As part of the distinctive awareness campaign that NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is conducting with Rivers Fiji to educate mataqali (landowners) of the Upper Navua Conservation Area, Bindiya Rashni, freshwater macroinvertebrate scientist, joined one landowner clan on a recent rafting trip through the area.
Bindiya has carried out extensive work on the diversity of flora and fauna in the Wetlands of Fiji and Solomon Islands. She joined the trip for the Ketenatukani mataqali to help them learn even more about the inhabitants of their river. Bindiya has developed a “Traffic Light Bio-indicator Field Guide” which is now being used for the community riverine assessment and monitoring.
To help give clan members a better awareness of the precious nature of the river gorge, Bindiya conducted a rapid training for them on Bio-indicators for River Health, and also explained how her field guide uses those indicators to group freshwater macroinvertebrates into categories of healthy, moderately healthy and poor water quality and ecological health of rivers.
Everyone on the trip then participated in an impromptu assessment of the river gorge. They sat in the water, eagerly picking up stones to look for critters. They used the rock wash method (washing liftable rocks then pouring that water through a sieve and placing the sediment on white trays), used forceps to sort dislodged critters, and magnifying glasses to study morphological features so they could match them with the pictures in the field guide. After about 30 minutes, each raft presented their group’s results. Then Bindiya summarized their findings for them: they had found that the bio-indicators of healthy rivers dominated the wadeable micro-habitats of the Upper Navua River Gorge.
Bindiya hopes to conduct a full baseline assessment of the macroinvertebrate biodiversity of this Ramsar site in the future. She looks forward to participating in future mataqali rafting trips, to ensure that other landowner families can participate in a similar assessment and fully appreciate the importance of the Upper Navua Conservation Area.