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Conservation and Management of the Endangered Fiji Sago Palm, Metroxylon vitiense, in Fiji

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Abstract

Recovery planning is a key component of many threatened species conservation initiatives and can be a powerful awareness raising tool. One of the largest impediments to conservation efforts in the Pacific region however, is the lack of ecological data and its subsequent effects on the development of feasible and useful recovery plans for threatened species. Without these plans, the understaffed, underfunded and often technically ill-equipped conservation agencies face huge difficulties in planning, prioritizing and conducting conservation activities to adequately protect biodiversity. The Fiji sago palm, Metroxylon vitiense, is an endemic endangered palm species whose survival is heavily dependent on a feasible species recovery plan. It is geographically restricted and threatened by habitat destruction and overexploitation for thatch for the tourism industry and palm heart consumption by local consumers. Despite its threatened status, M. vitiense is not currently protected by national or international legislation. Recent field surveys and extensive stakeholder consultation have resulted in the production of a species recovery plan highlighting the importance of the species and advocating sustainable harvesting rather than complete bans to promote conservation. This article summarizes the recovery plan and its current effects on the status of M. vitiense in Fiji. We also discuss the role of different stakeholders in the conservation of M. vitiense, including the absence of significant behavioral changes by the largest consumer - the tourism industry, and the importance of recovery plans for biodiversity conservation in the Pacific.

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Acknowledgments

NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV) wishes to thank its project officers and assistants, Kolinio Moce, Laisiasa Waqairatu and Vilititati Seru who have been at the forefront of the work with the Soga communities. NFMV is extremely grateful to the Pacific Development and Conservation Trust and the British High Commission for funding over several years which has enabled the Soga project to progress steadily with far reaching potential benefits both for the conservation of the endangered Soga and rural landowners and thatch harvesting communities. Guy Castley and two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Clare Morrison.

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Morrison, C., Rounds, I. & Watling, D. Conservation and Management of the Endangered Fiji Sago Palm, Metroxylon vitiense, in Fiji. Environmental Management 49, 929–941 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9836-3

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Keywords

  • Soga
  • Sago
  • Palm
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Threats
  • Management
  • Conservation
  • Local communities