NATURE CONSERVANCY WARNS OF GROWING WEED PROBLEM IN POHNPEI

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POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (April 23, 1999 - PACNEWS/ V6AH Radio)---The Nature Conservancy has warned of problems created by the increasing existence of invasive plant species in the state of Pohnpei.

The conservation organization, established to preserve plants, animals and natural communities, reported that 11 such plants already exist in Pohnpei, eight of them considered to be causing serious problems.

In conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, the Conservancy has completed an island-wide invasive plant database. It includes information about the identity of the plants, their country of origin, period of introduction, dispersion, growth form, effects on other plants, control and eradication methods.

The eight species noted in the database as serious invasive weeds include the Wedelia, African Tulip Tree, Lantana, Spiny Mimosa, Pagoda Flower, Palau Tree, Siam Weed, and Crape Ginger.

Potential serious invasive species already on Pohnpei include the Octopus Tree, Ivy Gourd and the Chain of Love.

It is believed that a further increase in the number of these invasive weeds will greatly impact Pohnpei's ecosystem.

According to the Conservancy’s Field Office Director in Pohnpei, Bill Raynor, most of these plant species are found along shoreline settlements. However, recent observations have indicated that the plants are spreading toward the mountainous center of Pohnpei.

Raynor said some of the species were intentionally brought to Pohnpei while others came in accidentally through foreign shipments.

Pohnpei Island, Raynor said, has the largest remaining native forests in the Federated States of Micronesia, but nearly two-thirds or 10,000 hectares have been degraded, mainly due to the commercial cultivation of kava roots. He warned that invasive weeds are capable of invading degraded areas and seriously upsetting the ecosystem balance.

The Conservancy's Vice President and Executive Director for International Conservation, Alexander Watson, recently met with President Jacob Nena, the Governor and the Pohnpei Council of Paramount Chiefs to discuss continuing community efforts to protect Pohnpei's unique natural environment.

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