Summary report on forests of the mataqali nadicake kilaka, kubulau district, bua, vanua levu

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By Gunnar Keppel (Biology Department, University of the South Pacific) 




I was approached by Dr. David Olson of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to assess the type, 

status and quality of the forest in Kubulau District, Bua, Vanua Levu. I initially spent 2 days, Friday 

(28/10/2005) afternoon and the whole of Saturday (29/10/2005), in Kubulau district. This invitation 

was the result of interest by some landowning family clans (mataqali) to protect part of their land and 

the offer by WCS to assist in reserving part of their land for conservation purposes. On Friday I visited 

two forest patches (one logged about 40 years ago and another old-growth) near the coast and Saturday 

walking through the forests in the center of the district. 


Because of the scarcity of data obtained (and because the forest appeared suitable for my PhD 

research), I decided to return to the district for a more detailed survey of the northernmost forests of 

Kubulau district from Saturday (12/11/2005) to Tuesday (22/11/2005). Upon returning, I found out that 

the mataqali Nadicake Nadi had abandoned plans to set up a reserve and initiated steps to log their 

forests. Therefore, I decided to focus my research on the land of the mataqali Nadicake Kilaka only. 


My objectives were the following: 



to determine the types of vegetation present 



to produce a checklist of the flora and, through this list, identify rare and threatened species in 

the reserve 



to undertake a quantitative survey of the northernmost forests (lowland tropical rain forest) by 

setting up 4 permanent 50 ×50m plots 



to assess the status of the forests 



to determine the state and suitability of the proposed reserve 



to assess possible threats to the proposed reserve. 



to survey the thoughts and feelings of the community of Kilaka Village regarding the WCS 

project and setting aside an area as a reserve 





During both visits I conducted a reconnaissance by walking through the forest, identifying dominant 

species and collecting species in flower or fruit. I also identified as many species as possible (some 

were only identified to generic level only) and obtained local names wherever possible. During my 

second visit I also set up four permanent 50 ×50m plots (see Fig. 1 for locations) marked with PVC 

pipes in lowland tropical rainforest of the northernmost corner of the intended reserve, in which I 

measured and identified every tree of 10cm or more in diameter. 


Perceptions of the Kilaka Village community regarding the assistance provided by WCS and the idea 

of setting aside of forest for a reserve were determined by having formal and informal discussions 

while drinking kava. Although kava sessions unfortunately generally exclude young and female 

members of the community, it allows detailed discussions with male youths and older male members of 

the community, who are the group making discussions regarding land issues. 





There are four primary vegetation types in Kubulau district; coastal vegetation (not surveyed), wetlands 

dominated by Pandanus tectorius (not surveyed), mesic forests and rain forest. Before commenting on 

the two latter forest types, I would like to draw attention to the presence of extensive wetlands, which 

are highly threatened in Fiji (Ash 1992). Although these have been highly impacted by local residents 

through draining and burning, restoration efforts could be worthwhile, considering their rarity in Fiji 

and that most of the remaining wetlands are severely disturbed. 


In addition to these primary vegetation types, secondary types that were created anthropogenically, 

including plantations and gardens, pasture (grasslands maintained by cattle grazing), talasiga 

(grasslands maintained by burning) and secondary forest (that is at various stages of recovery after 

logging), are present. My survey focuses on “old-growth” forests and, therefore, the remainder of this 

section will focus on mesic and rain forests. 



Mesic Forest 

Mesic forest is the dominant forest type in the low-lying, near coastal areas of Kubulau and stretches 

along a rainfall gradient of lower rainfall near the coast and increasing rainfall inland. It hence provides 

a unique opportunity to study changes in climate and plant composition along a rainfall gradient. 

However, this forest has also suffered the most from logging, especially on the ridges, where 

Dacrydium nidulum and Agathis vitiensis are most abundant. Towards the coast Intsia bijuga (vesi) is a 

dominant component of this forest, as are Fagraea gracillipes  (buabua),  Myristica  castaneifolia 

(male),  Kingiodendron platycarpum  (cibicibi),  Maniltoa sp. (cibicibi levu),  Cynometra insularis 

(cibicibi lailai), Gymnostoma vitiense (cau) and Dacrydium nidulum (yaka). Further inland (probably 

associated with greater rainfall) Intsia bijuga,  Fagraea berteroana and Kingiodendron platycarpum 

decrease in importance, and Gymnostoma vitiense and Dacrydium nidulum become increasingly 

restricted to ridges, while Endospermum robbieanum  (vulavula),  Heritiera ornithocephala  (savai), 

Agathis macrophylla  (tahua mahadre),  Sterculia vitiense  (waciwaci) and Podocarpus neriifolius 

(bauwaka) increase in importance. 



Rain Forest 

This is mostly found in the northern portion of Kubulau District at elevations of 200 m or more. Much 

of it is located on flat or gently sloping terrain but there are also steeper slopes. Dominant components 

of this forest are Retrophyllum vitiense (tahua salusalu), Calophyllum spp. (damanu), Myristica spp. 

(malemalamala), Gironniera celtidifolia (masivau), Parinari insularum (sea), Semecarpus vitiensis 

(malawaci), Pagiantha thurstonii (tabua kei ra kalavo) and Syzygium spp. (yasiyasi). Other important 

species include Palaquium porphyreum (bauvudi), Garcinia myrtifolia (raubu), Firmania diversifolia 

(cara),  Geissois imthurnii  (vo’a) and Dysoxylum sp. (tarawau kei soge). This composition is 

somewhat different from rainforests on Viti Levu visited by me. On ridges Agathis macrophylla

Dacrydium nidulum and Gymnostoma vitiense may be common. 


In the northernmost corner of Kubulau district and the reserve is an extensive plateau that has many of 

the species found in the rainforest but is dominated by Atuna racemosa  (maki’a).  Gironniera 

celtidifolia and Fagraea gracilipes (bua) are also abundant. This plateau also has an abundance of 

plants with stilt and prop roots, including Physokentia rosea  (niuniu),  Crossostylis spp. (no name 

recorded),  Myristica macrantha  (male) and Syzygium sp. (yasiyasi). As flowing water and pools of 

standing water are very common, this could also be considered a wetland. 



Composition of Lowland Tropical Rainforest 


A total of 839 trees belonging to 91 species in 43 families were encountered in the four plots totaling 1 

ha. Their combined basal area (as calculated from the diameter at breast height (dbh)) was 45.6 m


Dominant species in terms of basal area were the flowering plants Myristica gillespieana,  Parinari 

insularum and Calophyllum vitiense, and the conifer Retrophyllum vitiense (Table 1). These four 

species are mostly canopy species (M. gillespieana is also abundant in the subcaopy). However, 

Gironniera celtidifolia was the most common tree, reflecting its high abundance in the understorey 

(Table 2). Other common species include Myristica gillespieana and Pagiantha thurstonii


Table 1: The 30 most common species as measured by the basal area of individuals with a dbh of 

10cm or more. 






Myristica gillespieana 

Myristicaceae 4.130 

Retrophyllum vitiense 

Podocarpaceae 3.835 

Parinari insularum 

Chrysobalanaceae 3.143 

Calophyllum vitiense 

Clusiaceae 3.044 

Pagiantha thurstonii 

Apocynaceae 2.344 

Semecarpus vitiense 

Anacardiaceae 2.338 

Myristica castaneifolia 

Myristicaceae 1.622 

Gironniera celtidifolia 

Ulmaceae 1.588 

Geissois imthurnii 

Cunnoniaceae 1.439 

Garcinia myrtifolia 

Clusiaceae 1.364 

Dysoxylum quericifolium 

Meliaceae 1.350 

Palaquium porphyreum 

Sapotaceae 1.343 

Gymnostoma vitiense 

Casurinaceae 1.274 

Firmania diversifolia 

Sterculiaceae 1.201 

Xylopia pacifica 

Annonaceae 1.113 

Buchanania attenuata 

Anacardiaceae 0.920 

Elaeocarpus chelonimorphus 

Elaeocarpaceae 0.899 

Cynometra insularis 

Caesalpinaceae 0.853 

Syzygium rubescens 

Myrtaceae 0.779 

Sterculia vitiense 

Sterculiaceae 0.750 

Syzygium nidie 

Myrtaceae 0.711 

Heritiera ornithocephala 

Sterculiaceae 0.643 

Hedstroemia latifolia 

Rubiaceae 0.575 

Pouteria umbonata 

Sapotaceae 0.531 

Maniltoa minor 

Caesalpinaceae 0.507 

Dillenia biflora 

Dilleniaceae 0.505 

Garcinia sessilis 

Clusiaceae 0.489 

Haplolobus floribundus 

Burseraceae 0.423 

Syzygium leucanthum 

Myrtaceae 0.392 

Syzygium curvistylum 

Myrtaceae 0.378 

Table 2: The 30 most common species as measured by the number of individuals with a dbh of 

10cm or more. 




Gironniera celtidifolia 

Ulmaceae 130 

Myristica gillespieana 

Myristicaceae 60 

Pagiantha thurstonii 

Apocynaceae 53 

Garcinia myrtifolia 

Clusiaceae 36 

Parinari insularum 

Chrysobalanaceae 35 

Semecarpus vitiense 

Anacardiaceae 34 

Hedstroemia latifolia 

Rubiaceae 28 

Myristica castaneifolia 

Myristicaceae 28 

Calophyllum vitiense 

Clusiaceae 25 

Cynometra insularis 

Caesaplinaceae 23 

Dillenia biflora 

Dilleniaceae 20 

Firmania diversifolia 

Sterculiaceae 20 

Retrophyllum vitiense 

Podocarpaceae 20 

Geissois imthurnii 

Cunnoniaceae 16 

Syzygium nidie 

Myrtaceae 14 

Xylopia pacifica 

Annonaceae 14 

Dysoxylum quericifolium 

Meliaceae 13 

Heritiera ornithocephala 

Sterculiaceae 13 

Maniltoa minor 

Caesaplinaceae 13 

Syzygium rubescens 

Myrtaceae 13 

Syzygium curvistylum 

Myrtaceae 12 

Garcinia sessilis 

Clusiaceae 11 

Haplolobus floribundus 

Burseraceae 10 

Palaquium porphyreum 

Sapotaceae 9 

Pouteria umbonata 

Sapotaceae 9 

Premna protusa 

Verbenaceae 9 

Vavaea amicorum 

Meliaceae 9 

Alangium vitiense 

Alangiaceae 8 

Buchanania attenuata 

Anacardiaceae 8 

Syzygium brackenridgei 

Myrtaceae 8 

Syzygium leucanthum 

Myrtaceae 8 


At the family level, the Myrisitcaceae (3 species of Myristica) and Clusiaceae (species of Calophyllum 

and Garcinia) are dominant in terms of basal area (Table 3). Other important families in terms of basal 

area are the Podocarpaceae (represented only by Retrophyllum vitiense), Anacardiaceae (Buchanania 

attenuata,  Pleiogynium timoriense, Semecarpus vitiense) and Chrysobalanaceae (almost entirely 

Parinari insularum eith a single individual of Atuna racemosa). Gironniera celtidifolia is so abundant 

that the Ulmaceae is the most abundant family (Table 4). The Myrisitcaceae, Clusiaceae, Myrtaceae 

(several species of Syzygium) and Apocynaceae (Pagiantha thurstonii and Alstonia costata) are other 

abundant families. 






Table 3: The 20 most common families as measured by the basal area of individuals with a dbh of 

10cm or more. 





Myristicaceae 5.866 

Clusiaceae 5.208 

Podocarpaceae 3.835 

Anacardiaceae 3.291 

Chrysobalanaceae 3.152 

Myrtaceae 2.728 

Sapotaceae 2.595 

Sterculiaceae 2.594 

Apocynaceae 2.478 

Meliaceae 1.934 

Ulmaceae 1.588 

Cunnoniaceae 1.439 

Caesalpinaceae 1.359 

Casurinaceae 1.274 

Annonaceae 1.163 

Annonaceae 1.113 

Elaeocarpaceae 0.899 

Rubiaceae 0.606 

Burseraceae 0.554 

Dilleniaceae 0.505 


Table 4: The 20 most common families as measured by the number of individuals with a dbh of 

10cm or more. 


Ulmaceae 130 

Myristicaceae 91 

Clusiaceae 77 

Myrtaceae 63 

Apocynaceae 58 

Anacardiaceae 44 

Sterculiaceae 38 

Chrysobalanaceae 36 

Caesaplinaceae 36 

Meliaceae 33 

Sapotaceae 32 

Rubiaceae 29 

Dilleniaceae 20 

Podocarpaceae 20 

Annonaceae 17 

Cunnoniaceae 16 

Burseraceae 12 

Lauraceae 11 

Anacardiaceae 10 

Verbenaceae 9 





A total of 319 species in 223 genera and 99 families were recorded (Table 5). All taxa recorded are 

listed in appendix 1. This list is far from complete as several vegetation types (Coastal vegetation, 

wetlands and anthropogenically induced vegetation types were not sampled). In addition, I expect 

many additional taxa to be discovered in the lowland rain and mesic forests, once these have been more 

thoroughly investigated. Of the 319 recorded species 288 were indigenous to Fiji. The low number of 

introduced species is caused by the focus of my survey on native flora and vegetation. A total of 126 

species were endemic to Fiji and 15 of those are restricted to Vanua Levu. The dicotyledons are the 

biggest taxon, contributing more than two-thirds of all species and more than 90% of all endemic 



The most important plant discovered was the small tree Zanthoxylum myrianthum (Rutaceae), which is 

endemic to Vanua Levu and was recorded for the second time ever and for the first time in more than 

50 years. In addition, the find of Astronidium kasiensis outside its only known and highly disturbed 

location in the Mt. Kasi region is important. Other relatively narrow endemics include Veitchia filifera 

(Arecaceae)  Parsonsia smithii (Apocynaceae), Cyrtandra harveyi and C. reticulata (Gesneriaceae), 

Medinilla kabii (Melastomataceae), Endospermum robbieanum,  Macaranga membranacea (both 

Euphorbiaceae),  Amaracarpus muscifer and Ixora coronata (both Rubiaceae), which are endemic to 

Vanua Levu. Balaka seemannii and Physokentia thurstonii (both Arecaceae) are endemic to Vanua 

Levu and Taveuni, while Cyathocalyx stenopetalus (Annonaceae)  Cyrtandra dolichocarpa 

(Gesneriaceae) are endemic to Vanua Levu and Rabi. 


In addition, I identified 60 native taxa that were previously collected in the adjacent Mt. Kasi region 

and Wainunu Catchment but were not recorded in this study. Of those 42 were endemic, 29 to Fiji, 7 to 

Vanua Levu and six to either the Mt. Kasi region (Caesaria myrsinoides [Flacourtiaceae], Elaeocarpus 

kasiense [Elaeocarpaceae], Mapania vitiensis [Orchidaceae], Mapania vitiensis [Cyperaceae], 

Metrosideros ochrantha [Myrtaceae], Phreatia flavovirens [Orchidaceae]) or the Wainunu catchment 

(Guioa capillacea [Sapindaceae]). A search whether the 6 narrowly endemic species are present in the 

proposed reserve should be considered a priority as this would add great conservation value. 


Four specimens collected are of special interest and potentially important records. While the 

appearance of the specimens suggests them to be unique taxa, proper identification are required to 

ascertain their identity. A specimen that I believe to belong to the genus Terminalia was collected in 

fruit in one of the plots in the lowland rain forest. If my perception is correct, this specimen represents 

a new species and the first non-coastal taxon with fleshy fruits. In addition, a specimen in the genus 

Aglaia was interesting as its leaves are covered with hairs, which is different from other species known 

in Fiji. Using the key in Pannell (1992), the species comes closest to Aglaia tomentosa, which is known 

only from New Guinea. An expert would need to determine whether the species is a first Fiji-record for 

A. tomentosa, a new taxon, or just a form of species already described from Fiji. Another interesting 

specimen was obtained in the genus Dolicholobium. Although the specimen was sterile, the indument 

corresponds most closely to Dolicholobium aneityense, which is believed to be endemic to Vanuatu. It 

will require fertile specimens and an expert in this genus to definitely identify the Dolicholobium







Table 5: Floristic Summary of the Flora of Kubulau. Numbers in the column refer to the number of 

species. * = percentage endemism (endemic speces/ indigenous species × 100) is stated in paranthes 

behind the number of species. ^ = includes endemic species. 


Taxon Families 




Vanua Levu 







Ferns & Fern 


19 37 

44 3 


44  0 


3 5 

5 0 0 

5  0 

Dicotyledons 65 


225  117(56.8) 12 




12 39 

45 6(18.2) 

33  5 


99 233 


126(43.8) 15 

288  9 




Status of Forests 


Before commenting on the status of the forests on the land of the mataqali Nadicake-Kilaka, I need to 

point out that much of the present forest consists of patches of current plantations, plantations of the 

recent past (grassland), plantations and village sites of the distant past (secondary forest), and intact 

“old-growth” forest. A detailed survey of the entire land of the mataqali Nadicake-Kilaka should be 

undertaken to identify those patches. In my opinion proper management of used, recovering and old-

growth areas is essential for the long-term protection of the remaining forests. 


The status of the remaining and extensive forest patches is generally excellent. They include very large 

individuals of slow-growing conifers (and faster growing flowering plants), attesting to their age (table 

6). Not only is an individual of Agathis macrophylla with about 1.5m in diameter the biggest tree that I 

have observed in Fiji, but also are many measurements in table 1 the largest recorded by me for the 

particular species. The population of Retrophyllum vitiense is by far the biggest that I have ever 

observed. In several forest fragments and on the plateau a high number (based on call frequency) of 

tree frogs was recorded. As frogs are good indicator species for forest health (C. Morrison,, 

this also attests to the quality of the forest. 



















Table 6: Maximum trunk diameters (dbh) of species on the land of the mataqali Nadicake-

Kilaka, Kilaka, Kubulau, Bua. 


Species Fijian 





Agathis macrophylla 

tahua makadre 



Retrophyllum vitiensis 

tahua salusalu 



Calophyllum vitiense 

damanu Clusiaceae 


Maniltoa floribunda 

cibicibi levu 



Dacrydium nidulum 

yaka Podocarpaceae 


Syzygium sp. 




Endospermum macrophyllum 

vulauvula Euphorbiaceae 


Gymnostoma vitiense 

cau Casurinaceae 


Endospermum robbieanum 

vulavula Euphorbiaceae 


Buchanania attenuata 

talitali Anacardiaceae 


Palaquium porphyreum 

bauvudi Sapotaceae 


Calophyllum cerasiferum 

damanu drau lailai 



Dysoxylum quericifolium 

tarawau kei soqe 



Myristica gillespieana 

male Myristicaceae 


Xylopia pacifica 

oto Annonaceae 


Parinari insularum 

sea Chrysobalanaceae 


Palaquium sp. 

uru 2 



Geissois imthurnii 

vo'a Cunnoniaceae 


Elaeocarpus chelonimorphus 

dravidravi Elaeocarpaceae 


Sterculia vitiense 

waciwaci Sterculiaceae 


Myristica macrantha 

male Myristicaceae 


Myristica casatneifolia 

malamala Myristicaceae 


Firmania diversifolia 

cara Sterculiaceae 


Pagiantha thurstonii 

tabua mei ra kalavo  Apocynaceae 


Heritiera ornithocephala 

savai Sterculiaceae 


Crossostylis pachyantha 

No name recorded 



Semecarpus vitiensis 

Malawaci Anacardiaceae 




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