The Nothofagus

Some 100 million years ago, the ancestors of Nothofagus first appeared on Gondwana. Today the  Nothofagus is common in South America, New Zealand, Antarctica, Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia. The present distribution of the plant is evidence that these landmasses might once have been joined.

Nothofagus is commonly referred to as the southern beech and is a genus of 35 species of trees.  According to the recent data, the Nothofagacea has four subgenera; the Brassopora, the Nothofagus, Fuscospora and the Lophorzonia. Living specimen from those four subgenus are found in New Zealand; South America; New Guinea; New Caledonia.

Fourteen species of Nothofagus are currently recognised in the taxonomically distinct subsection Bipartitae, occurring in New Guinea from 700 – 3,150 m above sea level (asl), mostly above 1400 m asl., in areas of high rainfall and cool climates, except for the New Guinea low altitude occurrences which are normally cloud-bound (Read and Hope 1989).

All members of sub genera Brassospora are gregarious species, commonly dominating the canopy (Keast 1981; Read and Hope 1989). The large canopy tree can grow to 20-50 m high but rarely grows to 60 m and are flat topped. They have a cylindrical bole (up to 150 cm diameter which is straight for up to 25 m long). The tallest tend to occur at valley bottoms or stable slopes; mid altitude slopes canopy ~ 30-40 and comprise one or two species; however, at very high altitude or in environment that is under suboptimal conditions the tree tends to be stunted and shrubby.

Nothofagus is a monoecious trees, accommodating both the male and the female flowers on the same tree.  The male flowers appear earlier than the female and wind dispersed seed results in very poor and regeneration within a short distance of the tree. In addition due to the seeds being wind pollinated, there is a lot of hybridization and introgression, giving rise to seed capsules that are sterile; furthermore, a large proportion of the seed is destroyed by insect predation or fungal attack (Ash 1982).

Tropical Nothofagus are affected by low temperatures because, the tropical Nothofagus are not exposed to extreme temperatures like the Southern species, as a result are not able to photosynthesize in extreme temperatures. Therefore, the New Guinea showed a lower frost resistance than southern species (Read and Hope 1989; Read et al. 2005) which is related to the geographic and climatic range of these species.  This has implications for the climate change. This tree family will be affected as the world heats up further.

Furthermore, Ash (1988) observed dieback in Nothofagus stands on Mount Wilhelm. The dieback was not related to any drought period (Arentz 1988). A possible explanation reached by Ash (1988) and Arentz (1988) is that even aged must die from stress as a result of, nutrient deficiency or infection by a pathogen. Periods of heavy frost which are often associated with drought may provide an additional trigger for stand-level dieback of Nothofagus. However studies of die backs in Tasmania show that the die back is the result of a pathogen attack.   The tree has also been observed to regenerate from diebacks by lignotubers and epicormic stems that coppice after the die back (Arentz 1988).

Nothofagus is widespread in PNG within their attitudinal range. Due to the widespread nature of the tree there is currently no conservation effort. However, because of its slender and straight bole as well as the characteristic of this tree to grow in even-aged stands it is a good building tree. However, in PNG the tree is not exported in significant numbers because grows in inaccessible slopes in the interior.

The Nothofagus species is a remnant of vegetation which was once on the super continent Gondwana, therefore, it is a legacy from that period in the geological history of the earth.

References

  1. ARENTZ, F. (1988) Stand-level dieback etiology and its consequences in the forests of Papua New Guinea. GeoJournal, 17, 209-215.
  2. ASH, J. (1988) Nothofagus (Fagaceae) forest on Mt Giluwe, New Guinea. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 26, 245 – 256.
  3. READ, J. & HOPE, G. S. (1989) Foliar frost resistance of some evergreen tropical extra tropical Australian Nothofagus species. Australian Journal of Botany, 37, 361-373.
  4. READ, J., HOPE, G. S. & HILL, R. (2005) Phytogeography and climate analysis of Nothofagus subgenus Brassospora in New Guinea and New Caledonia. Australian Journal of Botany, 53, 297-312.
  5. READ, J., JAFFRE, T., MCCOY, S. & HOPE, G. S. (2006) Does soil determine the boundaries of monodorminant rainforest with adjacent mixed rain forest and maquis on ultramafic soils in New Caledonia? Journal of Biogeography, 33, 1055-1065.
  6. VAN VALKENBURG, J. L. C. H. & KETNER, P. (1994) Vegetation changes following human disturbance of mid-montane forest in the Wau area, Papua New Guinea. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 10, 41-54.
  7. HYNDMAN, D. C. & MENZIES, J. I. (1990) Rain Forests of the Ok Tedi Headwaters, New Guinea: An ecological analysis. Journal of Biogeography, 17, 241-273.
  8. KEAST, A. (1981) Ecological biogeography of Australia, Junk bv Publishers, The Hague, Boston,.
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What legacy are we leaving for the grand kids?

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Mother and child fishing on the Lake Kutubu in the Foe and Fasu Tribal Land. Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

In our haste to pimp our short lives on earth, we have altered the value system and the balance that has preserved nature for millions of years. What kind of future do we envisage for the grand kids, when we race to build jungles of concrete, steel and glass? How are we helping the future when we create artificial food, color it and store them in cans? What indeed is the life we want for our descendants when our actions show that nature conservation is dirty and primitive and concrete jungles are modern and fashionable?

The human at home in his natural environment depended on nature and was sustained by  the resources in nature. From hardware needs, to medicine and food and spirituality – all from nature.

The economy of nature was based on sharing  surplus. The demarcation of roles and responsibilities and the specialization of clans and tribes nurtured the barter system. Man bartered for things he did not have with things he had in surplus. The specialisation and barter system sustained the subsistance economy.

The ability of human beings to control decay rates at whim testifies of advanced brain development. This power to stave off wrinkles, disease and death and create life in test tube has infused men with a sense of arrogance and reckless power. The ability to cement, brick, glass and plastic inventions into eternity makes him forget that life is fragile and breakable and that the human body starts dying as soon as we are born.

The base instinct of man is dictated by the selfish gene.  The selfish gene is an atheist, it has no empathy nor morals.  The selfish gene, drunk in his own powers is concerned with perpetuating itself at all cost. Self, family, clan and tribe – that is his circle of trust. The controls put in place by society and culture to ensure co’operation, exists only within his circle of trust. Anything outside is enemy.

In his greed, man has also hastened decay rate of nature.  Man is razing thousands of years of old forest in a blink of an eye and slaughtering octogenarian elephants and rhino to make earrings and bangles. Digging and drilling to pimp his short life – to dress it up – to make life as useful as a chimpanzee all decked out: alas;  only 1% genetic material separates humans from chimpanzees. We are but glorified chimps, so who are we trying to impress?

Environment conservation and environment annihilation are on the extreme ends of the continuum of human survival. In the course of living, we tread the fine line between overuse and sustainable use. Greed has blurred the line in favor of hoarding for one over preserving for all.

Humans need to put life and living into perspective,  to acknowledge that death is inevitable, that we are sojourners.  We came from dust, to dust we will return to become worm food that becomes soil that becomes tree food that feeds humans. What then is our legacy to our future? What kind of philosophy are we passing on.

It is indeed a paradox: the selfish gene is short-sighted – hoarding now by destroying the incubator that will grow more for tomorrow. While we hoard, there is zero guarantee that the generation of future will embrace the values and the treasures we hold dear today.

Instead of money or bottles or cans or plastic,  the best gift for the future may be  a value syatem. A value system that respects life. A value system that acknowledges human and nature interdependency.

We cannot control the future,  the best we can do is give the future a planet that is living. Give them elephants and zebra and birds of paradise. Give them forests and lakes and coral reefs.  But, plant a seed of respect for nature in their minds then give us a benefit of  a doubt that the seed will grow and one day  become a tree and bear fruit.

Conservation conversations are philosophical in nature. It is about the careful examination of the interdependence of man and nature. It requires that man identify and own his role in space and time. Indeed, conservation efforts require a sincere commitment to life and living where the only ego is the one that is happy to see life flourish.

 

Prioritizing Emergency Relief

Adaptive capacity (AC) is a latent property of communities which is activated by crises.  AC imparts resilience to communities so that they can withstand a disaster or negotiate a favorable change. The higher the AC, the higher the resilience of the community.

In 2016, we started brainstorming a scorecard for early communication from disaster areas by identifying dimensions of AC that makes communities resilient to natural hazards.

Our product was after the work of McLanahan & Cinner (2011) on fisher communities in West Africa. The model is built in anticipation of adverse environmental impact. The resulting scorecard was used to plan intervention.

AC is defined as the flexibility with which communities can cope with changes.  The dimensions of AC that is measured in  communities (i) flexibility to switch between livelihood strategies (ii) Social organization (iii) Learning – recognizing change and taking advantage of the change or adapting  (iv) Assets – the resources to draw on in times of change.

Data would also be collected on the ecological system. The environment is a big factor in the AC of developing communities because this is where local communities harvest resources to use and maintain a livelihood. Since humans live in the environment, there is a need for coupled actions that simultaneously govern resource use and build capacity in ways that do not degrade resources.

The final product with be a graph as shown. The graph plots environmental health against the human capacity to adapt to change.

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Figure 1 plotting environmental health (EH) against human adaptive capacity (AC) (source: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/adapting-to-a-changing-environment-9780199754489?cc=us&lang=en&#

A – When both environmental health (EH) and adaptive capacity (AC) is low, the environment and the human beings need relief (also assistance). The environment needs to be recovered and then there is a need to build human adaptive capacity

B- When EH is high but AC is low, build AC of the people but comply with the protection of environment

C – When both EH and AC are high – preserve and enforce the environment protection and manage the AC

D – When EH is low but AC is high, then it is time to protect and recover the environment but there is room to experiment and increase adaptive capacity

Social adaptation occurs on different scales (a) individuals or social groups (b) governments. Intervention will require nested efforts. At the very top of the nested effort is the international community, followed by the government, then the sub-national government and at the core is the local scale where the project is happening.

This scorecard is for local leaders at the local government level. This will allow them to send information that is objective to the relevant relief planning centers. The planning center will then be responsible for interpreting the information and mobilizing subsequent disaster response.

Reference

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/adapting-to-a-changing-environment-9780199754489?cc=us&lang=en&#


Who are we?

The Menggeyao Morobe Consultancy (MMC) is a local consultancy that specializes in information management as a pathway for building communities to last. We collate, translate information and make the knowledge accessible for development.
Building community initiatives on robust information and knowledge is same as building a house on a solid foundation.

Were traditional Papua New Guineans conservationists?

LSC1 (220)This essay is based on three papers. These papers document practices  of seasonal hunting and harvesting and protection of certain species of importance to three communities in Papua New Guinea.

Kwapena (1994) documents the hunting practices of the Moapa people of the Mashall Lagoon,  Central Province. Foale (2002) records the “tambu” reef system of the New Ireland while Silitoe (2001) provides insight into the hunting practices of the Wola of the Southern Highlands.

In two of  the three case studies, the authors documented that a hunting ban was imposed periodically on their  respective communities.

The Maopa people in Mashall Laggon Area, Central Province had a hunting ban that would last over three to four years.

On the coast, the “tambu”reef involves the closure of fishing on a particular stretch of coastline for a specific period of time, usually from a few months to a year or in some cases a few years. The closure was quite often associated with a death within the clan that controls rights to that stretch of coastline and is a ritual component of a cycle of feasting associated with that death.

The hunting ban would then be followed by an intense period of hunting, where even the grassland is burnt to force animals out into the open (Kwapena 1984).  In the “tambu” reef, the accumulated stocks of many species, particularly benthic invertebrates are then removed, often with alarming efficiency (Foale 2002).

The local knowledge of these people was directed to identifying patterns that maximise capture success. They did not show concern for aspects of  biology (recruitment etc) that conservationists are interested in.

In the case of the Wola,  Silitoe (2001) observed that the Wola people, who were not “enthusiastic” hunters, would at times expand high energy to capture high value animals like cassowary and wild pigs for customary activities. From his study, Silitoe (2001) observed that in their hunting sprees, the Wola treated the forest as having …” an infinite buffering capacity”  to their destructive hunting activities.

Melanesian’s exist through relationships, and these relationships needs to be maintained all the time.  Value has been placed on nature to facilitate these social relationships. Resources are stockpiled only to be harvested to facilitate social transactions and to maintain relationships and alliances (Silitoe 2001). The hunting spree with the Maopa of Marshall Lagoon was to strengthen and reiterate family relationships (Kwapena 1984). Tambu reef was also a means of stockpiling resources, often for a specific purpose, such as a feast; and had nothing to do with maximising and sustaining yields for conservation (Foale 2002).

So, how did people coexist with nature for thousands of years?

Silitoe (2001) proposes that unintentional conservation  may have been achieved indirectly because these traditional knowledge and practices were created in conditions of small population, large forest covering and richer biodiversity and hunting tools which were less deadly.

Fear of spirits also ensured sacred areas became refuge and replenishing grounds for wildlife.  For instance,   most of these cultures attribute their hunting capacity to spirits and not human hunting skill. In this instance, hunters let game go if they miss after a few attempts, taking this to indicate the spirits are discontent.  Beliefs that spirits governed everything contributed to unintentional management of resources

This system however, will not protect nature which is now threatened with with pressure from, high human population densities, new and efficient hunting technologies and a readily available market for wildlife.

That is why the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea must learn the concept of conservation to ensure that food security and the currency for maintaining relationships  is available both now and into the future.

References

Foale, S. (2002) Commensurability of scientific and indigenous ecological knowledge in coastal Melanesia: implications for contemporary marine resource management strategies. Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Working Paper No. 38

Kwapena, N. (1994). “Traditional Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife in Papua New Guinea.” The Environmentalist 4(7): 22-29.

Sillitoe, P. (2001). “Hunting for Conservation in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.” Ethnos 66(3): 365-393.

Revisiting Novotny et al. 2002

Interesting interview about a paper written over 10 years ago by one of PNGs prominent researchers, Vojtech Novotny from the Binatang Research in Madang.

Ecology Students' Society

In 2002, Vojtech Novotny, Yves Basset, Scott Miller, George Weiblen, Birgitta Bremer, Lukas Cizek and Pavel Drozd published a paper in Nature providing evidence for low host-specificity of tropical herbivorous arthropods. This finding was based on data from over 900 herbivores from 51 plant species in a rainforest in New Guinea. Based on this finding, Novotny and colleagues provided new global estimates of arthropod diversity in the range of 4 – 6 million species, which was substantially lower than the accepted figure at that point in time. Fourteen years after its publication, I spoke to Vojtech Novotny about the making of these findings and their validity today.

Questions sent by email on 19th June 2016; responses received by email on 17th July 2016.

Hari Sridhar: What was the specific motivation to write this paper? Was the fieldwork done with this paper in mind or…

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Marry Conservation To Tourism To Increase Conservation Research

This essay is in response to an article titled: Conservation Research Is Not Happening Where It Is Needed Most.  The conclusion in the article published in PLOS Biology, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal  was reached after an analysis of 7,593 peer-reviewed papers.

Papua New Guinea was at the bottom when compared with 5 other high biodiversity countries. PNG contributed only 0.2% (n=7,593) in publication to the world knowledge on biodiversity. None of the publication was by an in-country institution.  In contrast, Costa Rica, another high biodiversity country contributed 0.5% to world biodiversity knowledge, 14 papers from Costa Rica was led by in-country institution. Furthermore, Costa Rica has 4 experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) while PNG has zero representation.

The authors cite many reasons for the lack and offers solutions.  All the solutions are relevant to PNG and when implemented may make a difference.

The paper, however dedicates only one sentence to the role of governments in conservation research. Governments, however are the biggest stakeholder influencing conservation research. And for PNG, the lack of political will by governmants to prioritize conservation can easily be one of the main reasons for the dismal results.

PNG is a developing country and is struggling to attain development. Money needed for development is locked in her natural resources. Currently, priority is in harvesting the natural resources to raise revenue for development.

Conservation is seen as anti-development. Conservation uses money but does not make money consequently conservation is not a priority. These sentiments are not expressed but is reflected in a lot of decisions taken by the government.

A classic example is preservation of Kokoda Track versus dumping of toxic waste into the Basamuk Bay.  Efforts have gone into protecting the Kokoda water catchment. While at the Basamuk Bay, despite community protests, the government allowed the Chinese Nickle-Cobalt Miner to dump toxic waste into the bay. What makes Kokoda special for preservation over Basamuk?

The common denominator in both project is money. Both are paying – the Australians are paying to protect while the miners are paying to dump their mining waste.

Another example in which money comes before conservation is when mining and logging rights are granted to the extractive industry in the areas designated for conservation.

Because it is not a priority, no serious money is budgeted for conservation in PNG.  Conservation groups raise their own funds but have to balance their conservation agenda with the socio-economic and developmental needs of the people they work with.

Because it is not a priority, there is an absence of developmental pathways for human resources for conservation either at the university or in government institutions.  All the skills needed to function as a conservationist is left to individuals to pick up while on the job.  There is also a lack of incentive to utilise local conservation practitioners who have attained advanced degrees.

The Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) is the designated authority to implement conservation in PNG. But it also has a contradicting role – the office collects fees and grants permit to developers to discharge waste into the environment.  As seen in the Kokoda versus Basamuk case, money making projects will win all the time.

Making money is a priority in PNG while conservation as it is today is a black hole that consumes money and gives nothing back.

The only way to make conservation a winner in this environment is to frame it as a money making venture for development.

How can we do that? Divorce conservation from CEPA and marry it to tourism to form Conservation and Tourism.

Already there is an incentive to make money with the proposed merger. People now have an incentive to look after their resources. It will be easy to make people understand the need for sustainable management because their income in the long run will depend on it.

This new merger will increase conservation manpower because research information will become a selling point for tourism.  This may improve training for local conservation research and the inevitable outcome will be more publications.

What is good for conservation is good for tourism is good for people. To protect this new development venture, the government will build infrastructure where it is needed. Steps will also be taken to strengthen environment protection policies and laws.

Conservation and tourism spreads money to local people and promotes development. Tourism does not only involve international tourists only. locals can become tourists as well. Local tourism is a viable industry in PNG and needs to be promoted aggressively and researched further.

Tourism and Conservation may be the trigger that will set off a  domino effect of positive changes in conservation and sustainable development. An inevitable end product will be an increase in  conservation research on biodiversity in this country.

Re-wire the Brain: New Conservation Direction

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A singsing group from the Zia Tribe of the Waria Valley, Morobe South Coast.

Whittling it down to the bare bones of it all, conservation has been about satisfying human values: protecting and or restoring ecosystem services for the benefit of humans, preserving a super market for human needs, protecting aesthetic values for human pleasure, securing nature for posterity value – especially in pharmacology for the benefit of humans, and protecting the inherent value of nature as deemed important by humans.

When conservation efforts is human centered, the underlying philosophy is that of a custodian.  Human beings make themselves lord over nature, the rule maker – they take on the responsibility for protecting nature by making the rules to safeguard  nature and to reverse the negative impacts caused by members of their species.

The ideology of custodianship is absent in a lot of indigenous groups.  For example, people in traditional Melanesia consider themselves part of nature. The relationship is one of awe and respect and fear because of the intricate relationship and interdependence that exists between humans and nature.

Conservation proponents from the West who brought conservation to Melanesia brought in the custodian ideology.  Melanesians were thoughtlessly taken out of nature and crowned as lord over nature.   Their fear of the spirits and the unknown was revealed as petty and expelled as myth.

Knowledge and technology which was supposed to protect nature instead liberated voracious consumers.  The fear of the unknown and the fear of spirits expunged from his existence, the semi traditional man has run amok  in the forest, lighting fire and cutting trees and  over-harvesting  wildlife.

Western project proponents wrongly assumed that  forest owners shared their  values for conservation.  In reality, the forest owner have never wasted sleep on issues of climate change and extinction. Any change in nature was taken in stride as nature being nature.

The West also brought with it the concept of development.  A concept that contradicts their idea of conservation. Development is measured by  an accumulation of material wealth and money, while conservation promotes frugality.  When judged through western eyes , the forest people were pitied as a poor people.

Desiring  ’development’ but being so far from development opportunities,  the forest owners readily embraced conservation as a development option. The conservation proponents misread the enthusiasm of forest owners and pledged goods and services in exchange for a piece of the bush.  In the long run, the good intentions become a liability when conservation proponents become  engrossed in community development issues that had nothing to do with conservation.

The custodian mentality will not begin to sink in until forest owners achieve self-actualization as per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Self-actualization will come about only when these forest people are satisfied with their station in life. Only then can they appreciate the custodian philosophy of looking after nature.

The irony of the preceding paragraph is that, indigenous people had achieved some level of self-actualization in their own societies. People had reached a point where all their basic needs were taken care of that they had time for activities outside of survival. Evidence is in the complexity of  customs and cultural rites and adornment.

Despite that, indigenous people are judged against the introduced culture of materialism and individualism, this causes them to lose confidence and trust in the system that worked for their forefathers and which has been passed down through generations.  They lose confidence in their innate knowledge of their environment.

With misplaced priorities, people shun the real keepers of knowledge – the elders, and put their faith in high school graduates who can speak English.

For progress, there is a need for indigenous communities to re-kindle pride for culture. A re-wiring of the mind that helps them realize that development is relative and that they are not as destitute as they are made to feel and they can keep their culture and live in a village and also enjoy the benefits of Western inventions such as medicine and countless technology.

The onus is now on indigenous people to reconcile their indigenous way of life with ideas from the outside.  A balance must be found between the two because conservation has become the last lifeline for indigenous people in maintaining and sustaining a livelihood in the face of rapid loss of culture, climate change, rapid population growth and loss of water sources and cultural lands.

 

 

Population growth is good

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Survival is a number game. The bigger the number, the greater the rate of survival. On the other hand, extinction happens when numbers get so low that recruitment via birth or migration is suppressed.   In the primitive sense, human beings are part of the system and the same rules  apply.

With over 75% of PNGeans still living in rural areas while maintaining a livelihood from the land – having bigger families increases the adaptive capacity of those families to impacts of climate change. The bigger the family, the more people who can diversify their efforts in supporting the family especially in terms of looking for food as well as any other assistance.

Having more people in the family is advantageous when it comes to family projects like building house and canoes to withstand the impacts of climate change.

More people means the family can easily defend their land and even resources from others since these resources are becoming scarce.

The chances of a family member getting a job in town is also increased in big families and the other family members benefit from cash remittance.

For rural communities, being able to adapt to climate change seems to be with families with bigger numbers. Smaller families trying to survive in a rural economy will struggle because they have to put in extra effort to achieve an outcome similar to the family with many children.

Escalate the same thinking to the nation – the more people there are , the increased manpower of building a nation. Because more people equals a big market, a big market equals more opportunities, more opportunities equals growth.

The bigger the population, the bigger and diverse the talent pool. The bigger the population, the bigger and better the gene pool.

To proudly take our place among the other nations of the world, we need to have more people. We cannot put our growth, our safety and our sovereignty in somebody elses hands. Surely we will not wait for consultants to build our nation, just because we have a very tiny population.

Some tribes in PNG have less than 1,000 members. These tribes are at risk of going extinct if their population growth is suppressed.

The main reason cited against growing a family is a lack of resources to cater for many mouths. A lack of resources may lead big families to poverty. Where poverty is defined as having less than $3 in your pocket at the end of a day.

At today’s exchange rate, being poor in PNG means, having less than K9 in your pocket.

As per the definition of poverty, over 80% of PNG who grow and hunt for their own food, live below the poverty line. If they grow their own food, why do they need the K9 for?  Rightfully, this definition applies to people who depend on a supermarket for all their food.

A better definition for poverty in PNG is hunger. When you work the land, you have food to eat. When you don’t work, you will go to sleep hungry. Having a bigger family to work the land is security against hunger.

In the name of world peace and the brotherhood of men, ideas and cultures are borrowed, stolen, adapted and even imposed onto other cultures. Instead of just accepting every new idea, we have to weigh new ideas against our existing “kastam”. We had a reason for doing things we did. We did not just exist.  Some “kastam” we can cut off, but others we may be cutting off at our own detriment. The key message is, think before we accept foreign ideologies that may be detrimental to the growth of our societies.

 

 

 

 

What should be our research priorities in conservation?

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PNG as a wilderness area contains unique landscapes, undiscovered genetic potential and endemic plants and animals. The ecosystems play a vital role in the maintenance of global health.

However, this wilderness area and the biodiversity it contains are threatened by over-exploitation, pollution and destruction. The threat is magnified by the lack of information on what is in this wilderness area.

Conservation is a must, however, in the face of this urgency and with limited resources – what will be our priority?

Do we focus on ecosystems so that we preserve the process that support the biodiversity which indirectly is the protection of biodiversity, or do we focus on species – the traditional conservation unit, or do we focus on the evolutionary connection of species by studying the genetics?

Do we focus on taxonomy or the ecological relatedness of the biodiversity or the biology of the species? What about policy and related conservation laws? What about the interaction between humans and nature?

Mangrove Planting for Climate Change

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Mangrove as a tool in addressing climate change gained prominence after the East Asia Tsunami in 2004. The tsunami generated in the Indian Ocean, ravaged coastal communities facing the Indian Ocean taking many lives and damaging infrastructure worth a lot of money.

Anecdotal evidence show that villages situated behind mangroves stands, sustain less damage when compared to those communities without mangrove barriers.

In the absence of technological intervention, Climate Change Experts identify mangroves as the first protection for coastal villages facing coastal flooding and extreme high tide.  Mangrove projects can be easily implemented by communities. Mangrove planting and rehabilitation costs less than other technological interventions and has been shown to be effective in saving lives and property.

What makes mangroves special?

Like any other tree species, the mangroves take 10-15 years to mature before they can provide the desired effect. Mature stands of mangrove act like a porous fence that slows down wave energy by reducing the velocity of the waves into and out of communities resulting in less damage infrastructure and livelihood.

 

Mangrove planting or mangrove forest rehabilitation must be approached as a long term strategy with the goal of ensuing planted and or rehabilitated mangrove stands become mature stands in the future.

Current practice involves planting of plant mangrove seedling in areas already under threat from the rising sea level. Numerous mangrove replanting exercise have never attained the envisaged success – this is despite the common  knowledge that young mangroves at waterfront are vulnerable to wave action and are easily uprooted and killed by the sun and the salt.

Ideally a mangrove replanting exercise should duplicate a vegetation succession as happens in nature.

Vegetation succession at a beach normally starts from the forest edge and gradually grows seaward.

Firstly, pioneer species like vines and grasses grow first to help build a soil environment suited for succession to take place. Then the trees, starting with the terrestrial species at the forest edge. Once this has established then the back mangrove species is the next to germinate, followed by the middle mangrove species then finally, the front line mangrove species facing the foreshore.

Re-vegetation through succession enables the plants to gradually adapt to a salty growing substrate and increases their chances of survival.

The process of natural succession takes years, the same will apply to a successful mangrove planting project.

The communities that survived the East Asia Tsunami in 2004, did not plant their mangrove stands the year prior to the tsunami. The mangrove stands have existed and protected, probably not intentionally, but importantly , the mangrove stands provided the needed protection.

While waiting for the mangrove forest to grow , the most cost effective climate change activity is educating people about the impending crises and the options available for adapting to the change.  Local people do have solutions for their challenges. They must be involved in the quest for a solution.

For the donors who fund mangrove projects, they  must realize that the impact of mangrove planting can only be realized in the future. Therefore they must  look for other targets to measure how their funds in the short term  is successfully addressing the climate change challenge.

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