PABITRA Contribution to APN Synthesis Meeting II

Dieter Mueller-Dombois (9/10/02)


3.3.5 Islands (re. Management and Application)


PABITRA is the island ecosystem research network for Oceania, the tropical/subtropical ecoregion of the Pacific (Fig. 1). PABITRA has several transect core sites and satellite sites.  These are representative island landscapes selected for long-term ecological research (LTER).  New LTER sites will be added, as other island areas with their own research teams will join the PABITRA network. The PABITRA landscape transect sites are connected to academic and applied research institutions. Local governmental departments and landowner agencies (NGO) manage these sites interactively as observation sites or for sustainable use. They are not conservation areas, but are lived-on landscapes subjected to the stresses of global environmental and social changes. Conservation areas or ecological reserves may, however, be attached to PABITRA sites or be integrated with them. Under the guidance of ecosystem research, landscape management will focus on a balanced and adaptive approach to development. This implies that landuse and cover changes (LUCC) are kept in proportion to the islands' sizes, their habitat diversity, and their supply of renewable resources, particularly of fresh water and biodiversity. A major objective will be to manage native ecosystems for maintaining their natural services and their capacity for self-recovery after major disturbances.


Islands are not simple easily defined ecosystems such as tropical forests, semi-arid grasslands, or mountains. They are instead individual microcosms, which may contain any of the above ecosystems and several others such as freshwater wetlands, mangroves, estuaries, lagoons, and fringing reefs. These are ecosystems in close proximity, which means all of them are concentrated into a very small space (Fig. 2). Errors in managing such small-area individual ecosystems can cause negative feedbacks in neighboring ecosystems. A negative chain reaction can easily be created in the island ago-ecosystems by undermining the freshwater regulating function of the forested watershed. Clearly, the coastal ecosystems will suffer if the islands' terrestrial systems are managed primarily for maximum production. Negative consequences will then become apparent in the near-shore estuary, fish breeding habitats, and coral reefs.


The Pacific island nations have evolved in their culture and management through long-term experiences of trial and error management in their isolated environments. Introduction of new methods and technologies, developed in continental societies for improving lifestyle, public welfare, and education, must be adapted carefully with regard to the indigenous island cultures. Bridges for advancing new scientific principles and technologies must be built on full consideration of the indigenous knowledge base.


Figures (pdf -- 2 mb)


Figure legends


Fig. 1 The PABITRA transect network in Oceania)


Fig. 2 A typical high island with its natural and human-modified ecosystems