Hello, my name is Rickson and welcome to my blog. The blog talks about Papua New Guinea's untouched Natural environment and how best we utilize, without harming or endangering them.
Please feel free to air your comments and views.....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Biodiversity is eroding with Unsustainable forestry

Oil palm plantations contributes to deforestation (Photo: Gilton Alimaka)

Papua New Guinea is one of the ancient lands with incredible range of diversity of both non-human and human cultures. Unsustainable forestry practices by multi-national logging companies are spreading and intensifying across the nation yet, there are still huge areas of rainforest wilderness that remain untouched by the influences of the industrial and post-industrial age. However, with an increasing human population and a huge onslaught by resource-extracting companies, these troubled islands face an uncertain future. This is leading to extensive habitat loss, with grave and irreversible consequences for biodiversity.
According to a report commissioned by the Australian Government, "the total forested area of Papua New Guinea is estimated at 34 million ha. Of this, an estimated 7.0-7.5 million ha is now widely regarded as commercial or productive forest" (Duncan, 1994). It has been estimated that at current levels of logging, all of this available forest will be gone within one generation. In 1990, the former director of the Forest Research Institute, Dr. Simon Saulei, estimated that between 2.3 and 3 million hectares of all accessible forests had been logged over (Saulei, 1990a and 1990b). In 1991 the total area of forest for which permits and licences had been granted was 4.52 million hectares (Nadarajah, 1993).
Current unsustainable industrial logging practices are stripping PNG of its rainforests, upon which the majority of indigenous land holders rely for part of their food, shelter, medicine, and spirituality. By exploiting the naivety and inexperience of remote village people, who sometimes cannot read the contracts they sign, these transnational corporations are selling a version of development that is neither sustainable nor desirable in the long run.
"Current unsustainable industrial logging practices are stripping PNG of its rainforests."

clearing rain forest (Photo: Gilton Alimaka)

There has been much written on the situation in PNG, both by government and non-government organisations (NGOs). In 1990 the Barnett Report, headed by former judge Thomas Barnett, found overwhelmingly that the timber industry was both unsustainable and corrupt. The report caused a furor both in PNG and abroad, and an urgent government response to its findings is clearly required. In Barnett's words, "There is a fog which is casting its cloud over forestry in this country. It is a mixture of meandering intellectual neglect, bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of honest political commitment." There are ample reports and evidence that the timber companies are breaking many (if not all) environmental protection laws, and that they have scant regard for the rights of the local landholders.
The 1994 Duncan Report, "Melanesian Forestry Study", showed clearly the absurd economics of the current logging situation, which the PNG government is both allowing and complicit in. "Because tropical timber is a semi-non renewable resource (if not non renewable, as there is some doubt over the regeneration of some species), then it's sale is in the nature of the disposal of an asset." (Duncan, 1994)
"This is not so much a plan, as a timetable handing out huge areas of forest in the shortest possible time"
To date, however, there has been little concrete action taken to put an end to the theft of land, resources, and traditional ways of life. In fact, the PNG remains locked into the view of "development" so prevalent in the North, and is seeking this development without any regard for the future. When commenting on the National Forest Development Plan, Thomas Barnett stated that, "This is not so much a plan, as a timetable for handing out huge areas of forest in the shortest possible time." (Barnett,1990, page 12)
Despite the chaos that is current PNG government policy, there is, however, much positive work being performed by PNG NGOs. Small scale forestry, and "eco-timber" projects are becoming stronger in their strategies. Training in sustainable forestry, and awareness patrols to remote areas by local NGO's has been spreading the message of what exploitative logging will do to rural communities. The recent screening on PNG television station EMTV of the Rainforest Information Centres documentary Mama Bilong Olgeta on the PNG logging industry was a great success. There has since been increased interest from PNG NGOs to distribute this video and other information on the logging crisis. There is still, however, a dire need to increase Australian aid funding to the NGO community in PNG, who are currently not being supported by their misguided government.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), supported financially and politically by the Australian Government, are attempting to enforce harsh changes in PNG, under their 1995 Structural Adjustment plans. Amongst these are plans to allow greater access to PNG resources for overseas companies, and cutbacks in public spending, both of which would heighten the deforestation crisis. But perhaps the biggest threat to the preservation of PNG's rainforests is the plan to introduce registration of tribal/customary land. Such registration of communal land will only open further opportunities to multi-national corporations in their bid to extract the countries resources.
Source: http://www.rainforestinfo.org.au/background/png.htm

subsistance gardening contributes to deforestation (Photo: Gilton Alimaka)

Monday, January 25, 2010


Seaweed, easily confuse with seagrass (photo by Selma P.)

The word algae represents are large group of different organisms from different photosynthetic groups, representing many taxonomic divisions. In general algae can be referred to as plant-like organisms that are usually photosynthetic and aquatic, but do not have true roots, stems, leaves, vascular tissue and have simple reproductive structures. They are distributed world wide in the sea, in freshwater and in water waste. Most are microscopic, but some are quite large, example, some marine seaweeds that can exceed 50 m in length.

Seaweeds include members of the red, green and brown algae. They are photosynthetic, like plants, and "simple" because they lack the many distinct organs found in land plants. For that reason they are currently excluded from being considered plants.
The green algae are the most diverse group of algae, with more than 7 000 species growing in variety of habitats. The green algae are a paraphyletic group because it excludes the plantae. Like the plants the green algae contains two types of chlorophyll, which they use to capture light energy to fuel the manufacture of sugars, but unlike plants they are primarily aquatic.

Seaweed (Photo by Selma P.)

Red algae are red because of the presence of the pigment phycoerythrin; this pigment reflects red light and absorbs blue light. Because blue light penetrates water to a greater depth than light of longer wavelengths, these pigments allow red algae to photosynthesize and live at somewhat greater depths than most other "algae". Some rhodophytes have very little phycoerythrin, and may appear green or bluish from the chlorophyll and other pigments present in them.
Some rhodophytes are also important in the formation of tropical reefs, an activity with which they have been involved for millions of years; in some Pacific atolls, red algae have contributed far more to reef structure than other organisms, even more than corals. These reef-building rhodophytes are called coralline algae, because they secrete a hard shell of carbonate around themselves, in much the same way that corals do.

Algae are an extremely important species. For one, they produce more oxygen than all the plants in the world, put together! For another, they form an important food source for many animals such as little shrimps and huge whales. Thus, they are at the bottom of the food chain with many living things depending upon them.
With the recent research and interest into using algae for producing bio-diesel, they have the potential to become even more important. So everything that seems useless has its values.

Different types of Seaweeds (Photo by Selma P.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Papua New Guinea scenery

Biodiversity Hotspot faces destruction

Papua New Guinea’s tropical rainforest is one of the top ten world’s most biodiversity hotspot. Alarmingly, it is disappearing at a faster rate than anyone anticipated.
This is according to a new report presented at a workshop on climate change, forests and carbon trading in Port Moresby, by a team lead by Mr. Phil Shearman of the Remote Sensing Centre at the University of Papua New Guinea. The findings of PNG forests are surprisingly surpass those in the Amazon and Southeast Asia.

The team led by Shearman used pattern recognition software called eCognition to analysis satellite images from 2002 to 2007, and than compared them with vegetation maps from the 1970s produced by the Australian Defence forces. They also factored in population growth, logging rates and evidence of fire damage.
Their study found that PNG's forests were being cleared or degraded at a rate of 1.4% per year in 2002, increasing to 1.7% per year in 2007. If clearing and degradation continues unchecked, over half of the forest that existed when PNG became independent from Australia in 1975 will have been destroyed by 2021, according to the report. The Brazilian Amazon is losing forest at the rate of 0.9% per year.
"PNG is still one of the most forested nations on the planet, but forest is being lost at a far higher rate than any one thought," says Shearman. "The rainforests are on the same trajectory - but from several decades back - as other Southeast Asian forest."
PNG makes up just under half the pacific island of New Guinea, which totals 786,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of France. New Guinea, which forms the Northern edge of the Australian tectonic plate, is a unique biogeographical area. It is home to six to eight per cent of the world's biodiversity on only 0.5% of its land, and much of that diversity is concentrated in the rainforests of PNG.
Until the new findings, anecdotal evidence combined with out-of-date official information about the PNG forests had led many experts to believe that the forests had been left largely undamaged by human activity, says biologist Allen Allison at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, who is an expert on New Guinea. The Food and Agricultural Organisation lists the rate of forest loss in PNG as 0.5% per year.

According to the new report, 46% of the area of forest that has been destroyed has been used by subsistence farmers - the population of PNG is growing at 3% per year. But the authors blamed loggers for most of the loss.
"Malaysia is virtually completely logged out. Indonesia is nearly logged out. So in the last 15 years the logging companies have moved to PNG," says tropical ecologist Julian Ash of the Australian National University in Canberra, and one of the report's authors. Ninety-eight per cent of the timber goes to China, according PNG's minister for forests, Beiden Namah.
"Commercial logging has contributed a considerable amount of revenue to the PNG government," says Namah, whose ministry is already reviewing the country's forestry policies.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Mangroves are mostly tropical trees that grow in tropical and subtropical intertidal zones, where they form distinct communities known as mangals or mangrove forests.
Papua New Guinea is second with 44 mangrove species to Indonesia which has 45 comparing with 110 of the total number of mangrove species occurring in the world.

True mangroves have a number of features that help them thrive in this boundary zone between land and ocean including adaptations for mechanical fixation in loose soil, breathing roots and air exchange devices, specialized dispersal mechanisms, and specialized mechanisms for dealing with excess salt concentrations. Mangroves are the only true viviparous plants. This means that the seed remains attached to the parent plant and germinates into a protruding embryo (propagule) before falling from the tree.

Mangroves are renowned for their high productivity and, consequently are extremely important to the nutrient budgets of adjoining estuaries and other coastal waters. Mangrove forests also serve as important nursery, feeding, and refuge areas for a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic organisms including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates. Some of these species are threatened and others are highly valued by sports and commercial fisheries, inshore and offshore.
In spite of their ecological importance, mangrove forests are under intense pressure from man's activities.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

EARTH MEANDERS: ode to Madang

The article below has been forwarded by a friend to me and am sharing on blog. the article talks about the loss of biodiversity in beautiful Madang town, Papua New Guinea.

Ode to Madang
Yet another paradise lost?

By Dr. Glen Barry
January 19, 2010

Prime Minister Michael Somare of Papua New Guinea is ruling as a Mugabe like thug bent upon becoming a tin-pot dictator. Once a great man that led his country to independence, Mr. Somare is now using his “Grand Chief” status for corrupt personal, family and tribal gains – illegally and immorally allocating huge swathes of his great nation’s forest and marine resources without landowners’ prior and informed consent. On the bidding of Somare’s increasingly despotic and erratic leadership, Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) natural assets are being sold off to invading Asian business interests – destroying rainforest, ocean, water and land – as well as the resource and ecosystem rich nation’s future development potential. Will one man – big man Sana or not – single-handedly destroy Earth’s third largest remaining contiguous old rainforest expanses for personal gain?

Nowhere is this more evident than in Madang Province, PNG, which contains some of Earth’s last remaining mostly intact tropical and marine ecosystems in the world. The “Jewel of the South Pacific” includes large ancient rainforest tracts, huge tuna and other fisheries, and barely explored mineral deposits; as well as beautiful, loving and peaceful people. Madang’s rainforests and oceans feed and house all its citizens, regulate national and regional climatic patterns, and make the Earth habitable by providing global ecosystem services. As Somare flits about in his new high-end private jet (who paid for that?) signing illicit business deals with Asian cartels and otherwise stealing Madang and the nation’s resources (including attempts to corner nascent carbon markets), Madang and PNG’s infrastructure including schools, hospitals, police and roads are in shambles.

As Europe and the U.S. have and continue to do elsewhere, Asian over-developed countries are falling over themselves to liquidate Madang’s intact ecosystems as “resources” for “development” – though for who is unclear. One of Earth’s most richly endowed countries is being traded away for the equivalent of beads and trinkets, with many national’s basic needs continuing to go unmet. China, the Philippines and Malaysia are literally invading Madang, threatening to destroy this tropical paradise while realizing essentially all the gains and bearing none of the costs, for what amounts to a few months worth of Asia’s resource use. Asian business interests’ conduct is absolutely abysmal – relying on intimidation, violence and corruption to destroy local cultures, their habitat, and future sustenance. Corruption is at the root of PNG’s troubles and the government has been bought.

Nothing appears off-limits as Somare and cronies would sell the shirt off a villager’s back if it benefited well himself, his family and/or his tribe. Dodgy Filipino tuna interests want to build another tuna cannery along Madang’s special north coast? Why stop at one? Somare wants to give them ten, against local wishes, and to the same existing company long cited for allowing birds to crap in their tuna cans. China needs minerals including zinc to continue its ecocidal over-development that threatens to enslave and ultimately destroy being? Sure, take all you want without paying landowner royalties (we’ll figure out who they are later), and just dump those millions of tons of toxic waste untreated directly into Madang’s spectacular Astrolabe Bay. These atrocities are done in the name of development, allegedly to help materially lacking people enjoy a consumptive lifestyle including rice and tin fish. Yet we know it is simply common greed, and once completed, PNG’s indigenous peoples will be left in despair, destitute and dying.

And then there is the scourge of industrial liquidation of huge swathes of ancient primary forests for throw away consumer crap, at the expense of equitable and ecologically sustainable indigenous traditional living, and our shared ecosystems. Tragically, within the past couple years Rimbunan Hijau of Malaysia – violent, brutal sociopaths willing to stop at nothing to hack down millions of year old rainforests wherever found for ill-gotten, easy profits – has gotten their tentacles into Madang. Against provincial government wishes and with numerous other irregularities the Somare government granted a 158,000 hectare (~375,000 acre) logging operation in the heart of the Ramu river valley – well placed to later access up to a million hectares of additional primary lowland rainforests. Their tremendously damaging and illegal logging practices have commenced, referred to as “sustainable forest management” by the government and industry, the same language used to describe FSC’s certified logging supported by Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace.

In fact, this and all industrial rainforest logging in PNG are illegal and ecologically devastating because there is no National Forest Inventory, or National Forest Plan; there has never been any evidence of sustainability for future generations; and logging activities are in breach of the Constitution and National Goals. But most shockingly, as a case before the PNG Supreme Court makes clear, Forest Management Areas (FMA) have been and continue to be acquired without clan landholders’ prior and informed consent, often even without their knowledge through forged signatures. In the Ramu, many clan leaders signed the agreement after being told “these are Michael Somare’s rainforests, and he wants them to be logged” – a Grand Lie from their Grand Chief.

Exactly 20 years ago I fell in love with Madang, its peoples and PNG as a Peace Corps volunteer. I married locally and for over a decade I worked as a PNG rainforest activist – helping stop many dodgy timber deals. My tribe’s ancestral land lies in the Sogeram, the entry point to Ramu logging, and an area that has been partially logged. Recently, on the basis of a hand-shake with German NGO Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue), I had the opportunity to have my personal expenses covered to research the situation, and to find local and international campaign opportunities, as we visited and holidayed with family. There have certainly been many adventures, successes and failures – some of which I will relate here.

For the past six months, in addition to Ecological Internet’s other activities, I have assisted in the founding of a new PNG rainforest campaign group called “Asples PNG” (people of PNG). Working in PNG is extremely difficult –prohibitively expensive cars and housing, incessant power outages, limited Internet, and very real personal security concerns. Yet speaking the language fluently, following closely local customs, and with my tribe as backup; I gave it all I had to stop these atrocious development policies. It took nearly two months just to get a house, office and Internet connection established – deeply stressing the patience of funders unfamiliar with the vagaries of PNG. EI’s first contribution was to help the very capable national staff of the leading local NGO campaigning against the tuna factories to internationalize the issue.

By providing advice and other support, Ecological Internet was able to help local landowners in their struggle to shutdown Rimbunan Hijau in Madang Ramu Block I. Early on we became aware of an existing initiative by Ramu landowners to petition the government to revoke the FMA, and Sogeram landowners were actively pursuing against long odds having Rimbunan Hijau removed in court. Both groups of landowners were generally against logging if REDD carbon payments for intact forests were available, and if they could find funds to maintain a road to allow them to market their goods. Upon bringing this to the attention of the leading local NGO, it was decided given my family ties, I would be the primary liaison with landowners, and the local NGO would provide assistance for transport and modest legal expenses.

In dozens of meetings with landowner leaders a three part strategy to end industrial logging in Madang was formulated. It stressed building coalitions of those against logging (though they may have differing views after that), stressed outreach to unemployed local youths whose jobs were being exported, and sought to empower landowners to retake control of their land which had been stolen from them. We patrolled the area, going directly to the scene of the logging, taking stunning pictures of ecological destruction and massive infrastructure that was clearly intended to log the entire Ramu [1]. And we informally carried out socially appropriate ecological and social justice awareness activities with thousands of local youths and community leaders, successfully seeking to broaden and deepen the movement.

Things were looking hopeful as we were informed by Ramu landowners they would be imminently presenting their petition to government, and blockading and evicting the loggers themselves. These Ramu landowners had a petition of some 70% of landowner leaders asking for the FMA to be withdrawn, and legal materials to legally pull out of the FMA were being produced courtesy of the local NGO and skilled attorneys. Then in early December, against all odds and before this plan unfolded, Rimbunan Hijau’s logging was stopped by court order by the Sogeram landowners’ court challenge. It was found that indeed the FMA had been illegally granted to Rimbunan Hijau by Somare’s government with massive irregularities. Together we had managed to facilitate the cobbling together of a strategy on the cheap to get the disease of industrial logging out of Madang before it became permanently entrenched.

Then – demonstrating that indeed PNG is the land of the unexpected – in quick succession our effort suffered numerous though not necessarily permanent setbacks. Rimbunan Hijau has a proven methodology to put down dissent. In quick succession, idled loggers came to Madang and began terrorizing the town, including personally issuing me a death threat. Two youths guilty of minor theft against Rimbunan Hijau were rounded up by bribed and drunken police and shot at point blank range with M16 rifles in the leg, in a clear warning meant to silence the community. And then just before the penultimate moment when landowners were waiting for the simple legal documents to withdraw from the FMA, the the local NGO reneged on their promise to cover these minimum legal expenses (<$1000). It was up to me to give the landowners the bad news. A couple weeks later the international community failed to deliver upon REDD mechanisms to pay landowners to protect their forests.

Much hope remains as logging remains stopped, a considerable local and international protest movement has been built, and the basis is set for ending industrial primary rainforest logging in Madang and PNG permanently. Personally I did the best I could with limited resources to cobble together successes to date. My part as informal advisor and chief international cheerleader has left me $20,000 in debt. I became deeply frustrated as poor communication and unrealistic expectations meant I was rarely received funding on time, and am still owed for the last month of expenses. I must admit, I lost my nerve and was frightened for my life, thousands of miles from home, not knowing who I could depend upon. Yet these primeval rainforests are my daughter’s birthright and these forests make all life possible, so you do what you can do. And this is only the beginning as Ecological Internet’s seeks funding for a prolonged local, national and international ecological information campaign on behalf of PNG’s rainforests.

I have a profound respect for local PNG rainforest and social justice groups that daily have to fear violence including constant harassment, physical attack and even targeted rapes. Yet sadly, the violence of the economic system and ruling elite has worked, leading to the resistance to Madang’s ecosystem destruction being fragmented, fragile and failing. Always the case with local NGOs, there is much territoriality, a reluctance to collaborate to build a movement, and lack of variety in tactics. Funding from foundations for staff paychecks remains the overwhelming concern, and thus elite foundations dictate the strategies and tactics. In PNG they have paid for NGOs to successfully pursue legal strategies to stop a project here or there, but it is inadequate and uncoordinated. Foundations are averse to risk, unconcerned with ecological sufficiency, and are providing inadequate resources for other campaign activities.

With Earth perilously close to global ecological collapse because of past and ongoing ecosystem destruction, why is humanity unable to correctly value Madang and the other last precious ecosystems powering our shared biosphere? What does it say about the state of humanity and Earth that places like Madang continue to be destroyed? How can it be made known that continued industrial development based upon destruction of Earth’s last relatively intact ecosystems means the end of Earth? After 20 years of ecological education and activism, one thing I know for sure is that what is being done to date is orders of magnitude inadequate, and our shared survival depends upon escalating revolutionary protest activities on behalf Earth and being.

Madang’s rainforest and marine bounty could employ – through small and medium scaled community based ecoforestry and a local purse seine tuna industry – many of its citizens and country persons for perpetuity. But there is no path to ecologically sustainable, equitable and just development for PNG that does not immediately end industrial scaled timber and tuna harvests. Otherwise PNG is just another has been rich country that wasted their wealth. The time has passed where any country can be said to be pursuing national advancement in-country or overseas by claiming destroying fisheries and old forests is somehow progress. Doing so in Madang ensures that these proud, independent people will be left as ecological refugees amongst a burnt over landscape and lifeless ocean. Ecological imperialism continues unimpeded.

For the sake of all of PNG’s people (and not just his tribe), Michael Somare must step down immediately, stop all efforts to have his son succeed him in office, and a new government must thoroughly review the timber and other resource project approvals granted under questionable circumstances. It is vital that a new PNG government commit itself to ending first time industrial logging of old primary forests, and ensure resource development advances the nation and its people as a whole. And China, as a totalitarian country practicing not communism, but autocratic capitalism, must be contained from utterly wreaking havoc upon its neighbors. In fact, by amply bribing Somare and violently stifling dissent, China is invading Papua New Guinea, making it likely the PNG will once again become a colony. But this time PNG’s religious beliefs, freedom of expression and ecologically sustainable livelihoods will be lost forever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Biodiversity in PNG

This blog is created for every naturalists, biologists, researchers and anybody that think we should protect our terrestrial and marine environment, before we deplete and extinct some of the rare organisms even before they are identified and studied. Needless to say but sadly it is happening as population and development progressing concurrently at a faster rate.

Papua New Guinea together with the West Papuan Province of Indonesia make up a major tropical wilderness area that still contains 5% of the original and untouched tropical high-biodiversity terrestrial ecosystems. PNG in itself contains over 5% of the worlds biodiversity in less than 1% of the world's total land area. The flora of New Guinea is unique because it has two sources of origin. Papua New Guinea has a lot of local endemic species. The endemicity is a result of mountainous isolation, topographic and soil habitat heterogeneity, high forest disturbance rates and abundant seasonal rainfall year-round. PNG boasts some 15-21,000 higher plants, 3,000 species of orchids, 800 species of coral, 600 species of fish, 250 species of mammals and 760 species of birds and 8 species of, out of which 84 genera of animals are endemic. Ecosystems range from lowland forests to Montana forests, alpine flora down to coastal areas, which contains some of the most extensive pristine mangrove areas in the world. Much of this biodiversity has remained intact for thousands of years because the ruggedness of the terrain made the interior lands inaccessible; furthermore low population density and restrictions on the effectiveness of traditional tools ensured that these biodiversity was never over-exploited.
Today, traditional style of use in biodiversity has forgone and with the use of modern technology, the rate of biodiversity disappearance is inevitable.
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