Forest Research Institute of Papua New Guinea

PNGFRI is the regional focal point organisation for the Pacific

PNGFRI is the scientific research division of the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority. It is located at the Lae botanical gardens within the township of Lae and its main task is providing forest-related research services based on collaboration with users in government, industry and communities and with other research providers for the sustainable use of forest resources in Papua New Guinea.


Research Station 1: Kamiali Wildlife Management Area

The Kamiali Wildlife Management Area is located in the Salamaua District of Morobe Province, at latitude 07º 23' 24'' S and longitude 147° 09' 39'' E, about 80 km in a south-south-easterly direction along the coast from the city of Lae. It can be reached in about 3 hours by motorised dinghy from Lae. The Kamiali Area lies mostly within Morobe’s lowland and premontane climatic zones, and has mean annual rainfall of 3000–4000 mm. The wettest months generally occur between January and April, when prevailing winds are north-westerly, and the driest in May to August when the south-easterly trade winds prevail. By the early and mid 1990s, several foreign-owned logging companies were intensifying their activities in the coastal forests of Papua New Guinea, including this region. Much destruction took place and many communities were environmentally traumatised by the loss of their forests. Lababia was one of the few communities in this region who chose not to allow large-scale logging in their forests. Setting up the Kamiali Area instead of selling the forest to loggers has been a wise decision by the local people, and their lifestyle has benefited considerably. Furthermore, the Kamiali Area is now the only significant primary growth habitat in this region. The wildlife management area, established in 1995, is a linked land-sea conservation zone that consists of 47 000 ha (29 285 ha is terrestrial) of a range of natural habitats including coastal mangroves, freshwater wetlands and mixed open rainforest.

Much of New Guinea’s diversity has been shaped by a complex and dynamic geological past. The Kamiali Area’s unusual geology has led to its recognition as a separate physiographic province, extending from the Kamiali coastline to the craggy summits of the Owen Stanley Range. However, the offshore islands are part of a different (non-serpentine) geological series reaching southwards to the Waria River. There is a conspicuous absence of floristic data such that the species composition and vegetation structure of these communities remains poorly known. Typical of other ultrabasic terrains in Papua New Guinea, the Kamiali Area is composed of massive ridges with uniform slopes and unstable soils.

The topographic instability of the study area is such that the hill habitat is unsuitable for agriculture because of erosion hazards and the general infertility. In contrast, the flood plains of the major streams (Bitoi, Tabali, Arawiri and Saia) have deep deposits of fertile organic alluvium in which nearly all the Kamiali food gardens are concentrated. The people of Lababia are swidden horticulturists and fishers who only use about 5% of their total land area.

The Kamiali Area lowland flora has a preponderance of small-leaved species, dominated by Commersonia bartramia, Decaspermum bracteatum, Dicranopteris linearis, Myrtella beccarii, Schuurmansia henningsii and Timonius paiawensis. Many plant families are present in low species numbers. The representation of ferns and their allies is also poor in comparison to other substrates; however, Lindsaea obtusa is the most common fern. Euphorbiaceae, Myrtaceae, and Rubiaceae are exceptionally common. Other families represented by large numbers of individuals include Burseraceae, Clusiaceae, Cyperaceae, Meliaceae, Myristicaceae, Myrsinaceae and Pandanaceae. Anisoptera thurifera subsp. polyandra, Hopea glabrifolia, Myristica chrysophylla, Syzygium furfuraceum and Tristaniopsis macrosperma are abundant in tall-growth canopy. Gymnostoma papuana appear on exposed ridges and riverbanks and Stenocarpus moorei along stream banks and landslips.  These 2 species often form locally dominant stands in repetitively disturbed habitats. The subcanopy and middle layers in hill forest below 500 m are dominated particularly by Brackenridgea forbesii, Canarium spp., Garcinia spp., Gordonia papuana, Gymnacranthera farquhariana var. zippeliana, Haplolobus floribundus, Polyosma cf. forbesii and Syzygium effusum. The coastal vegetation also includes scattered seagrass shallows (Enhalus acoroides) Bruguiera-Rhizophora dominated mangroves and tidal estuarine forest.

The Kamiali Guest House is at sea level within the wildlife management area. It is built in local style with bush materials, and run by the Lababia village community. Dormitory-style accommodation is available in bunkhouses and in a communal loft area. There is a meeting room and work area. The guest house uses both solar and generator power to provide lighting. There is a high-frequency radio link to the centre's office in Lae. Meals are prepared at the guest house by trained villagers who use a combination of traditional and modern methods of cooking. Much of the food served at the guest house is local produce including seafood, seasonal fruits and garden vegetables.

A laboratory and accommodation facility is available in the mountains above Lababia, at about 550 m elevation. The surrounding forests are excellent; rich in frogs, lizards and snakes, and presumably floristically rich as well. A permanent study plot has been established nearby. The site is on ultrabasic soils with nearby areas on basaltic soil.

Research Station 2: Oomsis Forest Area

Ninety-seven percent of the land in Papua New Guinea is traditionally owned by the local population. The state has tenure over only 3% of the landmass in the country. The PNGFRI used to lease part of the forest land for research purposes in agreement with the landowners. The leased area has been used for silviculture and regenerations trials, soil studies, seed collection and phenology and forest growth and yield studies in the early 1990s by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) experts and FRI researchers and other collaborators for more than 15 years. The lease expired in mid 2000 and the forest area has returned to the landowners.

The area is located some 30 km from the township of Lae, at longitudes 147°47´E and latitude 6º 45' S. The topography is mountainous with valleys and small rocky alluvial floors subject to sudden flooding during periods of heavy rain. The area rises up to an altitude of more than 500 m above sea level. The most common soils found in the area are acid brown soils associated from the ride tops, and quite shallow with much clay mineral. Rainfall occurs throughout the year with an average of 3000 mm during the peak rainfall times from June to September. The forest comprises mainly of typical lowland species such as Pometia, Canarium, Anisoptera, Cryptocarya, Terminalia, Syzygium, Ficus, Celtis, Dysoxyllum and Buchanania. Some trees such as Koompasia, Dillenia, Planchonella and Dipterocarps, Vatica and Hopea are quite common.

The Papua New Guinea Forest Authority has a field station that once provided forest extension services, but now serves as a Community Forestry Training Centre, with a nursery and two big building blocks built of permanent metal posts and treated timber with corrugated iron roof which can withstand all weather conditions including the heavy rainy season experienced in the area. The facilities include bunkers and classrooms for field researchers apart from community training programmes.

The station is located along the main road and is an ideal location to implement some part of the project activities. Since the site is only about 45 minutes from Lae, many researchers have access to the facilities at PNGFRI.

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