Along with illegal harvesting and habitat destruction, invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the health of Palau’s forests. While most of Palau’s forests are very healthy, all are under threat from invasive species, and some PAN sites have already been invaded. For this reason, the Bureau of Agriculture (BOA) and the Protected Areas Network (PAN) Office have begun taking action to address this threat. The first action is to learn what invasive species are present, and where they are – an inventory. Developing inventories of invasive species is the first of a set of five criteria for integrating invasive species into management of protected areas, adopted this year by the Micronesia Challenge Steering Committee and the Micronesia Regional Invasive Species Council. Until this week, however, Palau lacked the capacity to develop these essential inventories.
To address this need, the BOA and PAN Office, with support from PALARIS, jointly conducted training for PAN Coordinators and their staff in the methods of surveying to establish a baseline inventory of invasive plants in terrestrial protected areas. The training was conducted by Mr. Adam Radford, a specialist from the Maui Invasive Species Committee in Hawaii, and Dr. Joel Miles, Palau National Invasive Species Coordinator, with funding support from the USDA Forest Service. This is in response to numerous requests received from PAN Coordinators and Conservation Officers over the past few years for assistance with locating and identifying invasive plants in their conservation sites.
Eighteen (18) Conservation Officers from ten states, and staff of partner agencies, successfully completed the training and were awarded certificates of completion, certifying that they are now able to plan, conduct, and implement sweep, corridor, and roadside surveys, using the following acquired skills:
A. Using a hand-held GPS unit to record waypoints and trails
B. Downloading spatial data from a GPS unit to a computer
C. Recording data from the survey, and transferring the data to a spreadsheet
D. Recognizing 20 target invasive plant species, using a field guide, and
E. Photographing unknown plant species for identification
The training was held at the BOA Agriculture Development and Support Center in Ngchesar from October 6-12, and was followed by a week of hands-on surveys at conservation sites in Babeldaob and Koror. All ten states with terrestrial PAN sites participated in the training. Nine conservation sites were surveyed, and maps are now being prepared by the PAN Office and PALARIS to show the locations of invasive plants at these sites. Information gathered from the surveys will also contribute to the terrestrial monitoring system being developed for PAN sites and the Micronesian Challenge. The BOA will continue to assist the PAN Office and all 16 states to plan and implement management actions to reduce the impacts of invasive species.
Source: Bureau of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism, Republic of Palau