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A Rapid Biodiversity Assessment & Archaeological Survey of the Fiji REDD+ Pilot Site: Emalu Forest, Viti Levu

Tuiwawa, Marika and Pene, Sarah and Waqa-Sakiti, Hilda F.V. and Naikatini, Alivereti N. and Copeland, Lekima and Rashni, Bindiya (2013) A Rapid Biodiversity Assessment & Archaeological Survey of the Fiji REDD+ Pilot Site: Emalu Forest, Viti Levu. [Professional and Technical Reports] (Unpublished)

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The land encompassed by the mataqali Emalu in the province of Navosa has been selected as the pilot site for the Fiji REDD+ programme. A survey to assess the biodiversity of the area and document its cultural heritage sites was carried out by a team of specialists from USP’s Institute of Applied Science (the South Pacific Regional Herbarium and the Environment Unit), the Fiji Museum, NatureFijiMareqetiViti and Conservation International. The expedition was implemented in two phases; in July 2012 and March 2013. Flora, Vegetation and Ecology A total of 707 plant taxa were recorded for Emalu, including 286 bryophytes and lichens, 375 angiosperms, nine gymnosperms, and 35 ferns and fern allies. Altogether, the vascular and non-vascular taxa recorded from the Emalu site spanned 182 families and 391 genera. Over a third (39%) of the vascular plant flora recorded are endemic to Fiji, including 160 species of flowering plants, two fern and fern allies, and two gymnosperms. Ten taxa were encountered that are important focal species due to their rarity, botanical significance, very recent discovery in Fiji and inclusion in the IUCN Red List. Five principal vegetation types were identified; lowland rainforest, upland rainforest, cloud forest, dry forest and talasiga. Herpetofauna Six species of herpetofauna: three endemic, two native and one invasive were captured over 22 man-hours of diurnal survey, 63 hours of sticky tape trapping and nine man-hours of nocturnal surveys. This survey has documented the first records of herpetofauna in this area and indicates a similar herpetofauna habitat to those typically observed in other parts of Viti Levu. The endemic Fiji tree frog (Platymantis vitiensis) was encountered in the area and is possibly the western-most record of the occurrence of this species in Fiji. Avifauna A total of 35 species of birds were recorded during the survey, which included 25 endemic species and one exotic species. Two species of bats were also recorded during the surveys. Ten focal species were identified (eight bird species and two bat species). The bird diversity of Emalu is comparable to the four Important Bird Areas on Viti Levu and ranks even higher in terms of bird density. Terrestrial Insects The target taxa Coleoptera (beetles) recorded 26 families in total and there was also a high abundance of the family Formicidae (ants). These taxa provide critical ecosystem services in forests systems such as soil processing, decomposition, herbivory, pollination and seed dispersal. Insects of conservation value recorded from Emalu included: Hypolimnas inopinata (a rare and endemic butterfly), Nysirus spinulosus and Cotylosoma dipneusticum (rare and endemic stick insects) and Raiateana 5 knowlesi (the rare and endemic cicada). These findings suggest that the Emalu area is pristine and an important site for rare insects on Viti Levu. Freshwater Fish A total of ten species of fish from six families were recorded from the study area. Three species of gobies (Awaous guamensis, Sicyopus zosterophorum, Sicyopterus lagocephalus), two species of eels from the family Anguillidae (Anguilla marmorata and Anguilla megastoma), and the freshwater snake eel from the family Opicthidae (Lamnostoma kampeni) were collected in the area. The Mavuvu mid reach had an exceptionally high abundance and biomass of jungle perch Kuhlia rupestris when compared to other streams in Fiji. No endemic species were observed or caught during this survey. Around areas of human habitation there is evidence of the removal of riparian buffer zones as well as unrestricted livestock access to waterways which, coupled with uncontrolled slash and burn activities has exacerbated environmental degradation in these areas. The use of traditional fish poison (Derris roots) is also a common problem seen throughout the survey sites. Freshwater Macroinvertebrates A total of 76 freshwater macroinvertebrate taxa were identified from the 16,370 specimens collected in the three catchments of the Emalu region. The highly diverse freshwater macroinvertebrate community of Emalu included a high proportion of endemic taxa (75%), with insects being the most commonly occurring group. A total of 14 macroinvertebrate taxa were selected as potential bioindicators. The high rate of endemism, as well as the large number of species with large populations, is indicative of the intactness of both the stream system and the surrounding forest. Invasive Species A total of 26 invasive plants and eleven invasive animals were recorded in the study area, thirteen of which are listed in the 100 most invasive species in the world. Generally, the occurrence and abundance of invasive was associated with proximity to human habitation and to disturbed areas such as tracks, temporary campsites and cultivated areas. The invasive plant species were generally low in abundance, with the exception of Piper aduncum which was locally common, and Clidemia hirta and Mikania micrantha which were both widespread. Archaeological Survey The land belonging to the mataqali Emalu is rich in historical and cultural sites that have never been documented until this survey. A total of 77 sites of historical and cultural significance were documented, including old village sites, hill fortifications, pottery sites, agricultural terraces, sacred pools, house mounds and fortification trenches. Generally, the archaeological finds during this survey have considerable cultural value to the local community as well as at national level.

Item Type: Professional and Technical Reports
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) > Institute of Applied Science
Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) > Herbarium
Depositing User: Hilda Sakiti-Waqa
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2017 01:01
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2020 23:31

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