FOREST & FORESTRY
State of Forest Resources
Forest and Forestry of Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands is a double chain archipelago in South-West Pacific located between longitude 155° and 170° and latitude 5° to 12° south. It consists of 990 islands with a total land area of 28,000 square kilometers. It is a tropical country with plenty of sunshine and a hot humid climate with high precipitation between 3,000 to 5,500 mm per annum. Temperature fluctuates between 24°C to 34°C, all year round. It has a population of 500,000 with 85 % live in the rural areas.
Solomon Islands has a very rich vegetation cover (tropical rainforest) covering some 80% of the total land area and constitute to about two million hectares of which only 30% is considered to be commercial forests. The largest tracts of commercial natural forests are located in Western, Isabel and Choiseul provinces. Industrial and village plantations are largely confined to Western province.
Forests Resources is important to Solomon Islands. People have depended on the forest for their livelihood and sustenance. Over the past decades, Solomon Island relied heavily on the harvesting of commercial timber trees for export and other forest development activities that resulted in degradation due to unsustainable logging, commercial agriculture and infrastructure development.
During the past 20 years, both the resource owners and SIG rely heavily on Forest resources in a form of royalty for income and round log export for revenue. Today, the harvesting of forest resources is done in a way that deprive the right of our future generation to benefit from it again, experts believed that it is 4 times the rate the forest can grow in a year. Previous Forest Resources inventories indicated that by year 2020 and beyond, most of the commercial native forest of SI will be disappeared or finished. This will affect landowner income as well as government revenue.
Natural Forest Type
Six distinct vegetation or forest types are distinguished in Solomon Islands, which vary in magnitude from one province to another, and reflect the geological formation, ranging from acidic volcanic origin in the bigger islands to alkaline limestones in low-lying atolls. The range and types of plant species present is fairly similar between islands despite their geographical spread. These are, however, affected by six factors: soil type (based on parent rock), climate (e.g. rainfall and temperature), topographical features, altitude, natural catastrophes (cyclone and earthquakes), and human activities.
The six vegetation types are: lowland rainforest, hill forests, montane forests, freshwater swamp and riverine forests, saline swamp forests, and grassland and other non-forest areas:
(a) Grassland and other non-forest areas :
comprise predominantly non-tree species, mainly herbaceous species. Predominant species include Imperata cylindrica, Dicranoptera linearis and Themeda australis. Examples of commonly occurring species are Mimosa invisa, Morinda citrifolia, Saccharum spontaneum, Polygala paniculata and Timonius timon. Some of these species (e.g. M. invisa) are very common in disturbed areas.
(b) Saline swamp forests :
are subject to tidal influence as they are found in estuaries and foreshores. Examples of species comprising this vegetation include Barringtonia asiatica, Calophyllum inophyllum, Casuarina equisetifolia, Terminalia catappa, Intsia bijuga, Inocarpus fagifer, Pandanus spp., Barringtonia racemosa and species of mangroves. This grup of species is also known as the ‘Indo-Pacific Strand Flora’ (Whitmore 1966).
(c) Freshwater swamp and riverine forests :
are commonly found in poorly drained land at low altitudes with little micro-relief. Species such as Inocarpus fagifer, Mextroxylon salomonense, M. sagu, Barringtonia racemosa are found here, although some important timber species are also present (e.g. Terminalia brassii and Dillenia salomonensis).
(d) Lowland rainforests :
include forests at altitudes up to 5-70 m, often with complex structure due to greater number of species from upper or hill forest and patches of freshwater swamp forest. Occasional cyclones and human activities often disturb this forest type as evident in a high incidence of re-growth and secondary species. Species predominant in this vegetation include timber species such as Campnosperma brevipetiolata, Dillenia salomonensis, Endospermum medullosum, Parinari salomonensis, Terminalia calamansanai, Schizomeria serrata, Maranthes corymbosa, Pometia pinnata, Gmelina moluccana, Elaeocarpus sphaericus and Vitex cofasus. Most indigenous fruit trees are also found in this forest including Canarium spp, Syzygium malaccensis, Magnifera minor, Spondius dulce, Barringtonia procera, B. edulis, Artocarpus altilis, Gnetum gnemon, and Burkella obovata.
(e) Hill forests :
occur at altitudes of 400–00 m and on well-drained soils and exhibit complex structure with varying tree heights and canopy density. Some species in the lowland forest are also present here, as well as those species commonly found in the montane forest. Species forming this forest include Pometia pinnata, Gmelina moluccana, Elaeocarpus sphaericus, Campnosperma brevipetiolata, Dillenia salomonensis, Endospermum medullosum, Parinari salomonensis, Terminalia calamansanai, Schizomeria serrata, Maranthes corymbosa, and Vitex cofasus. Fruit tree species such as Canarium spp., Gnetum gnemon and Artocarpus altilis are also present.
(f) Montane forests :
refer to forests found generally above 600 m, on ridge tops and mountain summits, but can be found in lower elevations under harsher conditions. These are characterised by a dense and compact canopy with small lighter tree crowns. Species in this forest type include Callophyllum kajewskii, Callophyllum pseudovitiense, Eugenia spp., Dacrydium spp., Pandanus spp., Racembambos scandens and ferns.
The total Solomon Islands plantation estate(2011) is estimated to comprise some 35,600 ha of land, almost 80% of which is industrial plantation and located in Western Province. The dominant industrial plantation species are Eucalyptus deglupta and Gmelina arborea, which are used for plywood and other relatively low value industrial applications. Potentially high value species, such as Teak (Tectona grandis) and Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), are the main species established in village plantations and some areas of industrial plantation.
Villagers have also established forest plantations in varying sizes. Commercial forest plantation companies, such as Kolombangara Forest Products Limited (KFPL) and Eagon Resources Ltd. have also assisted villagers in Kolombangara and Choiseul respectively to plant trees. Planting in villages concentrates on high valued species and relatively easy to grow species such as teak and mahogany.
The majority of this forested land mass is under customary ownership. The prevailing traditional system of landownership provides a welfare safety net for the vast majority of Solomon Islanders. Customary land tenure also supports the country’s robust village-based subsistence gardening. At the same time, customary ownership is regarded as a major constraint to large scale development. Often it is problematic, costly and fraught with uncertainty due to the inevitable and often multiple disputes that arise between owners and developers, or between different landowner groups. Equally problematic is when the land is set aside for other public purposes, such as management of watersheds, protection of sites of special interest, or conserving environmentally-sensitive areas. While the national government has the power of compulsory land acquisition, using this power is regarded as undermining values of customary right of the people and gains political unpopularity. Thus this authority has only been used occasionally, to acquire property for such purposes as roads, schools, and health centres.
Land in the Solomon Islands is a treasure and the people regard land as their ‘true’ identity and like a mother who provides them with the basic necessities of life such as food, water, fodder, raw materials, firewood and a place within which to live. Thus, anyone who has no land or is caused to have no land is regarded as “matter-of-fact” poor.
There are two land tenure systems in Solomon Islands: (a) the customary land tenure system, and (b) the registered (alienated) land tenure system. Under the customary land system, land is not normally surveyed for registration, although the landownership is recognised by law. However, because land boundaries are not properly demarcated with survey pegs, people have often disputed the land boundaries based on their knowledge of the area. As such, it has been invariably problematic when it comes to mapping of the area to fulfil legal requirements to obtain a logging license and the right to log a forest.