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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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.

graph

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.

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.

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