Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Conservation Biology papers with a Pacific focus

The most recent (April 2010) issue of Conservation Biology has a number of papers which focus on the fauna, flora and environment of the South Pacific.

The issue starts off with an editorial by David Melick on economic schemes to negate carbon emissions. In particular he deals with the scheme to compensate landowners for NOT cutting down forests on their land (REDD) and the way this has played out thus far in the Papua New Guinea scene. He ends with this very pertinent statement:

... REDD will come to nothing if the system is not supported by the people who own and live in the forests. If the process is not rushed (it may take years, not months) and the PNG government is willing to accept international scrutiny and advice, forest governance and communitybenefits for the rural poor may finally be improved significantly...

Highly relevant for all who work in the South Pacific, particularly those of us with a western, productivity-based mindset. As the Mainland cheese ads say---Good things take time.

William Laurance and others discuss the impact of Oil Palm cultivation and some of the issues and opportunities surrounding it. In particular, they discuss the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) a nonprofit organisation that hopes to promote and market sustainably grown palm oil. Unfortunately, its track record appears to be fairly poor. The seeming blind eye the organisation has taken toward the destruction caused by growing oil palm in peat swamps is singled out as being a major failing of the RSPO. however Laurance et al. refuse to be pessimistic about the situation and make some recommendations, most of which involve fairly major restructuring of the RSPO and developments in its monitoring and enforcement policies. However, the real problem in the situation is the lack of market demand for sustainably grown palm oil, meaning that the RSPO has little clout.

Alison Boyer revisits the very high extinction rate of Pacific Island birds, this time investigating what ecological traits seem to have an influence on extinction rate. She concludes that differences in endemism, body size and diet influence the potential for extinction and gives a list of bird species that may be worthy of a higher threat category than currently given.

Shankar Aswani and Armagan Sabetian look at the impact that urbanisation has had on the parrotfish population around Gizo and Munda, in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Not surprisingly, they found that over the period 2004--2005 parrotfish numbers decreased around Gizo. However, they did find that some customary management systems were effectively preserving larger and greater numbers of parrotfish. The most effective systems were those that prevented all fishing in certain areas.

Mayeul Dalleau and team looked at shallow marine habitats around Wallis Island and used digital imagery and habitat maps as surrogates for biodiversity in the proposal of marine protected areas. While they promote this method as being an effective and efficient of surveying large areas, they do recognise that it is very desirable to do some actual field work to complement the habitat data, particularly in regions such as the Red Sea which has a very different environment from the oceanic Pacific islands.

It's a good issue. Well worth a read, certainly if any of the above issues pique your interest.


Aswani S, Sabetian A. 2010. Implications of Urbanization for Artisanal Parrotfish Fisheries in the Western Solomon Islands. Conservation Biology 24(2): 520-530

Boyer AG. 2010. Consistent Ecological Selectivity through Time in Pacific Island Avian Extinctions Conservation Biology 24(2): 511-519

Dalleau M, Andréfouët S, Wabnitz CCC, Payri C, Wantiez L, Pichon M, Friedman K, Vigliola L, Benzoni F. 2010. Use of Habitats as Surrogates of Biodiversity for Efficient Coral Reef Conservation Planning in Pacific Ocean Islands. Conservation Biology 24(2): 541-552

Laurance WF, Koh LP, Butler R, Sodhi NS, Bradshaw CJA, Neidel JD, Consunji H, Vega JM. 2010. Improving the Performance of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for Nature Conservation. Conservation Biology 24(2): p 377-381

Melick, D. 2010. Credibility of REDD and Experiences from Papua New Guinea. Conservation Biology 24(2): 359-361

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