11 Sep 2013

Fiji scientists using New Zealand mapping system for conservation planning

5:06 pm on 11 September 2013

Conservationists in Fiji are using high-tech maps to pinpoint where they should focus their efforts to protect endangered species.

A natural sciences lecturer at New Zealand's Unitec Institute of Technology Glenn Aguilar and a colleague are collaborating with researchers at Suva's University of the South Pacific using geographic information systems maps.

Dr Aguilar says the mapping system is using existing data to help with the conservation of threatened plants, birds and animals, including tree frogs and beetles. He spoke to Annell Husband.

GLENN AGUILAR: We have been working with researchers at the Institute of Applied Sciences. And we have been teaching them how to develop the models. So they are now capable of using this software for generating maps. And the maps show suitable areas for the species... For instance, we worked on endangered tree frogs and the beetles and also several birds and other plants and animals that are endangered. So using the maps that they have developed they now can produce areas where these species are most suitable, so that they can focus their attention in terms of research and conservation planning on those areas.

ANNELL HUSBAND: And I understand this mapping can also be useful in terms of predicting what might happen as the climate changes.

GA: Yes, that's essentially what we are doing now. Based on the work we did last year, we got another grant from the Faculty of Health Sciences. Because last year's airport was Unitec-funded and this year I got a grant to model the affects of climate change. So we are now working on several climate change scenarios to see how the distribution of the species will change. And we are doing processing for several endangered species of frogs and beetles so that they can have an idea of what the effects of a several degrees change of temperature will have on the habitats and the distribution of these organisms.

AH: Will the scientists in Fiji be using the mapping for any other species?

GA: Yeah. There was interest in work on freshwater organisms, mangrove-area organisms and also for trees that they have.

AH: And what about using it in other countries in the Pacific?

GA: Yes, we are trying to explore that possibility so trying to find partners that we are proposing projects with, and actually going there again in three weeks time to look at possibilities of a wider coverage of the research in conjunction with researchers from the University of the South Pacific.