Sustainable Use of the Endangered Fiji Sago Palm

Although the Fiji Sago Palm Metroxylon vitiense was identified as being under threat back in 1992 in the ‘National Environment Strategy’ and it was officially categorised as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List in 1998, its ‘Endangered’ status has only recently been realised.

The completion of a comprehensive MSc thesis by Isaac Rounds (Rounds 2007) at the University of the South Pacific, has confirmed that the current exploitation of the Soga, Fiji Sago Palm is totally unsustainable and that this endemic Fijian palm is now in serious risk of extinction.

pdf Paper: Endangered Status of Soga

Endangered Status of Soga

Although the Fiji Sago Palm Metroxylon vitiense was identified as being under threat back in 1992 in the “National Environment Strategy” and it was officially categorised as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List in 1998, its ‘Endangered’ status has only recently been realised.

The completion of a comprehensive MSc thesis by Isaac Rounds (Rounds 2007) at the University of the South Pacific, has confirmed that the current exploitation of the Soga, Fiji Sago Palm is totally unsustainable and that this endemic Fijian palm is now in serious risk of extinction.

Overview of the Soga, Fiji Sago Palm

Soga Ecology and Biology

Soga is a robust, single-trunked monocarpic palm with a large trunk growing to about 15m tall. It is normally found in dense stands on alluvial poorly-drained plains landward of coastal swamps, although there are also some inland populations adjacent to major rivers. All populations are below 30 m asl with the exception of that at Nabukelevu which is situated above the gorge at over 100m asl.

Monocarpic palms differ from most palms in the manner in which they produce fruit. None are produced during the normal lifespan of the palm, only when it is 15-20 years old does it produce a large flowering structure above its crown on which the fruit develop. As the fruit mature, all the leaves die, the fruit drop and then the adult palm dies.

The fruit are large, typically 9 cm in length and float, so they are readily dispersed by water but flying foxes (Pteropus spp.) and large parrots (Prosopeia personata) are also dispersal agents. Rats (Rattus spp.) predate the fruit especially when germinating.

The short life span and reproductive method of Soga renders even large populations vulnerable to sudden and dramatic disturbance. Removal of the normal closed canopy can allow weed and creeper competition to prevent germinating and young palms establishing themselves. Drainage dramatically increases the ability of invasive weeds and creepers to outcompete young Soga palms.

 NFMV′s ′SAGO SAGA′ DVD has been extremely well received and the subject of much discussion.

NFMV′s ′SAGO SAGA′ DVD has been extremely well received and the subject of much discussion.

Project Number: MV-25d

Project Manager: Nunia Thomas

Project Funder/Donor: EU

Project Start Date: July 2012

Project End Date: IN PROGRESS

Partners: BAF, EU