A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Monday, October 23, 2006
Posted 2:58 PM by Luigi
Pacific Island Gives Clues to Tropical Biodiversity
Julio Godoy, IPS correspondent. This article was originally published Oct. 14 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.
PARIS, Oct 21 (Tierramérica) - Since early September, 170 scientists from 25 countries are conducting a first-ever in-depth exploration of the island of Espiritu Santo, in the Oceania archipelago of Vanuatu, to produce an inventory of tropical biodiversity. The biological wealth of this island region is so great that in about a month they have catalogued a hundred new species.
The multidisciplinary mission, known as Santo 2006, aims to index previously unknown species -- before climate change decimates them forever.
Increasing average temperatures, the consequence of the so-called greenhouse effect from the accumulation of carbon emissions (largely from the burning of fossil fuels) in the atmosphere, produce higher sea levels that are threatening islands, like Espiritu Santo, around the world.
"For this reason, we must hurry," Philippe Bouchet, naturalist and director of the taxonomy and collections division at the Natural History Museum of Paris, told Tierramérica.
"At this point in our civilisation, we still are unaware of the existence of numerous species," added Bouchet, who coordinates the mission, in cooperation with scientists from France's Institute of Research for Development, and from the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
These organisations chose Espiritu Santo as the centrepiece of the multinational expedition because it has remained practically unexplored, and because it holds both tropical forests and coral reefs -- the two richest ecosystems and the two most threatened by climate change.
Furthermore, Espiritu Santo is the largest and highest island of the Vanuatu archipelago, a mountainous chain in the South Pacific, rising more than 1,700 metres above sea level, crowned by Mount Tabwemasana.
In addition to its dramatic geography is its geological age. The island dates back to the Miocene era, previous to the last ice age. Its geographic and ecological isolation is an important factor in the evolution -- and vulnerability -- of the island's species.
The islands are particularly rich reserves of endemic species, but they are also microcosms threatened by invasive species.
According to Bouchet, microorganisms constitute the essence of the living world, due to the number of species, their weight in overall life, and the role they play in maintaining the integrity of the planet.
"Today we have only a fragmented vision of biodiversity," said Bouchet. His statement is confirmed in comparing the number of species already inventoried -- 1.8 million -- with scientific estimates that the Earth is home to dozens of millions of species.
The island is also interesting from the demographic and ethnic perspective. Espiritu Santo's 30,000 inhabitants speak more than 40 languages and dialects.
The scientific investigation to put together a species inventory marks a qualitative jump in the unexplored world. "Stepping foot in a virgin territory is very intriguing," Vincent Prié, a biologist with the Natural History Museum of Paris, told Tierramérica. "One has the impression of being present for the first sputtering of life."
In the first weeks of the study, the scientists identified about 100 previously unknown species.
"Given the ecological wealth of Espiritu Santo and its surroundings, it was evident from the start of the mission that here we would discover unknown species," said Bouchet. "We estimated that we could catalogue some 3,500 species of molluscs in the southern region of the island alone -- nearly twice the total species present in all of European waters."
One of these species, discovered on Sep. 13, is the Scandarma sp., a crab capable of climbing mangrove trees.
Another task of Santo 2006 is to establish the geographic origin of the species living on the island.
Michel Pascal, an ethnobiologist from the French Agricultural Research Institute, found a giant invasive snail: "This type of snail comes from Africa. It is exotic to Oceania. Surely it arrived on the island during World War II, hidden in a flower pot. What is certain is that the snail is devastating to the vegetation of Espiritu Santo."
The mission entails specific units of exploration and classification, centred around particular habitats: the marine depths, coral reefs, cave areas (on land or under sea), and forests, both coastal and mountain.
Each will be studied from a unique perspective, to estimate the true magnitude of their biodiversity and consider the weight of the very rare species in the make-up of the overall populations.
"The classification of species on Espiritu Santo will allow us to identify organisms in order to prevent the negative effects of human activities on biodiversity," said Bouchet.
The species discovered in Espiritu Santo will be indexed at the Natural History Museum of Paris, and the results will be made available to the information centre of the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
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