Ecological Solutions, Solomon Islands (ESSI)                   
 

Projects

MT MAETAMBE TO KOLOMBANGARA RIVER CORRIDOR EXPEDITION, CHOISEUL ISLAND


Project title:

Baseline Biodiversity Inventory of Mt Maetambe-Kolombangara River Corridor, on Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands.


Purpose:

To undertake a baseline inventory of all the flora and fauna within Mt Maetambe to Kolobangara River Corridor on Choiseul. This includes documentation of historical, cultural and ethnobiological data.


Aim:

The aim of this study is to systematically collect  and document the flora and fauna, cultural and historical significant sites of the Mt Maetambe to Kolobangara River Corridor on Choiseul Island.


Objectives:

The object of this project is to engage local scientists. International scientists, Solomon Islands Government, Choiseul Province, local organizations in a collaborative effort with customary landowners and indigenous communities on Choiseul, Solomon Islands to survey and collect biological, cultural and historical information as well as raise awareness of both aquatic and terrestrial species on the Mt Maetambe – Kolobangara River on the island of Choiseul.


Project Rational

Key threats

The biological biodiversity and their habitats on Choiseul Island are largely threatened by deforestation caused by logging and agricultural pursuits. In highly dense areas, waste dumping, clearing of riparian habitats for new family settlements, extending of village boundaries, unsustainable harvesting, establishment of coconut and cocoa plantations, have reduced these habitats, impacted aquatic and terrestrial organisms that breed, feed or migrate through this ecosystem.

Conservation opportunities

The biodiversity of Choiseul Island is increasingly under threat (Morrison et al. 2008). For example, two endemic giant rats (Solomys spp) and a frog (Palmatorappia solomonis) are currently listed as endangered by IUCN (Morrison et al. 2008; Pikacha et al. 2008). Other species like the Choiseul ground pigeon are already believed to be extinct (Tennent 2009). Very little is known about the endemic rats of Choiseul. In 2005 we carried out surveys funded by BP Conservation Program (Pikacha et al. 2008). As a result of the previous surveys, we identified areas in critical need of protection. One of these areas was the corridor beginning at the upper Kolobangara River and extending to the Mt Maetambe plateau. In this proposal we endeavour to engage in partnership with groups of landowners to further search for cryptic species along this zone in an attempt to have a comprehensive list of species; protect core areas identified in 2005 by working with the local communities and project stakeholders and partners for biodiversity protection or other appropriate methods that realize the protection of habitat and conservation of target species. It is our aim also to drive a concentrated effort to raise environmental awareness at all levels of society (village community, schools, provincial and national government, etc) through workshops, local media, and other digital forms (internet, multimedia, social media. Yet it is in these connective corridors along river systems, especially in upper catchments with overhanging fig trees, that we have surveyed and identified some species of conservation significance including Solomys salebrosus [upper Kolombangara River, (2008)], and Palmatorappia solomonis [upper Kolombangara River (2009), Sarelata, slopes of Mt Maetambe (2006), Litoria lutea [upper Kolombangara River (2009), Sarelata, slopes of Mt Maetambe (2006)], and Pteralopex anceps [Sarelata, slopes of Mt Maetambe (2006)].

Furthermore, communities depend on both aquatic ([Chanidae (Milkfish), Lutjanidae (Freshwater snappers), Kuhliidae (Flagtail), Mugilidae (Mullets), Teraponidae (Terapons)]) and riparian habitats for food, transport access, and timber. An opportunity here exists to use modern survey equipment such as acoustic equipment to gather signature calls, and sensitive digital camera traps which we can set over months on a time-lapse system to collect data on the status of aquatic and terrestrial species. Furthermore using print media such as Melanesian Geo a local grassroots magazine that has been instrumental in raising awareness at village level has scope in this project. Finally increasing an awareness of species and ecosystems on Choiseul through publications, awareness talks, and linking our findings to effective conservation efforts (e.g., delivering into bids for protected areas under the protected areas act).


Project Approach

To undertake a baseline inventory of all the flora and fauna within the Mount Maetambe-Kolobangara River. This includes documentation of historical, cultural and ethnobiological data. The baseline survey will provide information that will guide the development of conservation plans for the preservation of target species. As part of our stakeholders planning and meetings an initial meeting will be conducted to identify the traditional landowners of the Mount Maetambe-Kolobangara River corridor with the help of Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities. Once these are identified, they will be invited to attend a stakeholders meeting. At the meeting the project will be introduced with clearly delineated outcomes. The overall aim is to protect or better manage the Mount Maetambe-Kolobangara River corridor. This CEPF grant would complement a Choiseul Provincial environmental outcome, which is to protect ridge to reef sites.

At an operational level, traditional leaders will select a member of their tribe to be part of the team to conduct the biologicals surveys. Persons selected must know their land boundaries, and have traditional ecological knowledge/ethnobiological knowledge. In the field local staff will be trained in the use of survey techniques and data entry and use of modern technologies to obtain ecological data. The traditional landowners who are part of our team in the field will be given opportunities to give field survey reports back to their communities during the community awareness meetings. Our team will work with the local communities and project partners to establish a holistic resource plan, and target through GIS mapping important species sites and conservation areas. Involving communities, students, national and local governments, and researchers will increase local capacity and to achieve expected outcomes. This will include ranger training, surveying and inventory techniques and monitoring of keystone species, and GIS training to mark sites of species citing and biological interest. Providing educational awareness of unique species and other endangered species increases appreciation of natural history assets. Awareness will include information on population and life cycles of the vertebrates. A comprehensive report of the field survey will be made available through print, Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands website, media reports will be published in local newspapers and aired on local radio stations. Our charity magazine - Melanesian Geo will have a special issue on this work, which we will distribute to villages and schools within the project area. We will be looking at publishing the results of this study on a number of free-access journals both online and by print. Finally, we aim at establishing collaboration between other local communities with an interest in conservation and local conservation organisations, local governments, national governments, and local and international NGOs.

 

Team leaders

ESSI                            David Boseto

ESSI/SICCP/UQ         Patrick Pikacha

ESSI/MFR(SIG)         Myknee Sirikolo

ESSI/S&N/Z&T          Shane Tutua


Local Partners and collaborators

Customary Land owners

Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities

Choiseul Province

Solomon Islands Government

Solomon Islands National University

Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership

 

Regional and International partners and collaborators

Regional

Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme

University of South Pacific, Fiji

 

International

American Museum of Natural History

James Cook University, Cairns, Australia

James Cook University, Townsville, Australia

Kansas University, USA

Museum National d’History Naturelle, France

United States Geological Survey, USA

University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

 

Taxonomic components and capacity Development

It is anticipated that local experts will take on as much leadership as possible in this project, and that capacity will be built from establishing partnership with international experts. This will provide opportunity for research students working with established scientist. Technical people from the govt departments – also aligned with scientists. Community level – used as field assistants, parataxonomic training. Need people who are committed to longterm work.

Freshwater vertebrates and invertebrates: David Boseto and Robson Hevalao, SI,  Phillip Keith and Gérard Marquet, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, Gerbeaux Philippe, Department of Conservation, Christchurch, New Zealand, Brenden Ebner from James Cook University, Townsville.

Birds: Rob Moyle (KU) and Robs Student. Edgar Pollard and Sammy Qalokale (SI).

Herpetofauna: Patrick Pikacha and Edgar Pollard (SI), Rafe Brown (KU) with one of Rafe’s student,  Robert Fisher (USGS) and one of his student.

Flora: Myknee Sirikolo, Eric Katovai (JCU-Cairns), Ramokasa Anisi (USP/SI) and Kellington Simeon (SI) and Aliveriti Naikatini (USP)

Insects: Fred Pitakia (SI), Lulu Tokasa (USP-Fiji), Milen Marinov, NZ (Odonata),

Mammals: Corzzierrah Posala (USP/SI), Tyrone Lavery (UQ)

Soil: Shane Tutua and one of Shane’s field assistant

Marine – Jimmy Kereseka and TNC team.

Two SINU students. One from Forestry and One from Environment

One staff each from Forestry, Environment and Fisheries.

SPREP Staff – Fred Patison 

 

Survey Schedule

October 7 - October 30, 2014

Three teams:

Team 1: Aquatic team, Plant team, Insect team and Soil team – field dates October 10 – 22

Team 2: Bird team, Mammal team and Herpetofauna team – field dates October 17 – 30

Team 3: Marine team will have to decide their dates.

Arrival at Honiara, Solomon Islands  - 7 and 8 October 2014 and October 15

Travel to Choiseul – 8 and 9 October, 2014 and October 16

Field Survey  - 10 – 30 October 2014

Travel to Honiara  - 22 October, 2014 and October 30

Depart Honiara, Solomon Islands – 24 October 2014 October 31.

 

First Aid Training

Note all the team members that are going to participant in the Choiseul Expedition must have a valid first Aid Training Certification. For those who do not have a valid first aid training certification must attend a first aid training at their own expense before allowed to participate in the expedition.


                  

 

 

 


 

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