Ethical Principles Relating to Genetic Resources, were recommended to be used as a basis for the development of regional agreements which should be based on mutually agreed terms, and which should be compatible with national laws. Several recommendations were made on seed and germplasm source information, on quarantine measures and legislation and on risk assessment.

Theme 4: Institutional Strengthening, Training Needs and Regional Collaboration

Most Pacific countries and territories have small Forestry and Environment Departments, with limited personnel and budgets. There is a need to ensure that staff are well-trained and informed in the subject area of conservation, management and utilization of forest and tree genetic resources. A number of collaborative programmes, projects and initiatives on forestry, forest conservation and forest genetic resources, already exist in the Pacific Region. They include the Pacific Islands Forest and Tree Support Programme (FAO/SPC/UNEP), SPRIG, the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme (GEF/SPREP) and the Pacific/German Regional Forestry Project. These initiatives have proved effective in enhancing national strategies and activities. Participants recognized that such efforts should be continued and widened. In particular, national and regional capacities should be strengthened by an appropriate balance of university training and "hands-on" sharing of technical skills and experience. Priority subjects were identified for training at field and university levels. Considering the limited number of research organizations involved in the development of forest genetic resources in the region, participants emphasized the importance of sharing experiences, skills and information through formal networking and linkage instruments. On policy matters, participants recognized the need to raise awareness at all levels of the importance of forestry issues in general, and forest genetic resources conservation and management in particular.

The main findings of the action plan were adopted, in principle. It was agreed that detailed elements would be completed later by SPRIG and FAO, in close collaboration with rapporteurs, and circulated to all participants for endorsement.

During the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to visit the Uafato Conservation Area, established with the support of SPREP and focusing on the sustainable management of the ifilele tree, Intsia bijuga, highly valued for its excellent wood properties. A post-meeting field visit to Savaii island allowed participants to study the work of the Forestry Division and SPRIG on enrichment planting and field trials with introduced and native species.


The workshop provided a forum for discussion of key issues related to forest genetic resources in the region. The participants recognized the need for, and agreed to develop, a sub-regional action plan for the conservation and sustainable use of forest and tree genetic resources in the Pacific. A draft based on the workshop discussions is being circulated to participants by the Organization Committee. The document will be finalized within year 2000. The plan will be complemented by a synthesis of the status of forest genetic resources in the Pacific Islands, based on data available in country reports. The synthesis and the action plan will be widely disseminated to institutions and organizations inside and outside of the region. These publications will be complemented by the proceedings of the workshop, which will include the country and territory reports and other workshop reports and papers of relevance.

Information on the workshop and its outputs and documentation will be provided to other fora and meetings. It is planned to make data available on-line through the world-wide FAO Information System on Forest Genetic Resources (REFORGEN), the SPRIG Regional Data Base of Forest Genetic Resources, and the Clearing House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


AusAID: Australian Agency for International Development, Canberra, Australia
CGIAR: Consultative Group on International Agronomic Research, Washington, USA
CIFOR: Centre for International Forestry Research, Jakarta, Indonesia
CIRAD-Forêt: Département forestier du Centre international en recherche agronomique pour le développement, Nouméa, New Caledonia
COGENT: Coconut Tree Genetic Resources Network (IPGRI)
CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy
FORSPA: Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand
GEF: Global Environment Facility of the Convention on Biological Diversity
IPGRI: International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy
IUFRO: International Union of Forestry Research Organizations, Wien, Austria
MAFFM: Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology, Apia, Samoa
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization
PGRFP: Pacific German Regional Forestry Project, Suva, Fiji
PIF&TSP: Pacific Islands Forests & Trees Support Programme, Suva, Fiji
QFRI: Queensland Forestry Research Institute, Department of Primary Industries, Gympie, Australia
SAPA: FAO Sub-regional Office for the Pacific Islands, Apia, Samoa
SPC: Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Nouméa, New Caledonia
SPREP: South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Apia, Samoa
SPRIG: South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources, Australia
UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya
USDA-FS: United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, USA
USP: University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji

  1. Received September 1999. Original in English.
  2. Forestry Officer, Forestry Department, FAO, Rome
  3. Team Leader, SPRIG Project , CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Australia
  4. Associate Professional Officer, Forestry Department, FAO, Rome
  5. Additional information on priority species in the Pacific Islands is provided in the Report of the 11th Session of the Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources, FAO, Rome, 1999 (in press).

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