04.04.13 PALAU: PICRC publishes paper on collaborative research with Bureau of Arts & Culture

Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) researcher Shirley Koshiba, together with fellow PICRC researchers as well as researchers from Belau National Museum, the United Nations Joint Presence, The Nature Conservancy, Palau, and PICRC, published a paper about a study that quantified and described the sediment trapping abilities of traditional taro fields, mesei and dechel. The paper, entitled Palau’s taro fields and mangroves protect the coral reefs by trapping eroded find sediment, appears in the February issue of the journal Wetlands Ecology and Management.

The study’s goals were:
1. Quantify the sediment trapping rates for different types of taro fields.
2. Determine the sediment trapping efficiency of taro fields.

Previous research identified the sediment trapping ability of Palau’s mangroves. This project sought to find out whether taro field farming, which diverts river water through taro fields, also helps to keep sediment out of Palau’s bays. The research team placed forty-four sediment traps in three taro fields in Babeldaob (two in Aimeliik and one in Airai) to measure how much sediment exits the taro field and re-enters rivers. The area surrounding the sites differed by slope, vegetation, erosion and development.

The study found that Palau’s taro fields trap approximately90% of riverine sediments. River water diverted into the fields slows as it spreads out over the field. Grasses within the fields further slow the water. As such, fine, suspended sediments have time to settle to the bottom and deposit into the field, and cleaner water returns to the river at the irrigation system’s exit and out to Palau’s coral reefs. Increased sediment runoff onto coral reefs negatively affects reef health—it can smother reef corals and encourage algae growth. Understanding the tools that can help keep sediments out of the ocean leads to better marine conservation management and reef recovery planning. The study is important locally, regionally, and internationally, because it describes and quantifies sustainable traditional farming methods that can help protect against coral reef degradation.

This paper is the first research collaboration between the Bureau of Arts and Culture and PICRC. It is also the first paper that Shirley Koshiba has submitted for publication. Shirley, in her time with PICRC, has developed into a proficient researcher. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Hawaii, Manoa and was initially hired as an Office Assistant at PICRC. However, her strong work ethic and analytical skills came to the attention of PICRC CEO Dr. Yimnang Golbuu, who recommended that she apply for an open Researcher position. PICRC provided the proper training and support for the researcher position and since then, she both monitors in the field and does socio-economic research for PICRC. Her professional success reflects PICRC’s emphasis on employee development.

The paper can be found at http://link.springer.com/article/ 10.1007/