Papua New Guinea Lowland Tropical Rainforest, One Landscape, Different Perspectives

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For thousands of years, Papua New Guinea’s affluent terrestrial vegetations have provided the habitat and the patronage elements that were essential for the survival of the Papuan people (Map I) (Worldatlas.com, 2012) (Nicholls, 2004). The diversity of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) terrestrial vegetation are portrayed in beach grasses, located along coastal lines, moving inland towards lowland tropical rainforest (LTF), and ending with mountaintops’ alpine forests (Table I) (Nicholls, 2004). PNG’s lowland tropical rainforest dominates large portions of the country’s landscape, and it is considered to be the richest region in biodiversity, timber, and minerals (Swartzendruber, 1993). This latter notion has resulted in a profound-reciprocal-bond that continues to exist between the Papuan people and their surrounding environment in general, and specifically biologically rich lowland forest formations. This Papuan rainforest is divergent in appearance, and it extends from areas below 500-1000 meters to reach 3000 m. above see level, where it receives rainfalls that range between 2500 and 3500 mm per annum (Schaffer, 2012). Additionally, the forest’s canopy trees tend to have straight trunks, and extend over large areas, with heights ranging between 50 and 25 m (Schaffer, 2012). At lower altitudes, thin topsoil formations are abundant, which favor buttress root trees to evolve and dictate the forests’ ecosystem (Schaffer, 2012).

The vast majority of the Papuan people (87 % of the population) reside in rural areas where they rely upon the LTF for agriculture, hunting, and gathering as means for survival (Nicholls, 2004). Needless to say, the occurrence of feasibly-abundant forest resources have extend the benefits and values of Papua’s LTR far beyond their sustenance role to the indigenous population, to include benefits that are financial, social, and environmental in nature. Sequentially, the compound benefits and uses provided by PNG’s LTR have caught the attention of different groups of stakeholders, each of which represents a unique-well-sounded management perspective that well define their own interest in the forest. With that in mind, three major stakeholder groups are believed to be involved in managing PNG’s LTR – foreign investors, local government, and environmentalist groups. The existing ties between these different groups’ involvements and the forest’s benefits in turn create land use tradeoffs that produce contentions among those groups involved. The variation in perspectives among those multiple stakeholder groups brings forward the need to objectively evaluate PNG LTR’s benefits and values from the viewpoint of each group. Simultaneously, addressing the differences in perspectives on ways of managing this forest landscape shall in turn paint a clear picture that better describes the sustainable future of PNG’s LTR.

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