Discovering a new species in Palau amidst preparations for a celebration


Osmoxylon ngardokense, a member of the ginseng family, is a new tree species discovered as a result of the work to establish the Republic of Palau as a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Forest Global Earth Observatory Network. The only known location of the tree is within the Ngardok Nature Reserve in Palau. Forest Service photo.

HAWAII — The Republic of Palau may only be roughly twice the size of Washington D.C., but it’s become the latest member of a global network monitoring forest health and growth. The USDA Forest Service’s Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry and partners will be celebrating the induction of the Pacific island into the Smithsonian Institution’s Forest Global Earth Observatory Network during a ceremony being held on Thursday, March 22, at the Melekeok State Office in Palau.

The 10-acre plot within the Ngarkok Nature Reserve will become the 64th monitoring site for the network which spans 25 countries and five continents. These monitoring sites provide detailed Information on the growth, survivorship and mortality of more than 6 million individual trees across the globe.

"The data pulled from these sites provide invaluable insights into the health, growth and threats facing our forests across a global scale," said Amanda Uowolo, a Forest Service ecologist who helped perform the inventory work necessary for the site to join the network. More than 13,000 trees within the Palau monitoring site were identified, tagged and measured and will be followed over time.

During the research team's inventory work, they also discovered a new tree species, Osmoxylon ngardokense. This member of the ginseng family has only been found within the Ngarkok Nature Reserve.

"The discovery of this new species highlights the value of partnerships, forest inventories and the basic research in forest dynamics," Uowolo said.

The initial round of data collected from the site will provide baseline information on forest dynamics that will allow for the detection of forest change from climate stressors, such as drought or severe weather events. The information also will serve as a necessary platform to understand how the ecological properties of Palauan forest compare with tropical and temperate forests around the world.

The Forest Service partnered with Ngardok Nature Reserve and Palau Department of Forestry to gather the data and gain the site's acceptance into ForestGEO. The Forest Service's Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry has been involved in two other ForestGEO monitoring sites on Hawai'i Island, one in Laupāhoehoe and the other in Palamanui, collectively known as HIPPNET.