Saving Fiji’s threatened trees

Fiji is a biodiversity hotspot of high conservation priority. It is home to 1,600 endemic plant species however there is little information on these species and forest species are threatened by habitat loss. This project aims to build capacity for the conservation of threatened trees within Fiji.

Fiji is a biodiversity hotspot of high conservation priority. The country is made of around 300 islands, and is home to 1,600 endemic plant species, many of which are forest species. However much of Fiji’s endemic flora is not well known, especially with respect to its endemic trees. Also, the once dominant dry forest of the islands has now severely reduced in area. On Viti Levu, the archipelago’s largest island, forest cover has been reduced to just 1%.

This project aims to ensure the conservation of threatened tree species of Fiji. Capacity will be built and the knowledge of endemic species improved. A baseline of conservation status of trees will be established to ensure prioritisation of the country’s most threatened species and inform the implementation of ex situ conservation. The project is a partnership between Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV) funded by Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is the sole domestic NGO working for the conservation and sustainable management of Fiji’s biodiversity.

Following a capacity building course in April 2016 the priority conservation needs of Fijian tree species were identified and the lack of up to date threat assessments for many species was noted. Consequently, in July 2016 a red listing workshop was held in Suva, Fiji. The course was attended by 13 individuals from the forestry department, the secretariat of the pacific community, from universities and other institutions.

Red List Training in Fiji 2016. Photo Credit: Malin Rivers/ BGCI

Red List Training in Fiji 2016. Photo Credit: Malin Rivers/ BGCI

The workshop trained participants in the fundamental process of creating a red list assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria and the generation of distribution maps. It also identified priority tree species that required a conservation assessment. During the workshop, 32 red list assessments were produced, many of which were revisions to previous assessments. A further 25 will be produced at a later date.

Half the 32 species were assessed as threatened with extinction; these species will be prioritised for conservation action.  This includes one of GTC’s threatened Christmas trees Dacrydium nasoriense. The next stages of the project will include seed collections of orthodox species and establishment of living collections of threatened species. Red listing of the archipelago’s trees will also continue.

Did you know?

Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank Partnership currently provides ex situ conservation for more than 3,900 tree species