Islands in the sky – conserving the cloud forests of Samoa


Date: 11 May 2012

Feature Article

Islands in the sky conserving the cloud forests of Samoa

The cloud forest of Savaii could look like a wildlife scene out of a David Attenborough nature film next week, once biodiversity specialists and community members set up camp in untouched forestlands to conduct a special survey of the flora and fauna.

Known as the BIORAP, this project is the Rapid Biological Survey of the plants, birds and animals; the kaleidoscope of living creatures that inhabit the forests of Savaii. It will be the first time for the biodiversity in these cloud forests to be properly surveyed.

The BIORAP is very much a joint partner initiative that involves the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Conservation International, New Zealand Department of Conservation and the NZ Defence Force, as well as several other cooperating agencies. Funding is being provided by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

A select team of wildlife biologists and locals will venture into approximately 65,000 hectares of cloud forest owned by village communities on Savaii, who are responsible for the care and stewardship of these natural resources.

Samoa, in particular Savaii, is of special biodiversity significance with the island ranked 23rd out of 226 South Pacific Islands in terms of conservation value. Savaiis forest ecosystem has been rated by Conservation International as one of two hotspots for biodiversity in Samoa and, it has also been said that the Savaii cloud forests are the largest remaining intact high-altitude forests in Polynesia.

The cloud forests could hold the key to the survival of the Samoan Woodhen punae which has not been recorded since 1873. A detailed survey of the habitat could also confirm the conservation of the tooth-billed pigeon manumea and even more exciting is the prospect of the project team discovering a new species.

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Islands in the sky – conserving the cloud forests of Samoa

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