A total of 7 potential new species to science from freshwater fish, prawns and crabs were discovered by a team of scientists from the French Ichthyological Society (Société Française d’Ichtyologie (SFI)) and Ecological Solutions, Solomon Islands (ESSI).
Renowned scientists Drs Philippe Keith and Gerard Marquet of SFI led the freshwater team.
With the authorisation of the Ministry of Fisheries and Natural Resources and the Department of Environment and Conservation of the Solomon Islands, the SFI and ESSI, in partnership with customary landowners, led freshwater fish and crustacean’s surveys.
Thanks to a two-year research grant from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and the SFI, based at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, (MNHN), Paris, France, the team conducted a research project on “Filling gaps and improving knowledge of Freshwater Fauna in Solomon and Vanuatu.”
In Solomon Islands, three were chosen based of the CEPF priority sites: Mt Maetambe-Kolobangara River Watershed (Choiseul Island, Choiseul Province); Kolobangara Island Forest (Western Province) and Guadalcanal Watershed (Guadalcanal Province).
The team carried out their work in Choiseul in October 7 to 20, 2014, on Guadalcanal in September 8 to 18, 2015 and Kolombangara on November 9 to 19, 2015.
On its most recent survey, on Kolobangara, the team worked in partnership with Kolombangara Island Biodiversity and Conservation Association (KIBCA), local customary landowners, Kolobangara Forestry Plantation Limited (KFPL) and Western Provincial Government.
A total of 52 species of freshwater fish, 27 prawns and 8 crabs were recorded. An exciting result is the number of potential new species to science that have been discovered on the island of Kolobangara (3 fish species and 4 crustaceans).
The team conducted similar studies on the interior of Guadalcanal Watershed working with the Uluna and Sutahuri and Guadalcanal Provincial Government as part of the Guadalcanal expedition. A total of 11 fish species and three prawn species were discovered.
The highlight of the work is the discovery of a potential new freshwater fish species that they also collected from Choiseul Island.
Another exciting result is the extension of the distribution area of an endemic freshwater fish that was previously recorded from Makira, Rendova, Ranogga, Malaita and Choiseul Islands.
The team was also part of the Mt Maetambe-Kolobangara River Watershed expedition in Choiseul Island. The team collaborated with the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Community (LLCTC), Customary land Owners and Choiseul Provincial Government.
Among the species collected, 2 species of freshwater fish, 3 prawns and 1 crab are new to science. Most of the prawns and crabs recorded from Choiseul are new records for Solomon Islands.
The overall total from the 2-year survey is 63 species of freshwater fish, 28 prawns and 9 crabs. In which a total of 3 freshwater fish, 3 prawns and one crab are new to science.
Results of the surveys will be documented and disseminated by free-access reports on ESSI website (www.ecologocalsolutions-si.com), scientific papers and a report that can be made available to the local communities and the provincial government, and national government.
“The results of our surveys will be a direct contribution to the writing and implementation of recommendations that could be included in any freshwater species recovery plan”, commented Pr Philippe Keith during one of the conferences given to each of the local communities in Kolobangara.
Our project clearly focused on increasing knowledge in important biodiversity areas,
fill gaps in knowledge with regard to target species at CEPF priority sites;
cover species (gobies, eels and shrimps) of cultural and economic importance to local people, and indicators of ecosystem health (gobies);
involve relevant government institutions and community members, and provide opportunities for capacity building in taxonomy;
demonstrate that the survey results, and any subsequent conservation actions, will be published in an appropriate form so they are freely available to other groups wanting to work at the site in the future; and
demonstrate that the survey is a means to an end, in terms of developing a foundation of knowledge and relationships for future support to communities at the site.
This project also provides capacity development in taxonomy and ecology for local upcoming scientists, community rangers and guides, commented Piokera Holland, a young ESSI volunteer trainee. The team also provides survey results and presentation with almost all the communities that they are working with in the Solomon Islands.
Results from our work in Choiseul and Guadalcanal were used in the development of teaching materials and training manuals for local rangers and conservation managers in the country.
Other benefits from this work will provide help to:
– raise awareness and gain an understanding of the rich freshwater biodiversity present in rivers, and the role of pristine forest on habitats and freshwater quality;
– provide important information concerning conservation and management actions where needed;
– strengthened capacity of staff from Local NGOs, Community Based Organizations (CBO), government departments, and communities protected area initiatives in the Solomon Islands in taxonomy and ecology of freshwater fauna (fish and crustaceans).
We see our work as the support for the development of an inter-disciplinary tool for the restitution of knowledge about species and for management actions that could readily be implemented by local communities and managers. The information will however be of use to other stakeholders, especially those involved in education and public awareness programs, commented Gerard Marquet.
During the different expeditions, many pictures of the various species have been taken, a rich material to illustrate the different educational materials for local communities, schools as well as scientists and resource managers (posters, booklets…), commented Dr. Clara Lord (SFI).
The major achievement of these surveys is to help the People of the Solomon Islands to be aware of the great biodiversity present in their rivers, and that such ecosystems must be preserved in their most pristine state, because of its uniqueness, commented David Boseto (ESSI).
The results of the survey will add value to the KIBCA initiative for the registration of the National Park under the protected area act 2010, commented Rex Loka, KIBCA ranger.
For more information you can check the Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands (ESSI) website: www.ecologicalsolutions-si.com ESSI is a local scientific research organization based in Solomon Islands.