An increase in coastal population and economic development in tropical regions (e.g., agriculture, forestry, and fishing) has led to increased pressures on coastal and marine natural resources. Although these developments provide new economic opportunities that can improve livelihoods, they threaten the functional integrity of coastal and marine ecosystems and the services ecosystems provided to people. Intact ecosystems from forests to coral reefs allow for clean drinking water and healthy fisheries; necessary resources for communities living in these environments.
This was the backdrop of a stakeholder workshop conducted on Kolombangara Island, located in Western Province, Solomon Islands. Representives from local communties, NGOs, and the forestry industry gathered together to discuss how best to balance development and ecosystem protection. University of Queensland, in collaboraton with The Wildlife Conservation Society, is providing technical support to help facilitate an initiative led by a local NGO, the Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association (KIBCA) to protect forest areas above 400 meters from logging and mining. The proposed protected area would conserve approximately 200 square kilometers of forest and 28% of the total island land area.
One of the ways we are supporting the work is through development of sediment runoff models that show how much sediment runoff has already increased on the island and how much more runoff could happen in the future if the forest continues to be logged. We have identified water catchments that could experience the largest increase in sediment, and have mapped coral reefs which are more likely to be exposed to the increasing sediment. The maps are being used as a communication tool by KIBCA to discuss with local communities why protection of the forest is so important. Through extensive discussion and engagement with a diverse group of stakeholders, a pathway to protecting the forest and ensuring that local communities recieve economic benefits is being forged.