Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vava'u, Tonga Mangrove Survey successfully completed using GIS

Mangroves, Vava'u, Tonga

11 October, 2012 - The Vava'u Mangrove Survey which used Geographical Information Systems (GIS) found the mangroves of the island of Vava'u, Tonga in generally good condition.

This is according to Environmental Monitoring Analyst, Mr. Paul Anderson, of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"Despite the usual impacts, of cutting, burning and waste the mangroves were in generally good condition, meaning the mangroves are resilient and healthy in most cases," he said.

Mangroves are vital to island ecosystems as they provide habitats for fish and crabs, protect coastlines and keep the water clean.  Mangroves remain a major component of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change.

Anderson was the lead trainer for the one week Vava'u Mangrove Survey, a project by SPREP in partnership with Mangrove Ecosystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods (MESCAL) and Ministry of Lands Environment Climate Change and Natural Resources, Tonga. (MLECCNR).

"The project maps and assesses the conditions of the mangroves of Vavau and trains local staff and volunteers on mangrove monitoring methodology and technology," Anderson said.

Field Team and trainer on the seaward edge of a mangrove stand, Vava'u, Tonga.
The technology used during the training included GIS, Geographical Positioning Systems (GPS) and the Pacific Mangrove Monitoring Manual produced by SPREP.   

Vava'u currently hosts 30% of Tonga’s mangroves, covering approximately 381 hectares of land.

Anderson said: "As part of the training and survey, we visited the majority of the sites,
exploring first-hand the condition of the mangroves, and assessing the impacts of human activity and nature on the mangroves."

During the surveys, the team discovered a small leaf mangrove associate species, which was only recently discovered in Tongatapu Pemphis acidula.

Pemphis acidula
 "This was a significant find as it expands the range of this species to a new island group," said Mr Anderson.

In addition to the small leaf mangrove associate, the team also came across the largest recorded red mangrove in the Tongan islands measuring at 20cm in diameter.

The team installed permanent monitoring points to asses and monitor the condition of mangroves over time.

Anderson acknowledged the contribution of his MLECCNR counterpart Sione Tukia Latu, the assistance of the MLECCNR Vava'u and Tongatapu personnel and the support of the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA) in the field monitoring and GIS work.

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