National Park of American Samoa completes two successful forest projects
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa —The National Park of American Samoa has successfully completed two projects to help protect the health of the Samoan rainforest. These projects were established through two important partnerships in environmental stewardship with local groups.
The first project is the result of a partnership with the Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG) and the villages of Matu’u and Faganeanea. The national park has removed all invasive tamaligi trees from the native Samoan rainforest within the park.
In order to protect this work and keep new seeds from germinating in the park, Tavita Togia, terrestrial ecologist, has worked with multiple neighboring villages (including Fagasa and Pago Pago) to teach the importance of removing the greatest threat to the health of the forest.
CRAG provided a grant that would fund a new partnership between the national park and Matu’u and Faganeanea. Reverend Fouvale Asiata coordinated the project between park office and the village of Matu’u and Faganeanea. The national park hired and trained five village residents to kill tamaligi. During seven months of work, the village crew killed 1,100 mature tamaligi trees across 400 acres of Matu’u’s native forest.
The presence of the invasive tamaligi tree on the mountainside creates a poor environment for the coral reefs along the shoreline. The non-native trees change the acidity of the soil and that soil runs off into the ocean bringing that acid with it. The acid will slowly dissolve the building blocks of the coral reef. CRAG supported this project in an effort to protect the reefs, as the terrestrial and marine environments are connected.
The second forest project comes as a result of a partnership with the Human and Social Services National Emergency Grant managed by Tauapai Laupolu. Five local workers supported by this grant were trained by park staff to begin the process of eradicating the pulumamoe or rubber tree, an invasive species that impairs the health of the Samoan rainforest.
This crew also contributed to the continued effort of reforestation because the work does not stop with destroying the invasive species. A healthy forest is a forest more likely to resist damage from invasive species or climate change.
In the past ten years, the national park crew has replanted six acres of forest within the national park with 7,000 native trees. These areas had been covered with non-native species and, after clearing the disturbed land, native tree saplings, such as ifilele and asi, were planted in their place.
When the trees have fully matured, a healthy forest ecosystem will be in place in about six years. You can visit these one acre plots and see the progress of the forest by hiking the Mt Alava Trail starting at Fagasa Pass.
Three of the workers have been selected to continue working with the national park beyond the end of their respective projects, continuing the important work and using their newly acquired skills.