Efforts to Preserve Biodiversity on Kolombangara Island

From ancient times, Kolombangarans have lived by relying on natural resources from the island’s rivers and all its other natural environments. Over the last one hundred years, since British colonization, the forests of Kolombangara Island have been targeted for its timber. Few lowland forests are unlogged, many being logged for their third or fourth time, or have been cleared and converted to timber plantations.

Fortunately most of the higher altitude forests above 400m altitude remain unlogged due to the steeper terrain and recently due to the efforts of landholders who seek to protect it. This mountain area now forms a 20,000 ha conservation area, the largest in Solomon Islands.

Scientists now recognize Kolombangara Island has highly significant biodiversity. On the crater slopes of the 1800m high Kolombangara stratovolcano, this rugged landscape supports pristine sub-montane and montane cloud forests that host extraordinary fauna. At least six species of birds found nowhere else in the world inhabit the cloud forests and populations of several rare species are relatively common to Kolombangara. A dazzling variety of plants and animals make their home of primary montane forest, some of the last in the Melanesia. For example recently research discovered 13 different frogs on Kolombangara that were new to science.

Kolombangara is heavily forested. The name is from a local language, a rough translation of its meaning is "Water Lord" with approximately 80 rivers and streams running down its flank that contributes to its uniqueness.

Kolombangara have a living culture that are still intact, since most of our intellectual properties are located on strategic mountain flanks, ranging from  human skulls to old shrines and village dwellings.

It has been through both a greater understanding of the scientific significance of the forests of Kolombangara Island and a growing respect for the broader economic and cultural benefits of retaining the forests that has led to concerted efforts by landholders on Kolombangara Island to protect the forests above 400m altitude.

This led to a meeting on 10 December 2008 where landholders agreed to form an NGO that would represent landholder interests in biodiversity conservation on Kolombangara Island. This new non-Government organisation, Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association (KIBCA), is modeled on the successful Tetepare Descendents Association but with several key differences. The main one being that on Kolombangara Island resides a population of 6,000 people. This presents both unique challenges and exciting opportunities.

Map: Download below a map of the conservation areas on Kolombangara Island.