DEDEDO, Gu. --
Participants of the Marianas Terrestrial Conservation Conference (MTCC) visited Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Blaz’s North Finegayan Forest Enhancement Site (FES) June 17, 2021. The visit allowed participants to learn more about the innovative conservation efforts being researched at the FES. The site is part of a 1,000-acre forest enhancement program identified in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Biological Opinion for the Marines’ relocation to Guam, the largest limestone forest restoration effort in Guam’s recorded history.
The conference, which was organized by members of a nonprofit organization, attracted scientists, educators, and activists from the local community. “Tåno, Tåsi, yan Todu,” CHamoru for “Land, Water, & All Therein,” serves as the organization’s motto and pledge to the restoration and preservation of ecosystems across the Marianas Islands.
“The reason we started the conference was to share information and make sure that lessons that are being learned in one place are being applied in other places,” said Haldre Rogers, MTCC co-organizer, Tåno, Tåsi, yan Todu board member, and assistant professor at Iowa State University. “This is the first large-scale forest restoration project, so I think a lot of people are looking forward to hearing the lessons that are learned here and what’s working and what isn’t working.”
”We hope these partnerships will not just improve Guam’s declining forests, but will create opportunities for local conservationists to ensure community values are incorporated into management approaches. Conservation success both on the installation and throughout the Marianas depends on strong collaboration,” said Al Borja, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Marianas environmental director at MCB Camp Blaz.
Records of invasive species on Guam date back to the early 1900s. Cadena de amor, Antigonon leptopus, was documented in 1905 by American botanist William Safford in The Useful Plants of the Island of Guam. Fast-growing plants like cadena de amor enshroud their hosts, reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches underlying plant life.
“I think they are doing some good work in figuring out how to control the invasive vines using different methods people haven’t tried before,” said Rogers. “I think we’ll start seeing some big transformations when they control the Vitex parviflora and start outplanting native plants. I’m looking forward to coming back in a couple of years when that has been done and seeing the transformation a little further.”
Removal methods for invasive species like the African tulip tree, Spathodea campanulata, and Mile-a-minute vine, Mikania micrantha, are being researched at the site. Both are on the Invasive Species Specialists Group’s top 100 list. Environmental specialists from NAVFAC Marianas, MCB Camp Blaz, and the University of Guam are hopeful their discoveries will serve as a model for future restoration efforts in tropical environments.
“Guam’s native ecosystems face many shared challenges, including feral pigs, deer, and invasive vines. The lessons we learn about controlling these threats may help other restoration projects deal with these concerns more efficiently,” said Adrienne Loerzel, NAVFAC Marianas forest enhancement program manager at MCB Camp Blaz.
The process of restoring native habitats also includes the propagation of culturally important species like the territorial tree of Guam, Intsia bijuga, colloquially referred to as ifit. Due to its solid wood, which was essential for the construction of homes and furnishings, Safford described I. bijuga as the “most important timber tree of Guam.”
“One of the big things we’re hoping for is that people learn more about the things around them in their environment,” said Joni Quenga Kerr, MTCC coordinator, Tåno, Tåsi, yan Todu treasurer, and associate professor of Marine Biology and Chemistry at Guam Community College. “As a teacher, I get students all the time who have never walked into a limestone forest or gone out to the reef.” Kerr hopes their efforts help people understand nature is special. “It’s something you want to protect. It’s something you want to conserve.”
MCB Camp Blaz’s 18,000 square foot plant nursery is home to 30 native and endemic species, including ifit. This biologically diverse inventory can serve as the essential building blocks of a healthy limestone forest. Preliminary research has resulted in the development of new storage techniques that improve seed viability before propagation.
“Understanding storage requirements and timelines for our native seeds will help us plan for restoration activities. This information is critical to making sure we have enough plants for large-scale outplanting projects,” Loerzel said.
Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz works with our partners, by exchanging information and implementing deliberate, cooperative measures to ensure a responsible military buildup process. MCB Camp Blaz, as identified in the 2017 USFWS Biological Opinion, is committed to a 30-year or longer forest restoration and enhancement program. Camp Blaz’s environmental stewardship efforts provide conservationists with new techniques and best practices, useful for ecological efforts in the Mariana Islands and around the globe.
For more information, visit https://www.mcbblaz.marines.mil/Environmental-Program/