Biodiversity Assessment Shows New Species Record for Ahetaha Conservation Association

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A rapid biodiversity assessment conducted for the Ahetaha water conservation association (AWCA) in Malaita Includes New Species records.

The Ahetaha Water Conservation Association (AWCA) is an area cushioned into the Manawai harbor at East Are ‘Are in Malaita Province.

The pristine forest area covers a network of coastal mangrove ecosystems, a system of rivers, streams, and riparian forests up to the mountainous ridges of 300 meters above sea level. This region is designated by the surrounding communities as a conservation site.

L-R: Patrick Poratarana (Aarahau Forest Conservation Ranger), Corzzi Posala and Tom Moukote (Ahetaha Water Conservation Ranger) setting up a mist net for bat capture-release at Ahetaha on the 11th May 2022.

According to the AWCA Project Coordinator, Mr. Eddie Huitarau, a Rapid Biodiversity Assessment (RBA) was conducted between 11th to 13th May 2022.

This assessment was piloted by a team of two local ecological experts, Mr. Albert Kwatelae and Mr. Corzzierrah Posala. Mr. Kwatelae who is the team lead is currently the President of the Solomon Islands Rangers Association and has a vast background in ecological surveys in the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Posala is currently a Ph.D. candidate whose research covers integrated pest management for coconut rhinoceros beetles in the Pacific and has a research background in terrestrial mammal ecology in Melanesia.

This is a tube nose bat also found at the site and its commonly occupy coastal and low land forest and mangroves.

These experts conducted a baseline inventory assessment that focuses on overall biological diversity in the area rather than extensive or detailed information about specific taxa or habitats.

The assessment conducted is a base study for species inventory in biodiversity valuations for the future.

The AWCA conducted the assessment for the Protected Area (PA) application, which involves different steps and one being the rapid biodiversity assessment.

Information from the survey provides potential species data that will be useful for describing the biodiversity context.

Over the three days, the team conducted a rapid biodiversity assessment using different survey methods. This includes two primary survey methods; a day and night transect and a mist net for bat capture-release.

A preliminary report by the local experts indicated that the rapid biodiversity assessment recorded a combined total of 107 individual species.

Mr. Kwatelae indicated that the rapid biodiversity assessment report includes at least 4 different spider species including a new record species for Malaita province.

There are at least 6 insect species, 17 bird species, and 2 fruit bat species recorded in the report.

The significant find during the rapid biodiversity assessment is the first identified record of a Poltys species spider in Malaita Province.

This spider species is a native of South East Asia and is known for its defense mechanism. The spider intentionally rolls itself up for protection and camouflages in with its environment. The Poltys spider species could be mistaken for dead leaves, and during the night it builds its web to trap insects and butterflies for food.

Mr. Posala also indicated that an integral part of conducting biodiversity surveys in communities is to assist community rangers in participatory field survey methods.

The survey team conducted the assessment and engaged the Ahetaha and nearby conservation rangers by participating in conducting field survey methods.

With this rapid biodiversity assessment, the AWCA seeks to strengthen the capacity-building development of the community rangers and champion leaders, to improve and give confidence in conservation management.

Mr. Huitarau said the survey was made possible through the funding support from the UNDP-GEF small grant program in the Solomon Islands.

Towards the end of this month, the UNDP-GEF small grant team will visit Ahetaha Water Conservation for a handing-over ceremony that will be witnessed by reps from Key stakeholders like; Malaita Provincial Gov’t, Solomon Islands Rangers, Mai-Maasina Green Belt, Takataka Eco Village Conservation Foundation Inc, and Wai-Hau Conservation Foundation.

The AWCA is currently an affiliated member of the Solomon Islands Rangers Association (SIRA), Solomon Islands Climate Action Network (SICAN), and the Mai-Ma’asina Green Belt (MMGB). According to Mr. Huitarau, AWCA aspires to assist nearby communities to get recognition from SIRA and MMGB and will be involved in future research and conservation management.


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John Houanihau
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