Tucked among thousands of islands across the Pacific Ocean, Fiji (comprising more than 300 islands) has presented scientists a unique place to study evolution for centuries.
Fiji is covered in tropical forests, and its mountains drop thousands of feet to coastal habitats. Increasingly, its ecosystems are in need of protection. Much of the country’s tropical forests have been cleared by loggers and converted to plantations. And its coral reefs are threatened by bleaching and unsustainable harvesting.
As Fijian landscapes and seascapes are altered by human hands, the unique plants and animals that live on the islands are affected for the worse. Many of Fiji’s species are primitive; they have evolved very little from their ancestors and present scientists a unique opportunity to study the history of their species. Some native Fijian species include:
- The Fijian monkey-faced flying fox (Pteralopex acrodonta), one of the most primitive species of fruit bats in the world and the only mammal endemic to Fiji.
- The Fiji banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus) and Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis), both of which are endemic to the Fiji-Tonga area and the only species with close relatives from the Americas.
- The Fiji tree frog (Platymantis vitiensis) and Fiji ground frog (P. vitiana).
Our terrestrial work in Fiji focuses on the Sovi Basin Nature Reserve, the islands’ most important land ecosystem and a cradle for much of Fiji’s biodiversity and natural heritage. We are also working closely with local partners, in particular the National Trust of Fiji, to build capacity for and implement effective conservation action.
To protect its marine resources Fiji has a flourishing network of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) and CI is supporting research to help to local communities improve their management of these areas. This work is led by CI’s Marine Managed Area Science Program which aims to build national capacity to protect and manage marine biodiversity in a number of key sites around the world.
CI is also engaged with premium bottle water supplier FIJI Water. Together we are developing a sustainability initiative to include an ambitious multi-benefit carbon offset plan that, in addition to addressing climate change issues, will also benefit Fiji’s local communities and its biodiversity.
With commitment and political will Fiji’s rich biodiversity – on land, along coastlines, and at sea – can be protected. CI’s aim is to ensure that Fiji’s diversity of life can be enjoyed by future generations.
IN PHOTOS: Searching for Species in Film