The first ever field guide for Fiji’s mangroves and seagrasses was launched yesterday by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, Mr. Tevita Boseiwaqa, marking another breakthrough in the conservation of biodiversity in the country.
Fiji has over 38,000 hectares of land that is covered by mangrove forests, with the largest stands found in Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. There are twelve known species of mangroves found in Fiji.
Like mangroves, seagrasses are flowering plants that grow in marine areas and are closely related to taro and water lilies. Seagrasses are important breeding ground for fishes and are also used locally for roofing, basket weaving and food. There are about 60 seagrass species found worldwide and six of these are common throughout Fiji.
“The critical role of mangroves and seagrasses of Fiji in supporting subsistence and commercial fisheries, providing food security and livelihood opportunities for coastal dwellers cannot be over emphasized,” highlighted Boseiwaqa during the launch.
The 75 page field guide provides photographs and information such as local names, uses, and distribution, of the twelve mangrove and six seagrass species. Identification of species is made easier by an easy-to-follow dichotomous key which assists users in correctly identifying species. The field guide is simple and designed for a wide range of audience – from conservationists to students, teachers and others including those with limited knowledge in science.
Ms Senilolia Tuiwawa, co-author of the field guide, said it was important to produce the guide because Fiji does not have its own. She added that it will also be useful for personnels in various sectors in the country that do not have the technical assistance in identifying mangrove and seagrass species.
The field guide will also be an important information resource for policy makers and the general public especially in the on-going efforts to improve understanding and enhancing the conservation of mangrove and seagrass species within Fiji and the region.
“The greater population of Fiji live on the coast and rely on mangrove ecosystems for everyday living,” added Tuiwawa. “And now we have the taxonomists or the technical resources available to help our coastal communities to better understand their coastal environment and one way is through this new guide book and hopefully it will encourage them to use their resources sustainably. ”
The production of the field guide was made possible through the efforts of the Fiji Department of Environment, the University of the South Pacific and IUCN Oceania through the Mangrove Ecosystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods (MESCAL) project.
Copies of ‘A Field Guide to the Mangrove & Seagrass Species of Fiji’ can be obtained from the office of the Department of Environment in Suva.