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Vanuatu

FAO 2000 Forest Resource Assessment
Vanuatu Country Report
Department of Forests

March 2001

Introduction

The initial draft of this report was prepared by Jim Space for FAO in August 2000. It was substantially edited and maps prepared by staff of the Department of Forests following, as far as possible, the guidelines prepared by FAO for the 2000 Forest Resource Assessment. It is important to note that not all the information was available to fill in all the sections completely and there are significant gaps and uncertainties in the data (e.g. sandalwood resources and sustained yield are poorly known).

However it is fair to say that this report is a considerable improvement on the data and information available in previous summaries of Vanuatu’s forest resources. The staff involved in the preparation of this report were: Adam Gerrand, Principal Forest Officer; Mandes Kilman, Inventory Officer; Phyllis Kamestia, Mapping Officer; Jonathan Love and Sebastian Buckingham, both Australian volunteers.

Further information on the forests and forestry in Vanuatu can be obtained from:

The Director
Department of Forests
Private Mail Bag 064
Port Vila
Vanuatu
Fax: (Int) + 678 25051
Phone: (Int) + 678 23171
e-mail: forestry@vanuatu.gov.vu

Livo Mele

Director of Forests

Resources

Geography

Geographic description

The Republic of Vanuatu, formerly the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides, consists of the central and southern part of an archipelago that forms one of the numerous seismic arcs found in the Western Pacific. The Santa Cruz Islands, politically part of the Solomon Islands, constitute the northern part of the archipelago (UNEP/IUCN 1988).

The archipelago forms a y-shaped chain; the larger islands are found in the west and are made up of extinct volcanoes covered with fossil or modern coral reefs. The island arc is young and associated with considerable volcanic and seismic activity (Cheney 1987). The islands are mountainous by Pacific standards, many island interiors being uninhabited. Mt Tabwemasana Peak on Espiritu Santo is the highest point at 1 879m. Douglas (1969) and UNEP/IUCN (1988) give brief summaries of the physical characteristics for most of the islands.

Vanuatu is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean about 5 600 km south west of Hawaii and about 2 400 km northeast of Australia (see map in Appendix). The country consists of 83 islands and islets with a total land area of about 12 190 km2, extending about 800 km from north to south and about 200 km from east to west. The country's largest islands are, Espiritu Santo (3 900 km2), Malakula (2 000 km2), Erromango (1 000 km2), Efate (900 km2) and Ambrym (665 km2). Aneityum (150 km2) is the southernmost island in the group

Most of Vanuatu's islands are of volcanic origin and several are still active, including Mount Yasur on the island of Tanna. The highest peak, Mount Tabwemasana on Espiritu Santo, rises to an elevation of 1 879 m. Most of the islands have narrow coastal plains fringed by coral reefs.

Vanuatu has a tropical, humid oceanic climate, somewhat moderated by trade winds between May and October. Temperatures in the northern islands average about 27° C year around with an annual rainfall of about 3,000 mm. Temperatures in the southern islands range from about 19 to 31° C with a yearly rainfall of about 2,300 mm. There are occasional cyclones with a frequency of about 2.5 cyclones per year affecting some part of Vanuatu (Longworth 1991, Neil and Barrance 1987).

References

Cheney, C. 1987. Geology and the environment. In: Chambers, M.R. and Bani, E., Resources development and environment. ESCAP, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Pp. 1-16.

Douglas, G. 1969. Draft checklist of Pacific Oceanic Islands. Micronesia 5:327-463.

Longworth, W. M. 1991. Tropical cyclones in Vanuatu: 1847-1991. Vila, Vanuatu Meteorological Service: 24.

Neil, P. E. and A. J. Barrance 1987. “Cyclone damage in Vanuatu” Commonwealth Forestry Review 66(3):255-264.

UNEP/IUCN 1988. Coral reefs of the world. Volume 3: Central and Western Pacific. UNEP Regional Seas Directories and Bibliographies. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK/UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya. 378 pp.

Description of ecological zones

There are no formally defined or mapped ecological zones for Vanuatu. However the Vanuatu Resource Information System (VANRIS) contains vegetation and climatic data that can be used to develop maps of areas with similar vegetation and climates. It was developed by the Australian CSIRO (Bellamy 1993) and now managed by the Vanuatu Department of Lands using the MAPINFO Geographic Information System (GIS). Maps are available for the major vegetation types for all the main islands and simplified forms of these showing main forest types are given in the attachments [Note: Attachments on file at FAO Headquarters].

Forest cover

Description of the natural woody vegetation

Some 9 000 sq. km, 74% of total land area, is under natural vegetation (Neill 1987). Principal formations are tropical lowland evergreen rain forest, small areas of broad-leaved deciduous forest, closed conifer forest, montane rain forest between 1 000 m and 1 500 m; cloud forest above 1 500 m, extensive coastal forest, swamp forest on Efate; and scattered mangrove forests covering between 2 500 and 3 500ha, of which 2 000 ha occur on Malakula (Beveridge 1975, David 1985, Davis et al. 1986).

Although lowland formations have largely been cleared and replaced by anthropogenic vegetation, forest remains the dominant landscape element on most islands. Surveys conducted in the mid-1960s indicate that some 180 km2 of Erromango were occupied by closed climax forest, including 50 km2 of kauri pine stands (Johnson 1981). According to Quantin’s (1976) maps, high forests are restricted on most of the islands, especially those that are densely populated (Pentecost, Aoba, Tanna and Shepherd) or have active volcanoes (Ambrym). However, the low montane forests are generally well preserved and occupy large areas; dense, secondary woody formations, often with a thicket Hibiscus community, are extensive. The woody vegetation of Vanuatu includes lowland rain forest, montane cloud forest, seasonal rainshadow forest, mangrove forest, littoral forest and secondary forest. A botanical description of vegetation types is presented in Corner et al. (1975) and Mueller-Dombois and Fosberg (1998).

The vegetation and land classification system developed as part of the National Forest Inventory has been incorporated into the national Vanuatu Resource Information System (VANRIS). It is predominantly a structural classification well described by Bellamy (1993). The introduction from that report and the vegetation and forest type descriptions form the basis of the forest inventory and mapping system used today and are included in the attachments. Maps of the major forest vegetation types for the larger islands are attached as Attachment 2.

References

Bellamy, J. A. 1993. Vanuatu Resource Information System (VANRIS) Handbook. Brisbane, CSIRO & Qld. Dept. of Primary Industries.

Corner, E. J. H., F. R. S. Lee and K. E. Lee (co-ord.) 1975. A discussion on the results of the 1971 Royal Society - Percy Sladen Expedition to the New Hebrides. Philos. Trans. Royal Soc. (London), B, 272:267-486.

Incoll, W. D. 1994. Re-assessment of the sustainable yield for the forests of Vanuatu. Canberra, AIDAB.

Mueller-Dombois, D. and F. R. Fosberg 1998. Vegetation of the tropical Pacific islands. Springer-Verlag, New York. 733 pp.

Quantin, P. 1982. Agronomic Potential and Land Use Map. Paris, ORSTOM Editions.

Queensland Department of Primary Industries 1993. Forest resources of Vanuatu. Brisbane, Qld. DPI.

Wheatley, J. 1992. A Guide to the Common Trees of Vanuatu. Vila, Sun Productions.

Information on forest assessments

Area of forest cover

Table 1: Vegetation cover of Vanuatu.

Vegetation type

Area (ha)

Percentage of land area

Midheight forest (20-30m)

205 307

16.73

Low forest (10-20m)

234 089

19.08

Woodland (<10m)

386

0.03

Thickets (3-8mm)

433 941

35.37

Scrub (<3m)

45 018

3.67

Grassland

51 128

4.17

Swamp communities

2 261

0.18

Mangroves

2 519

0.21

Bare ground/human made

252 256

20.56

Total land area

1 226 905

100.00

The major areas of commercial forest occur on the larger islands of Santo, Malakula, Erromango and Efate, with smaller areas on the islands of Gaua, Ambae, Ambrym and Tanna. The following table and information is based on the VANRIS system described by Bellamy (1993). There is a total of 205 000 ha of mid-height forest (20-30 m tall) and 234 000 ha of low forest (10-20 m) throughout the country. The details of the various vegetation classes found in Vanuatu are given in the following table.

The National Forest Inventory estimated the total forest resource at about 13 million m3. (Baldwin et al. 1993, Incoll 1994). However only about 20% of the total forest resource is thought to be commercially available owing to factors such as steep slopes, dissected landform, low sawlog volumes and cultural reasons. The average commercial sawlog yield is rather low by international standards at around 15 m3 per hectare.

References:

Baldwin, P., J. Hidson, et al. 1993. Forest resources of Vanuatu. A summary of the forest resources of Vanuatu derived from the National Forest Inventory. Brisbane, Queensland Department of Primary Industries: 196pp.

Gerrand, A. M. and L. Mele 2000. Vanuatu country report to the South Pacific Heads of Forestry meeting. South Pacific Heads of Forestry meeting, Nadi, Fiji, Pacific Islands Forests and Trees Support Programme, SPC, AusAID, UNDP, FAO.

Table 2: Key bibliographic references

Country

Vanuatu

Title

Forest Resources of Vanuatu: A summary of the forest resources of Vanuatu derived from the National Forest Inventory

Author

Peter Baldwin, Japeth Hidson, Jane Siebuhr and Feke Pedro, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland and Vanuatu Department of Forestry

Year

1993

Source

Vanuatu Department of Forestry

Date of consult.

25/6/00

Location

(of publication)

In FRA Pacific Islands box

Description of source

(including type of source, overall quality assessment and utility for FRA 2000)

Executive summary attached. Apparently good quality inventory but this report lacks good summaries of area and volume for the country.

Project funded by AusAID and ran from 1991 to 1994. First major National Forest Inventory for Vanuatu. Over 500 “plots” composed of basal area sweeps over 2 strip lines m long 50 m apart.

Database developed using ARCINFO GIS on mainframe by Qld. DPI.

Later converted to PC-based Foxpro and in 1997 to MS Access. Initial (VANRIS) Vanuatu Resource Info system developed and stored on GIS. Now updated and running on PC based MAPINFO (GIS)

Information content (check one or more topics as appropriate)

Natural Forest

X

 

Protected areas

 

Plantations

   

Biodiversity

 

Other wooded land

X

 

Forest ownership

 

Forest area change

   

Wood supply potential

 

Total volume

X

 

Non-wood forest products

some

Total biomass

   

Trees outside forest

 

Commercial volume

X

 

Forest fires

 

Name of reviewer: Jim Space

Country

Vanuatu

Title

Reassessment of Sustainable Yield for Vanuatu

Author

W.D Incoll

Year

1994

Source

DoF Vila

Date of consult.

 

Location

(of publication)

DoF Vila

Description of source

(including type of source, overall quality assessment and utility for FRA 2000)

Revised estimate of the sustainable yield based on different assumptions but using the same base data from the 1993 forest inventory.

Key changed assumptions were:

      • Modified volume functions

      • Assumed 10 m3/ha rather than 15 m3/ha as commercial threshold

      • Wider list of commercial species based on those generally accepted in the Pacific (PACMERCH)

These changes resulted in an increased estimated sustained yield from 38 000 to 51 700 m3/yr.

These estimates were later revised again for inclusion in the National Forest Policy (1997) to allow for increased resource available for community-based operations using mobile sawmills and include islands with less than 5 000 m3 commercial timber to allow for island some patches below 10 m3/ha.

Information content (check one or more topics as appropriate)

Natural Forest

X

 

Protected areas

 

Plantations

   

Biodiversity

 

Other wooded land

X

 

Forest ownership

 

Forest area change

   

Wood supply potential

 

Total volume

X

 

Non-wood forest products

 

Total biomass

   

Trees outside forest

 

Commercial volume

   

Forest fires

 

Name of reviewer: Adam Gerrand, Principal Forest Officer, Vanuatu Department of Forests

Country

Vanuatu

Title

New Hebrides Condominium, Erromango Forest Inventory

Author

Land Resources Division, Overseas Development Administration, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Year

1971

Source

See above

Date of consult.

28/6/00

Location

(of publication)

In FRA Library Vanuatu box

Description of source

(including type of source, overall quality assessment and utility for FRA 2000)

Old inventory with area and volume estimates for this island. Probably pretty much state of the art for the time. Useful for historical volume comparison.

Information content (check one or more topics as appropriate)

Natural Forest

X

 

Protected areas

 

Plantations

   

Biodiversity

 

Other wooded land

   

Forest ownership

 

Forest area change

   

Wood supply potential

 

Total volume

   

Non-wood forest products

 

Total biomass

   

Trees outside forest

 

Commercial volume

X

 

Forest fires

 

Name of reviewer: Jim Space

Table 3: Description of forest inventories/surveys

Country

Vanuatu

Reference year

1993

Title of inventory

Forest Resources of Vanuatu (National Forest Inventory)

Type of inventory

Aerial photography with ground plots

Brief summary of methodologies used

Forest and vegetation type mapping from aerial photographs, stratification based on island, vegetation, altitude, and landform (225 strata), plot samples (see summary of field methods, attached). Each “plot” was horseshoe-shaped and actually made up of a 10 basal area sweep points located 30 m apart along a transect at right angels to slope then 50 m offset was another 10 BA sweeps back downslope.

This was the first National Forest Inventory (NFI) for Vanuatu and forms the baseline.

The results of the 1993 NFI should be adjusted for changed assumptions of Incoll (1994) and as stated in the National Forest Policy. These later revisions were desk operations and did not do any more field work.

Reporting level

National and sub-national

Country coverage

Complete

 

National / sub-national

 

Complete / partial

Map output

Available – Digital (yes)

Scale of the map

1:50,000

 

yes / no (also indicate format: analogue / digital)

   

Vegetation types included

yes/no

 

Additional information included

yes/no

         

Natural forests

Yes

 

Area by forest formation

yes

Plantations

No

 

Volume

yes

All forests

   

Biomass

no

Other wooded land

Yes

 

Forest naturalness

no

     

Forest biodiversity

no

     

Forest ownership

No*

     

Wood supply potential

yes

Remarks

*Note Ownership was not classified as all forests are in custom ownership.

Reliability class

1

 

1=high 2=medium 3=low

It was a substantial effort and took over 2 years of work and can be considered a reasonably good inventory for the scale and quality of the resource. In FRA terms it should be classed as “high quality”.

Country

Vanuatu

Reference year

1967

Title of inventory

Erromango Forest Inventory

Type of inventory

Aerial photography with ground plots

Brief summary of methodologies used

Type mapping from aerial photographs, sampling with plots on transects.

Reporting level

Subnational

Country coverage

Partial (Erromango)

 

National / sub-national

 

Complete / partial

Map output

May be available

Scale of the map

Unknown

 

yes / no (also indicate format: analogue / digital)

   

Vegetation types included

yes/no

 

Additional information included

yes/no

         

Natural forests

yes

 

Area by forest formation

yes

Plantations

   

Volume

yes

All forests

   

Biomass

 

Other wooded land

   

Forest naturalness

 
     

Forest biodiversity

 
     

Forest ownership

 
     

Wood supply potential

yes

Remarks

Current DoF staff do not have a copy of this report so cannot evaluate / comment

Reliability class

2

 

1=high 2=medium 3=low

Table 4: Area of woody vegetation according to national classification.

Reference year: 1993 Geographic Unit: Vanuatu

Forest and other woody vegetation types
(country classification)

Area
(000 ha)

1. Midheight forest (20-30 m)

205.307

2. Low forest (10-20 m)

234.089

3. Woodland (less than 10 m)

0.386

4. Thickets (3-8 mm)

433.941

5. Scrub (less than 3 m)

45.018

6. Mangroves

2.519

Subtotal of country classes corresponding with FRA 2000 forest and other wooded land

921.260

Subtotal other land

305.645*

Total land area

1,226.905**

Definitions: See VANRIS Bellamy. Above figures are from the Country Report, Vanuatu, from the 1998 Heads of Forestry meeting.

Comments: *Includes 51 128 ha grassland, 2 261 swamp communities, 252 256 ha bare ground and human made.

**“Forest Resources of Vanuatu” gives total forest area (p. 89) as 418,175 ha. Note – the area given above from VANRIS is more recent and based on GIS mapping as is considered to be the more accurate total area figure.

Reference year: 1967 Geographic Unit: Erromango

Forest and other woody vegetation types
(country classification)

Area
(000 ha)

1. Closed forest – Merchantable timber

14.100

Subtotal of country classes corresponding with FRA 2000 forest and other wooded land

14.100

Subtotal other land

 

Total land area

 

Definitions: Estimated area of forests containing merchantable timber and not too steep to log.

Comments: Current DoF staff do no have a copy of this report so cannot evaluate/comment in detail on this inventory. It has been superseded by the later NFI that is likely to be more consistent and reliable. However, it provides a useful historical perspective, especially for Kauri (Agathis macrophylla) of which there were moderate quantities on Erromango, some of which were logged in the 1970s.

Table 5: Comparability between country classification and FRA 2000 classification.

Reference year: 1993

Geographic Unit: Vanuatu

Title of the inventory/survey: Summary of Vanuatu forest inventory in Country Report, Vanuatu, from 1998 Heads of Forestry meeting.

Forest and other woody vegetation types

(country classification)

Corresponding FRA 2000 classes

Midheight forest (20-30 m)

Low forest (10-20 m)

Thickets* (3-8 m)

Mangroves

Closed Forest

Woodland (less than 10 m)?

Open Forest

Scrub (less than 3 m)

Shrub

No Equivalent VANRIS Type

Forest fallow system

Note: Open and closed forest make up “natural forest”; shrub and forest fallow make up “other wooded land”

Comments: Definitions checked and allocated correctly.

* One extra comment would be that “thickets” are not normally considered forest, let alone “closed forest” by ni-Vanuatu foresters, but they do fit the FRA definition.

Reference year: 1967

Geographic Unit: Erromango

Title of the inventory/survey: Erromango Forest Inventory

Forest and other woody vegetation types

(country classification)

Corresponding FRA 2000 classes

Merchantable timber

Closed Forest

 

Open Forest

 

Shrub

 

Forest fallow system

Note: Open and closed forest make up “natural forest”; shrub and forest fallow make up “other wooded land”

Change in forest cover

Vanuatu currently does not have a system for regularly recording changes to forest cover and land use. We recognize the importance and need for this but it is currently beyond our resources and capacity to undertake. Some data is available (especially satellite imagery) but analysis is a specialised, time-consuming task. However, it may be worth FAO considering assisting with this through a specific consultancy (perhaps sensibly covering the region). A second option could be as a scholarship towards a PhD or MSc which would be possible and cost efficient as well as assisting in build expertise and capacity within country to continue to monitor and report on forest cover change.

We are planning an update of the NFI within the next 2 to 3 years as we are nearing 10 years since the first one. This will provide a second snapshot of the forest cover but at considerably more expense than modelling or the approaches outlined above. This will also need donor assistance for both financial and technical resources.

Plantations

By 1986, the total plantation area had reached 1 067 ha. By mid 2000 the gross estimated plantation area is estimated to be 2 910 ha. The annual planting rate has been variable, depending on funding, and has been negligible in the past few years. Government policy is now clearly to facilitate private investment of plantation establishment. The National Forest Policy sets out an ambitious target of 20 000 ha over the next 25 years, which averages out to 800 ha/yr.

Table 6: Plantation area by species, purpose and ownership.

Species group

Gross estimated area

Purpose

(%)

Ownership (%)

Ha

%

Public

Private

Others

Coniferous

890

100

Industrial

100*

 

100%

 

-

-

Non-Industrial

       

Broadleaved

2,020

100

Industrial

100

 

100%

 

-

 

Non-Industrial

       

Total

2,910

           

* Note – The 890 ha Pinus plantations on Aneityum were initially planted to assist erosion control, but are now being managed by the community for timber production as well as protection services so are listed here as industrial.

Name of species group Species in species group (scientific names)

Coniferous Pinus caribaea

Broadleaved Cordia alliodora

Non-forest Species

Age

Gross estimated area

Ownership (%)

(ha)

Public

Private

Others

Coconut, tall

1-29

   

30-59

 

60+

 

Total

96 000*

     

Coconut, hybrid

         

Oil palm

       

Rattan*

       

*Asian and Pacific Coconut Community. 1998. Coconut Statistical Yearbook 1997. Jakarta.

Although many coconut plantations in Vanuatu are senile and could be harvested for building material this has not been done on any significant industrial scale so far. Fiji has an active industry based on coconut wood but in Vanuatu this is virtually non-existent except for several research projects.

The history of plantation establishment has seen several distinct “phases” according to identified needs. During the 1980s fuelwood was seen to be an emerging issue and local supply plantations (LSPs) were established on many islands throughout the country. These were mainly Cordia alliodora, which was found to have rapid early growth and suitable wood properties. However, it has failed to live up to its early promise and has suffered from damage through cyclones, Phelinus attack and general neglect. The result is that the LSP’s have not contributed much to either local community or industrial use.

A later period focused on developing industrial forest plantations (IFPs) for commercial timber production. These were mainly broad-leaved high value species such as mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), although many other genera such as Acacia, Eucalpytus and Endospermum were trialed as well. On Aneityum the particular problems of poor soils and high fire risk led to a program of erosion control through plantings of Pinus caribaea. The local community now manages these for sawn timber.

The EU report of Groves and Fingleton (Jaako Poyry 1997) indicated that there is significant potential for plantation establishment in Vanuatu. They note the high growth rates obtainable on fertile soils and that land is available but recognise that there are some constraints in land tenure and infrastructure.

Neil and Barrance (1987) report on cyclone damage in Vanuatu after cyclones Eric and Nigel caused extensive damage in the northern half of Vanuatu in January 1985. Cordia alliodora, line-planted in 1977-1984, and species trials planted between 1972 and 1978 were the plantations mainly affected. Average damage to compartments by windblow and stemsnap was 30%. Natural forest damage mainly depended on aspect; defoliation was almost complete in many areas but windblow was mainly restricted to diseased or moribund trees. Susceptibility to wind damage is tabulated for 16 planted species; Cordia alliodora, Swietenia macrophylla and Agathis macrophylla are recommended for growing high quality veneer timber on a short rotation. Source: CAB Abstracts

Neil (1987) reports that Cyclone Uma caused considerable damage to plantations and natural forests when it passed over the southern islands of Vanuatu in early February 1987. Surveys of the resulting damage to plantations showed that both young and old trees of Cordia alliodora withstood the cyclone well, while young trees of Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis (but not older ones) were susceptible to damage, although the plantations remained viable. Data are tabulated on the relative performance of 37 species (wind firmness, tendency to snap and leaf loss). These results confirm earlier findings on species susceptibility to cyclones showing Agathis macrophylla and Swietenia macrophylla to be very wind firm compared with faster growing (but less valuable) eucalypts and acacias. Local species were more wind firm than exotics. The natural forest was severely damaged on Efate, Erromango and Aniwa; Endospermum medullosum and the local kauri (A. macrophylla) were both very stable. Fruit trees and ornamentals were considerably damaged. Source: CAB Abstracts

Explanatory note on estimates for 2000

Oliver (1999) says that there was 1,067 ha of plantation in 1986. FAO (1998) says that there is 2,910 ha of plantation in the country as of 1996. There has been little plantation establishment since 1997, so 2000 area remains at 2,910 ha..

Oliver (1999) says that land is leased from customary landowners. Plantations are designed to achieve the governmental policy of becoming self-sufficient in meeting domestic requirement of sawn timber and forest products. This includes both industrial and non-industrial products.

Regarding non-forest species, coconut plantation are widely established. APCC (1998) gives the area by several years, total area of the year 2000 is estimated.

References

APCC 1998. Coconut Statistical Yearbook 1997, by Asian and Pacific Coconut Community

Department of Forests 2000 Vanuatu Country report. Heads of Forestry meeting, Suva, Fiji, SPC.

FAO 1998: Asia and the Pacific National Forest Programmes Update 33: FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific: July 1998. [Comment – this is a fairly poor source for Vanuatu and was not updated properly. Better to use the 2000 Heads of Forestry Country report]

Groves, K. and J. Fingleton 1997. The potential for private sector investment in planted forests in Vanuatu. London, Jaako Poyry Consulting (UK) Ltd.: 80.

Neil, P. and A. Barrance 1987. Cyclone damage in Vanuatu. Commonwealth Forestry Review 66(3):255-264; 18 ref.

Neil, P. 1987. Cyclone Uma and damage to southern forests. Vanuatu Department of Forests: 7 pp; 9 ref.

Oliver, W. 1992. Plantation Forestry in the south Pacific: A compilation and assessment of practices, FAO/UNDP, South Pacific Forestry Development Programme, Field document 8. Vila, Vanuatu.

Oliver, W. 1999. An Update of Plantation Forestry in the South Pacific, RAS/97/330 Working Paper No.7, Pacific Islands Forests & Trees Support Programme

Volume and biomass

Table 7: Volume data (of natural forests).

Reference year: 1993

Part 1: Forest Inventory Description

Name of the Inventory: Vanuatu National Forest Inventory

National Forest Inventory (Yes or no): Yes

Geographic location: Vanuatu

Total inventoried area (000 ha): 1 226.905 (effectively total land area). Only areas with significant commercial forest resources were actually sampled. This excluded inaccessible steep areas (> 30 degrees slope), non-forested areas such as thickets (3-8m tall), and intensive land use areas.

Sketch map attached (Yes or No): Yes (see Bellamy, 1993), all islands with significant forest resources inventoried.

Part 2: Inventory methodology

Stratification criteria: See NFRIS Manual for field survey methods, attached.

Sampling design: Type mapping based on aerial photos, ground plots in selected stands for volume estimation.

Sampling intensity (%): See FRIS Summary report

Species coverage: All known species (identification often difficult) focused on major known commercial species).

Minimum diameter: All trees above 10 cm DBH.

Type of volume measured: Overbark measurements converted by volume equations to underbark volume. Height estimated to crown break. Branches excluded.

Part 3: Inventory results (by reporting unit)

Reporting Unit name: Vanuatu

Area (ha): 418 175 ha (total area)

Average volume per hectare (m3/ha): 22.195 (total volume/total area)

Sampling error for average volume per hectare at 95% probability (%): 7% total volume, 8% for volume on areas excluding strata with slope greater than 30 degrees.

Stand and stock tables attached (Yes or No): Stand tables in report

Reference year: 1967

Part 1: Forest Inventory Description

Name of the Inventory: Erromango Forest Inventory

National Forest Inventory (Yes or no): No

Geographic location: Erromango Islands

Total inventoried area (000 ha): Approximately 18 000 ha

Sketch map attached (Yes or No): No

Part 2: Inventory methodology

Stratification criteria: Type mapping and sampling by “ridges”.

Sampling design: Type mapping based on aerial photos, ground plots on transects for volume estimation.

Sampling intensity (%):

Species coverage: Merchantable

Minimum diameter: 60 cm DBH

Type of volume measured: Overbark.

(Including or excluding branches, underbark or overbark, etc.)

Part 3: Inventory results (by reporting unit)

Reporting unit name: Erromango Island

Area (ha): 14,100 (accessible area)

Average volume per hectare (m3/ha): 693 800 cu m/14 100 ha = 49.2 cu m/ha

Sampling error for average volume per hectare at 95% probability (%): Given in report for each stratum.

Stand and stock tables attached (Yes or No): Stand tables in report

Comments:

Table 8: Volume of woody vegetation according to national classification

Reference year: 1993? Geographic Unit: Vanuatu

Forest and other woody vegetation types
(country classification)
Sub-national unit

Volume

(1 000 m3)

Biomass

(1 000 m3)

1. Banks/Torres

1 857

*

2. Santo/Malo

5 079

*

3. Ambae/Maewo

818

*

4. Pentecost

325

*

5. Malakula

1 635

*

6. Ambrym

214

*

7. Epi

3

*

8. Efate

497

*

9. Tanna/Aneityum

337

*

10. Erromangod

2 455

*

Subtotal of country classes corresponding with FRA 2000 forest and other wooded land

13 220

*

Source: National Forest Policy of Vanuatu (June 1999)

* Note: Biomass is not known to have been estimated in any studies in Vanuatu. We note the method outlined in FRA Working Paper 2 but felt that it would be better for FAO experts to undertake biomass conversions than for us to apply limited knowledge.

Definitions:

aFigure from Appendix 2 of Incoll report using the minimum economic yield of 10 m3/ha.

b’Pacmerch’ species i.e.. those species generally accepted commercially in the Pacific.

cAdjusted figures include volumes in areas less than 10 m / ha, estimates of forest patches within agricultural areas, and a reduced allowance for loss of forest due to population growth.

dThe figures for Erromango are unreliable and should be updated as a matter of priority. Particular attention should be paid to volume reduction for landform and slope issues.

Comments:

The most recent national forest inventory was completed in 1993. This data has been used to generate information of standing gross volume and commercial availability in several reports. The National Forest Policy (1997) states the commercially available volume to be 2.635 million m3. This was reduced from the estimated gross volume of 13.22 million m3. The Incoll report estimated the total gross volume in the whole forest to be 9.35 million m3 over an area of 4 383 km2. The available commercial volume of standing timber was estimated to be 1.89 million m3 (area 1 200 km2).

Estimates of sustained yield are stated in the 1997 National Forest Policy.

Sustainable yield estimates

The sustainable yield estimates for each island will form the basis for issuing timber licences and controlling the annual log harvest. The estimates will be refined periodically to take account of new knowledge about forest resources.

The National Forest Inventory estimated that Vanuatu’s forests contain a total gross log volume of 13.22 million m3. To estimate the available volume Incoll6 reduced the total gross volume by 80% to account for: slopes > 30o, strongly dissected areas; volumes < 10 m3/ha; islands with < 5,000 m3; and for land needed for agriculture. The estimated available volume was used to calculate the national sustainable yield of 51,700 m3 using a 50-year cutting cycle.

A revised set of sustainable yield estimates are proposed for the various islands of Vanuatu. The proposed adjustments to Incoll’s estimates have been made because many of the original assumptions about resource availability do not apply to mobile sawmills. This means that a greater proportion of the total timber resources of Vanuatu can be harvested if a combination of mobile mills and conventional logging are used.

Notes:

a. Figures from Appendix 2 of Incoll report using the minimum economic yield of 10 m3/ha.

b. ‘Pacmerch’ species i.e. those species generally accepted commercially in the Pacific.

c. Adjusted figures include volumes in areas less than 10m3/ha, estimates of forest patches within agricultural areas, and a reduced allowance for loss of forest due to population growth.

d. The figures for Erromango are unreliable and should be updated as a matter of priority. Particular attention should be paid to volume reductions for landform and slope.

The proposed sustainable yield figures are a conservative estimate of the volume of timber that can be sustainably harvested from various islands. Even with these proposed adjustments, the total sustainable yield only represents about 25% of the total timber resources of Vanuatu. It should also be recognised, however, that in the long term the maintenance of the sustainable yield is dependent on the maintenance of the growth and regeneration capacity of the total forest estate. This may not occur for many reasons, including the wishes of landowners to convert forest to an alternative land use and failure of areas to regenerate satisfactorily.

Reference year: 1967 Geographic Unit: Erromango Island

Forest and other woody vegetation types

(country classification)

Volume

(1 000 m3)

Biomass

(1 000 m3)

1. Kauri

118.100

 

2. Tamanu

418.100

 

3. Blue wood

74.800

 

4. Nemoryetu

22.400

 

5.Other species

59.400

 

Subtotal of country classes corresponding with FRA 2000 forest and other wooded land

693.8

 

Definitions:

Comments: Merchantable volume on 14,100 ha.

Change in volume and biomass

Vanuatu currently does not have a system for regularly recording changes to forest cover and biomass. Comments here are similar to those for change in forest area.

Forest health and protection

Fire situation in Vanuatu

Fire is not a major factor in forest health, management and/or protection in Vanuatu. Due to humid tropical conditions most of the year fires are generally small in area and intensity. For this reason we have kept our comments brief.

Fire environment, fire regimes and the ecological role of fire

Some rain shadow environments have dryer areas that have been subject to periodic or frequent fires (usually man made) (e.g. west coasts of Santo and Aneityum). Many of these have developed grassland patches (see forest type map in attachments).

Narrative summary of major wildfire impacts on people, property, and natural resources that occurred historically

Fire plays a role in maintaining a dynamic boundary of forest grassland in these areas.

Narrative summary of major wildfire impacts on people, property, and natural resources during the 1990's

Virtually no statistics on fires are kept and a narrative summary is not available due to limited interest and impact of fires.

Fire management organization

None

Wildfire database

Non existent / Not necessary

Use of prescribed fire to achieve resource management objectives

Not relevant / non-existent for forest areas.

Public policies affecting wildfires and fire management

Several sections in the Forestry Act restrict use of fire and allow for offences and penalties but they are seldom if ever used. Proposed new Forestry Act in 2001 has provision for requiring permits for selected areas of forest at certain times where fire is considered a risk to life or property.

Sustainable land use practices used to reduce wildfire hazards and wildfire risks

N/A

Date: 2000

Source of information: general opinion

Country correspondent: Adam Gerrand, Principal Forest Officer

E-mail address of correspondent: forestry@vanuatu.gov.vu

Insects and disease

Insect damage in forest areas is not well documented in Vanuatu. Similarly, diseases of forest trees have received scant attention, although none of any real seriousness are considered to be causing current concern. This is clouded by lack of research capacity as there may be unknown issues out there that have not been identified or studied. One case that did receive significant attention was the attack on Cordia trees by the fungus Phellinus noxious which was investigated by several researchers as described by Barrance (1989) and the notes below.

Neil (1986) describes disease symptoms from Phellinus attack. All enrichment plantings over the age of one year of the introduced species Cordia alliodora, a valuable timber tree, in natural forests on the islands of Vanuatu were surveyed in 1983. The general incidence of loss from P. noxious rarely exceeded 5%; a slight increase with increasing crop age was found. On one island (Pentecost), however, losses were up to 35%, increasing rapidly in the oldest plantings (8 years). This high level was thought to be due to the interaction of heavier rainfall and high inoculum level in the natural forest. A further survey is planned. (Source: CAB Abstracts)

Ivory and Dahrui (1993) present the results of a study of brown root rot, caused by Phellinus noxius, in Vanuatu during 1987-1992 demonstrated that a number of species, including 13 indigenous and exotic trees, were susceptible to the disease when planted in close proximity to large pieces of infected wood. Symptoms of the disease and the course of the disease are reported and lists of hosts and new hosts given. The study also established that Vanuatu whitewood (Endospermum medullosum) was highly resistant to the disease.

A recent proposal to ACIAR to set up a regional forest health monitoring project (Wylie and Elliot 1999) is worthwhile and should be considered by FAO and other donors. They note several insect pests on forest trees including a whitewood leaf-eater and shoot tip borer in mahogany that has not previously been noted in Vanuatu.

References

Barrance, A. J. 1989. Phellinus noxius in Vanuatu – management considerations. Department of Forests Research Report: 14 pp.; 5 ref.

Ivory M.H. and D.G. 1993. Outbreaks and new records. Vanuatu. New host records for Phellinus noxius in Vanuatu (1993). FAO Plant Protection Bulletin 41((1)):37-38; 3 ref.

Neil, P. 1986. “A preliminary note on Phellinus noxius root rot of Cordia alliodora plantings in Vanuatu. European-Journal-of-Forest-Pathology 16(5-6):274-280; 11 ref.

Invasive species

Merremia peltata is a vigorous and persistent woody climbing vine and causes significant problems with regeneration of forest tree species in some areas of Vanuatu. It is particularly rampant in areas that have had large canopy disturbance due to heavy logging or cyclones and can smother young trees and prevent satisfactory regeneration. Thomson (1980) reports that Merremia is also a significant problem for plantation establishment in cut over forest in the Solomon Islands.

Thomson, B. 1980. Spacing strategies for plantations in the Western Solomons. Forestry-Division-Solomon-Islands: 7 pp. Source: CAB Abstracts

For more information on invasive plant species reported to be present, see http://www.hear.org/pier/pacificmatrix.htm .

Weather (hurricane, tsunami, etc.)

There are occasional cyclones (hurricanes) with a frequency of about 2.5 cyclones per year affecting some part of Vanuatu (Longworth 1991). These can cause significant damage to forests, especially plantations of exotic species (Neil and Barrance, 1987). Many native species appear to be better adapted to cyclones (e.g. Kauri, Agathis macrophylla and Whitewood, Endospermum medullosum).

Mangroves

Area

Ha

Year

Source

Remarks

 

2000

   

2,800

1995

Ellison, J.C. (1995) Status report on Pacific Island Mangroves. In: Marine and Coastal Biodiversity in the Tropical Island Pacific Region. Volume 1: Population Development and Conservation Priorities. Maragos, J.E., Peterson, M.N.A., Eldredge, L.G., Bardach, J.E. and Takeuchi, H.F. (Eds.). East-West Centre, Honolulu, USA.

 

2,519

1993

Department of Forests (1998) Country Report Vanuatu. Report presented at Heads of Forestry Meeting. Department of Forests, Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Original source: Vanuatu National Resource Inventory System (VANRIS). National forest inventory completed in 1993.

1,600

1972

Spalding, M.D., Blasco, F. and Field, C.D. (Eds.) (1997) World Mangrove Atlas. The international Society for Mangrove Ecosystems, Okinawa, Japan. 178 pp

Extracted from vegetation maps in Quantin, P. (1972) Archipel des Nouvelles-Hébrides. Atlas des Sols et de Quelques données du Milieu Naturel. 1:100,000-1:200,000. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer, Paris, France.

2,500ha

1986

David, G. (1986) “Les Mangroves du Vanuatu”. Naika, Centre ORSTOM, Port Vila Vanuatu.

 
 

1976

Marshal, AG (1976) “A mangrove community in the New Hebrides, South-West Pacific”. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 8 p319-336

 

Description

Mangrove tree genera found in Vanuatu include Avicennia, Ceriops, Rhizophora, Sonneratia and Xylocarpus.

Two current changes to the area of mangrove are caused by geological movement as well as local use of timber. These are minimal and under current conditions overall mangrove area is fairly stable. However, a potential change in mangrove area could be caused by industrial use of timber. There was some concern of unsustainable industrial use of timber of mangroves on southeast Malekula (Maskylnes Islands) in 1996. This proposal did not go ahead after discussions with local people.

Several observations have been made of changes in area and composition of mangroves due to the very active geological movement affecting small but significant changes in water depth (Marshal 1976). In addition, absence of mature mangrove surrounding some villages on east coast Malekula has been observed from the air. However, small localized use may be having little effect on this formation as a whole. Further survey work may be required. Significant change in area of mangroves could be caused by industrial use. The Forestry Policy has since included (National Forest Policy 1997) the objective of tightly controlling any utilization of mangroves as well the conservation of mangrove ecosystems as a whole. This role is planned to be included in the future Forestry Act in 2001. Current thinking in the Department of Forests aims to address significant change in resource use, principally as it has done for other forested areas, by control of export licences and liasing and development of management plans with landowners.

It has been estimated there is between 2 500 and 3 000 ha of mangroves. Areas large enough to be observed from aerial photographs include nine islands (see map in Attachments). Four of them are located in the northern region: Hiu, Ureparapara, Vanua lava and Mota lava. The central region includes Malekula, Epi, Emae and Efate and in the south, Aniwa Island. The largest areas are thought to be a bit under 2 000 ha on the east and southeast coasts of Malekula (David 1986).

Tree genera include Rhizophora, Bruguiera, Ceriops, Sonneratia, Xylocarpus, Heritiera, Lumnizera and Avicennia. Most common are Rhizophera and Avicennia species. Ceriops tagal has been observed as popular for use as posts due to its straight form (Curry 1993).

References

Corner, E. J. H., F. R. S. Lee and K. E. Lee (co-ord.) 1975. A discussion on the results of the 1971 Royal Society - Percy Sladen Expedition to the New Hebrides. Philos. Trans. Royal Soc. (London), B, 272:267-486.

Marshal A.G. 1976 (See copy) Curry P 1993. Tour Report South Santo Mangrove Sites. Internal Report for the Department of Forests.

Mueller-Dombois, D. and F. R. Fosberg 1998. Vegetation of the tropical Pacific islands. Springer-Verlag, New York. 733 pp.


6 Incoll, W. D. 1994. Reassessment of Sustainable Yield for the Forests of Vanuatu. Report prepared for the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau. 14pp.

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