South Pacific Islands Forests

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Waisomo Village, Ono Island, Kadavu Province, Fiji.
© WWF-Canon / Meg GAWLER

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 9 terrestrial ecoregions: Cook Islands tropical moist forests; Fiji tropical dry forests; Fiji tropical moist forests; Tuamotu tropical moist forests; Tongan tropical moist forests; Society Islands tropical moist forests; Samoan tropical moist forests; Marquesas tropical moist forests; and Tubuai tropical moist forests.

The South Pacific islands of Fiji and Samoa were once clothed in tropical moist and dry forests, including rainforests on the higher islands. Forests’ relative isolation, large size and complex topography and unusual biogeographic history have all contributed to the archipelagos' highly endemic biota. Over half of the vascular plant species are endemic, with many single-island and single-site endemics.
Size:
27,000 sq. km (10,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
The South Pacific: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Wallis and Futuna Islands

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Selected species include the endangered Fiji iguanas (Brachyolophus spp.), orange dove (Ptilinopus victor), and the red shining parrot (Prosopeia tabuensis).

Fiji is notable for having an endemic family of primitive tree, the Degeneraceae, distantly related to magnolias. There are 27 native passerines, including 4 endemic species, and 3 parrots, 4 pigeons, and a rail that are all endemic.

Tuamotus is an archipelago comprising 76 islands and coral atolls. Endemic species include the Tuamotu sandpiper (Prosobonia cancellata), which is now restricted to uninhabited, rat-free islands. The endemic parrot, the Henderson lory (Vini stepheni), feeds largely on the nectar of 2 plant species, a degree of specialization unknown in nectarivorous birds elsewhere.

Tonga supports 419 angiosperm plants and fern species with approximately 3% endemic, including some spectacular Hibiscus spp. The Marquesas are among the most isolated archipelagos in the world and thus have a highly endemic biota. They support 320 native vascular plant species with 42% endemism. Also present a fairly rich invertebrate fauna with a notable diversity of at least 78 land and freshwater snail species and 16 fruit fly.
 / ©: WWF / John GIBBONS
Fiji banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus), Fiji.
© WWF / John GIBBONS

Featured Species

The Tuamotu sandpiper (Prosobonia cancellata) is a small wader with a very short, sharp black bill. It is about 17 cm tall. It is variably mottled and streaked with dull brown, with a bold white superciliary stripe. Its voice is a high squeaking note. It is found on beaches, shores and in scrub, preferring open areas along atoll shorelines, where it feeds on insects among coral rubble and leaf-litter. It is non-migratory but may visit islands where it does not nest.

It is becoming increasingly threatened as islands become disturbed by human activity and as habitat is destroyed for coconut plantations. The introduction of rats, particularly black rat (Rattus rattus), is a further serious threat and, combined with cats, has probably eliminated the species from all but the most infrequently visited islands. It is listed as endangered by IUCN.

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Threats
Loss of habitat from agriculture and commercial logging, and the introduction of predators by humans have resulted in a large number of species being threatened with extinction. Areas have been so depleted by burning that very little vegetation grows and downpours cause massive erosion. Introduced plants, such as Psidium guajava, Lantana camara and Mikania micrantha are serious weeds degrading natural communities.

Nuclear testing conducted by the French government has devastated many of the atolls in the southeastern portions of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Predicted rises in sea level from global warming will inundate most low-lying atolls of this ecoregion, likely causing the extinction of several threatened species such as the Polynesian ground-dove.
WWF’s work
WWF's Forests, Marine, and Freshwater programmes are concentrated in the parts of the world that WWF considers the highest priority areas for conservation attention. A key focus of these programmes is the establishment of new protected areas, improved management of protected areas, and more sustainable uses of natural resources.

The recent workshop on woodcarving through the WWF Fiji Forestry Programme, gave locals the skills they need for their livelihood while also preserving the offcuts of the endangered vesi tree. The Regional Climate Change Programme has begun a Climate Witness project, where it nominated a local Fijian woman from a remote offshore island to give talks to international audiences about her direct experience with climate change.

Reducing poverty among Pacific Island Communities is an integral and ongoing initiative of WWF South Pacific Programme. The FLAMMA Network, of which WWF is a partner, won the Global Equator Award in 2002 in recognition of its work towards Poverty Eradication.

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