SAFEGUARDING THE BIODIVERSITY OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
The island of New Guinea is home to the world’s third largest rainforest after the Amazon and the Congo Basin. Papua New Guinea lies in the eastern part of the Island, while the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua lie in the western part. With five per cent of the world’s biodiversity in just one per cent of its surface area, the forests of Papua New Guinea are ecological goldmines that are home to more than 20,000 species of plants, 191 species of mammals, 750 bird species, 300 species of reptiles and 198 species of amphibians. Yet despite the treasures they store, the country’s forests are poorly understood scientifically. In addition, although they are relatively well-conserved, the forests of Papua New Guinea are facing increasing pressure from resource extraction through logging and clearing for agriculture.
To address these challenges, UN-REDD, FAO and the European Union have been providing support for the country’s first-ever multi-purpose NFI since 2014. This ambitious initiative has enabled local scientists to gather important data on the country’s flora, fauna and carbon stock, in order to accurately estimate greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
“What makes the NFI in Papua New Guinea unique is that we have a comprehensive biodiversity component, in addition to the usual tree enumeration and measurement,” says Abe Hitofumi, FAO Chief Technical Advisor for the NFI project in Papua New Guinea. The project does not focus only on trees, but on the whole ecological network of interactions through soil, botany and zoology.
“What makes the NFI in Papua New Guinea unique isAbe Hitofumi
that we have a comprehensive biodiversity component,
in addition to the usual tree enumeration and measure-
Kipiro Damas is on the NFI botany team. He says, “My job as a botanist is to look at the plants and give them specific scientific names. Because of a lack of funding, we never had a good opportunity to go around the country to collect information on all the plants. Now with this NFI project, we have the opportunity to go to places we were unable to go. This is great for us.”
Grace Luke, a young scientist working with the NFI project says that she is proud of being a biologist. “I get to know everything in the forest. It’s a good job because you protect the rainforest for the next generation.”
The Papua New Guinea national REDD+ programme started in 2011, with field assessments for its NFI commencing in 2017. Over the years, the older staff in the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority began training younger staff like Redley Opasa, a post-graduate student who recently received a scholarship from the NFI project to research and analyse forest data.
“I’m blessed to be a part of this project,” he says. “The thing I enjoy most about being part of the NFI survey is the chance to go around my country and discover our undisturbed forests. I have learned to really appreciate Papua New Guinea’s rich biodiversity.”
The aim of the NFI project is to protect the country’s forests; with better data, better policies can be put into place to protect those forests. “REDD+ provides that pathway for us. It is a mechanism where we can achieve transformational change within the country, achieve our development aspirations, but in a sustainable way,” says Terence Barambi, Manager of the REDD+ Branch of the Climate Change and Development Authority in Papua New Guinea.