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PACIFIC SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PLAN FOR CONSERVATION, MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF FOREST AND TREE GENETIC RESOURCES1

by

Kanawi Pouru, Forestry Program Co-ordinator2 Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Suva, Fiji

This Action Plan was developed by members of Pacific community at the Pacific Sub-Regional Workshop on Forest and Tree Genetic Resources held in Apia, Samoa from April 12-16, 1999. This workshop was jointly organized and supported by SPRIG/AusAID, FAO Forestry Department and South Regional Office for the Pacific Islands, SPC Forestry Program, SPREP, IPGRI3 and the Samoan Government's Forestry Division (see Forest Genetic Resources No 27).

The Sub-Regional Action Plan developed during the Apia workshop was recently tabled and discussed at the 9th Pacific Islands Heads of Forestry meeting held from 8-12 May 2000 in Nadi, Fiji. The Heads of Forestry endorsed the Action Plan for donor support and implementation. The objective of the Action Plan is to outline practical actions that can be taken at the international, regional, national and local levels to address the loss of forest and tree genetic resources in the Pacific Islands.

The Action Plan is organised into four themes as follows:

1. Tree Species Priorities for Genetic Resource Operations and Activities
Identification of species/operational priorities was carried out in three working groups, one each focusing on the broad geographic regions of;

  • Melanesia - (Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu),
  • Polynesia - (American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Wallis and Futuna), and
  • Micronesia - (Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, plus Hawaii).

    The Working Groups adopted slightly differing approaches to identifying about 20 common priority indigenous tree species, a limited number of top priority introduced species, and in identifying operational priorities for each selected species.

    Three indigenous tree species were identified as being among the top ten priorities in all parts of the Pacific:

  • Calophyllum inophyllum (beach mahogany, Alexandrian laurel),
  • Cordia subcordata (island walnut), and
  • Instia bijuga (island teak).

    All three species are widely distributed, produce highly valued timbers, and are among the most highly valued woods for woodcarving and boat-building. In the case of Instia bijuga, it is also found in inland lowland forests as well as along rivers and streams.

    In terms of regional priorities for action, the next most important species identified were:

  • Santalum species (sandalwoods), which are top priorities in south-west Pacific (3 species), eastern Pacific (2 species) and Hawaii (4 species);
  • Calophyllum spp. (especially neo-ebudicum and close relatives), all excellent timber species;
  • Pometia pinnata (Pacific lychee), an excellent timber and firewood species, and medicinal and food plant, commonly found in secondary forests, in shifting agricultural areas and around villages;
  • Terminalia species (including many fast-growing endemic inland species, and the coastal species, T. catappa or beach almond); and
  • Thespesia populnea (Thespians tree or milo), an important utility timber species and highly valued for woodcarving.

    These were followed closely by:

  • Canarium species (ngarli, nangai or galip nuts)
  • Diospyros species (Pacific ebonies)
  • Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry, nonu),
  • Serianthes species (mamufai, vaivai)
  • Syzygium species (asi toa, yasiyasi, fekika), and
  • mangroves (Xylocarpus, Rhizophora and Bruguiera spp.).

    The two highest priority introduced trees for the Pacific Islands were Swietenia macrophylla (big-leaf mahogany) and Pinus caribaea (Caribbean pine), both originating from tropical Central America.

    There are also several genera and species, some of which have important indigenous species in their native Pacific range, and which constitute priority species where they have been introduced elsewhere in the Pacific islands. These include Acacia spp. (especially A. mangium, A. koa and A. spirorbis), Casuarina equisetifolia (beach she oak or ironwood) and Flueggea flexuosa (namamau or poumuli).

    In terms of conservation, it was recommended that urgent action be taken on the in situ conservation of the genetic resources of Santalum species in all three Pacific sub-regions, and also other valuable commercial timber and multipurpose species and those species growing in ecologically sensitive ecosystems. Ex situ conservation was noted as a priority for various planted tree species in which desired cultivars have been selected, such as Barringtonia, Canarium, Pandanus, Pometia and Terminalia catappa. These include some of the species identified for in situ conservation.

    2. Conservation, Sustainable Use and Management of Forests and Trees
    Throughout the Pacific Islands, and especially in Melanesia, there is a need to improve forest management to ensure a more sustainable use of forest and tree genetic resources. This is inclusive of improved land-use planning and multiple-use management of forested areas. Improved forest management is also a decisive factor for in situ conservation activities.

    It was strongly recommended that:

  • Reforestation and tree planting programs using both indigenous and introduced tree species need to be further encouraged and developed in the Pacific Islands. Establishment of plantations and agroforestry programs will reduce the pressure on the region's native forests. Priority indigenous species for inclusion in such plantation and agroforestry programs in the Pacific have been identified by the countries.
  • It is vital that regional and national programs, including SPRIG, continue to be supported in order to foster the conservation of priority forest and tree genetic resources. Conservation of forest and tree genetic resources will need to include both in situ and ex situ approaches.
  • Encourage and support the involvement and commitment of all stakeholders, especially landholders, in forest conservation and management, towards the development of national programs on priority species. This includes the incorporation of traditional practices and leadership with modern science-based approaches in conservation and use plans.
  • The uniqueness of Pacific Island environments and the importance of protecting priority species and ecosystems from threats such as pests, diseases, fires and invasive alien species needs to be fully recognized. Any exchange of germplasm of tree species needs to be subject to screening and quarantine. Prior to introduction of new species, varieties, or germplasm from other locations, a science-based risk analysis ought to be performed.
  • The limited available resources for forest genetic resources research and development ought to be focussed on priority species.

    3. Germplasm Collection, Exchange and Access
    At present the region's major forest plantations are based mainly on introduced tree species and germplasm. Relatively little is known about the region's indigenous tree species and basic information may be lacking on important biological characteristics such as seed storage character and susceptibility to pests and diseases.

    Planned activities will include:

  • Exchange of germplasm - this will entail more extensive use of regional and international databases on forest genetic resources; the need for on-the-job training in seed collection and handling; consideration of seed storage options and development ex situ seed stands; tree germplasm for atoll island environments; and protection from invasive exotic weedy trees through the establishment of import control and eradication programs.
  • Quarantine aspects - data gathering on pests and diseases of trees; strengthening linkages between forestry and quarantine officials in country; and preparation of pest risk analyses for safe movement of germplasm within Pacific island countries.
  • International and legal considerations on germplasm exchange and access.

    4. Institutional Strengthening, Training Needs and Regional Collaboration
    Most Pacific countries and territories have small Forestry and Environment Departments, with limited personnel and budget. There is a need to ensure that staff are well trained and informed in the subject areas of conservation, management and utilization of forest and tree genetic resources. The depth of skills and expertise in the region needs to be enhanced through the balanced application of both longer-term University training and through technical hands-on training.

    Regional collaboration needs to be maintained and strengthened, especially in the field of research and development and conservation of species occurring in several countries and territories.

    More specifically, the following needs and priorities have been identified:

  • Training of national staff through formal and informal training on forest genetic resources management and development, including study tours within the region, which address common issues.
  • Support and improved use of existing training and education facilities and exploration of opportunities for collaboration with other institutions; and
  • Policy issues relating to establishing linkages with other land management and environment agencies and the need to raise awareness at the political level on the importance of forestry and genetic resource conservation and management issues.

    The Action Plan sets ambitious but realistic and practicable technical goals. In order to reach them and produce tangible results, the Plan will require voluntary actions from national actors to ensure solid implementation. Current international, regional and bilateral organizations, mechanisms and instruments, will be invited to contribute to its success. In particular, the planned AusAID-funded SPRIG Phase II, a 5-year project which will endeavor to implement key elements of the Action Plan, is expected to commence in early 2001. The lead collaborating agency, during the SPRIG-II Project execution and implementation, will be the relevant Forestry Department or Division of participating countries (which may include Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu). For further information, please refer to paper "South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources - Phase II" by Lex Thomson in this bulletin.

    1Received July 2000. Original language: English
    2KanawiP@spc.int
    3SPRIG - South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources; SPC - Secretariat of the Pacific Community, SPREP - South Pacific Regional Environmental Program and IPGRI - International Plant Genetic Resources Institute.

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