TDA rangers, marine monitors and conservation staff are undertaking a suite of research and monitoring programs to learn more about the unique wildlife and ecosystems of Tetepare, and to discover how best to manage and protect this very special island. The TDA's dedicated team of rangers and marine monitors have been researching and monitoring Tetepare’s unique ecosystems for more than five years.
TDA rangers make regular patrols of Tetepare to monitor user activity on the island. They collect information directly from the local people fishing or hunting on the island, including the resources they have taken, the location where they were taken from and the frequency and purpose of the visits they make to Tetepare. TDA rangers also use these encounters to discuss conservation and ensure that relevant harvest regulations are followed. Resource use data collection is the main activities TDA managers have to mould management decisions.
TDA’s marine monitoring crew participates in the Global Reef Check initiative by performing twice yearly surveys of Tetepare's surrounding reefs. Data are collected on the number and sizes of several fish species, the abundance of several invertebrate species and the health and coverage of coral. The aim of this monitoring activity is to gather data on the overall health of the coral reef ecosystems which surround Tetepare Island and to partner with global organizations with similar objectives.
A crew of local women perform an annual survey of the species, types and coverage of sea grasses in Tetepare's lagoons. The information they collect is sent to a sea grass database and used to assess the health of marine ecosystems globally. The aim of the sea grass monitoring program is to gather data on the diversity, coverage and health of sea grasses which are indicator of the overall health of the lagoon ecosystems which surround Tetepare Island and to partner with global organizations with similar objectives.
Coconut Crab Monitoring
Data on coconut crabs (including numbers and sizes) are collected by two means. First, regular dedicated surveys are undertaken using the ‘baited trail’ method at 3 sites both inside and outside the protected area. Second, resource use data, including size, numbers collected and location harvested, is collected by rangers during regular patrols of Tetepare. Unfortunately, the data suggests that the coconut crab populations outside the MPA are reaching critically low levels. This data was presented to the TDA Executive Committee and then to the local communities during recent Community Awareness sessions, alongside a successful recommendation to establish some additional, seasonal protected areas where coconut crab harvesting is banned. As a result of the newly proposed seasonal closures, some additional surveys in other areas around the Island - where harvesting is likely to increase - are to be implemented.
The TDA’s marine monitoring crew perform bi-annual surveys of Tetepare’s reefs to count the number and size of trochus found. During these surveys the number and species of any beche-de-mer found is recorded as well. The TDA has established numerous survey sites for this activity, half are inside the MPA and half are outside the MPA. The aim of this activity is to assess how the populations of Trochus and Beche-de-mer are reacting to harvest pressure.
Sea Turtle Tagging
TDA rangers routinely catch and tag green and hawksbill turtles which feed in the waters adjacent to Tetepare. Data are collected on the turtle’s species, shell width, length and any distinguishing marks. The data is recorded and a copy is forwarded to the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programs (SPREP) database.
Leatherback turtles are also tagged during the nesting season.
The aim of this program is to keep a record of the numbers of turtles and turtle species using Tetepare’s waters as well as to try to track trends in the population and gather information which will help researchers learn about the habits and movements of sea turtles. This program also partners TDA’s efforts with international organizations.
Leatherback Turtle Nesting Beach Monitoring
Tetepare has approximately 2km of beaches used for nesting by critically endangered leatherback turtles. TDA's rangers and marine monitors monitor these beaches during nesting season to tag and collect data on the numbers, sizes, clutch size and hatching success of leatherbacks. During nesting season, data are collected on any turtle that comes up to nest on the beaches, including green and hawksbill turtles. Nests are relocated to higher ground if they are below the high-tide mark and protected from predators with predator exclusion cages.
Turtle nests are monitored throughout the nesting season so that data can be collected on numbers of successfully hatched turtles. The aim of the nest monitoring program is to protect marine turtles, increase hatchling numbers for this critically endangered species, and collect data for the management of Tetepare's turtle habitat. TDA's turtle nest monitoring activities are a cornerstone in TDA's conservation program.
Rendova Turtle Nest Incentive Program
The TDA has developed and implemented a program to assist the communities of Baniata, Havilla and Retavo, on the weather coast of neighbouring Rendova Island, to manage their marine turtle nesting beaches. This program was developed with the input from extensive education and awareness meetings with the communities and their support.
It includes the training of turtle monitors and the paying of incentives for data collection, nest protection and tagging activities. For each incentive earned by community members an additional sum is deposited into a community account which may be spent on community improvements.
The aim of this program is to assist Rendova communities with the conservation of marine turtles, provide a direct link between the conservation of marine turtles and financial benefit, further the possibility of indirect financial benefit through the attraction of tourism and research to the communities, gather data on the natural history and habits of marine turtles and increase the hatching success for this critically endangered species.
Hele Bar Monitoring
TDA has hired, trained and supports one ranger to collect data on the resources of the neighbouring islands of Hele Bar. The data that is collected specifically concentrates on marine turtle nesting and population numbers and nesting activities of the endangered Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica).
The aim of this program is to contribute to marine turtle and Nicobar pigeon conservation, gather resource and harvest use data on adjacent ecosystems to Tetepare to determine links between Hele Bar and Tetepare's fauna.
TDA staff, under the supervision of TDA patrons, conducts yearly bird banding sessions around Tetepare's field station. Data are collected on species, sex, and health and recapture rates and compiled in TDA's database. The aim of this program is to gather information on the diversity, abundance and habits of Tetepare's bird population and increase the staff's knowledge of scientific procedures. The longevity and site fidelity of Tetepare’s unique white-eye are studied in detail by colour-banding individuals in order to determine how this species could evolve separately from the neighbouring Rendova white-eye.
A focus on completing an inventory of available canoe trees has been a priority for the Rangers’ Forest Surveys this year. Although funding has prevented a complete inventory, TDA still have enough data available on the number of canoe trees available for harvest. Local communities now need to apply through a formal process to harvest them. The TDA are also awaiting a detailed summary of the recent surveys undertaken by the Wetlands International survey team, who did a significant amount of research into forest health during their stay on Tetepare during July this year.
ADDITIONAL PLANNED SURVEYS
Climate Change baseline information
The TDA would like to start getting some baseline information related to possible climate change impacts, including coral bleaching and elevated temperature data. With current climate change predictions for increased bleaching events, higher temperatures and storms, the TDA needs to start collecting baseline data around Tetepare for future reference. This would be the first such undertaking in the Solomons and the data will be extremely valuable. Some basic variables like bleaching, sand temperature (for turtle nesting) and water would be easy to collect and could be built into existing monitoring work. One site around Tetepare has already been identified as bleaching, but with no baseline data it can't be confirmed.
Water quality monitoring
As an additional part of existing patrols, the TDA would like to start a basic baseline water quality monitoring program around Tetepare. No water quality data exists for the island. Water quality information is very important in understanding the drivers for patterns we see in resource levels. We see this work as a high priority, as it is a low cost program with high value outputs. Crucially, it is also another learning opportunity for our Rangers.
Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE)
This is a very simple and cheap community monitoring method to monitor fishing activity and the health of fish stocks. The TDA would like to try and introduce it to Rendova to help them monitor their fish stocks and also to help engage them in monitoring and management decisions. We propose to use a basic method developed by SILMMA (at a recent workshop attended by the Conservation Manager and Advisor) that uses CPUE data to monitor stocks. This has the potential to be another low cost, high value output program.