Wetland areas in American Samoa are areas of lush tropical vegetation, swarming with life, and offer a wide range of valuable functions. These wetlands are important contributors to the islands’ health and subsequently, the well-being of everyone who lives here. Wetlands are productive and important habitats for fish, shellfish, birds, animals, and plants. They help control floodwater, recharge groundwater, trap sediments, provide opportunities for small-scale agricultural production and recreation, prevent storm damage, reduce surface water runoff, export food to adjacent ecosystem, and have cultural significance. In several ways, wetlands as the “water filters” of the islands by improving the quality of surface waters before they enter our sensitive coastal areas.
What is a wetland?
A wetland by definition is a land area that is “wet land.” They are often transitional areas found between dry land and water bodies. American Samoa has six basic types of wetlands; riparian (o auvai ma alavai), ruderal (o pala ua afaina), cultivated wetlands (pala ua faato’aina), freshwater marsh (pala faataufusi), freshwater swamp (pala vai), and mangrove swamp (pala togatogo). These areas have three common components which defines them as wetlands: water, unique soil (hydric soil), and specialized plants (hydrophytes). The particular types and arrangement of these three characteristics is what makes one kind of wetland distinct from another.
Wetland Trends in the Territory
Within the last 40 years, over 50% of the Territories wetlands have been lost, while a significant portion of the remaining wetlands have been seriously polluted. As the population continues to increase at an alarming rate, so will the pressures on wetlands areas. If wetlands are not carefully managed they could easily disappear, and with them, all of the invaluable functions and benefits that they provide. Today the greatest single threat to wetlands is illegal filling for the construction of homes. Other threats include trash dumping, piggeries, and over harvesting of wood products.
To help preserve and manage the remaining wetlands of American Samoa, ASCMP engages the community in various outreach activities including Wetlands Month, Enviro-Discoveries Summer Camps, Coastweeks and collaborates with Le Tausagi, a group of environmental educators on environmental outreach and awareness programs.
The Community Based Wetlands Management Program (CBWMP)
The CBWMP is a bottom-up resource management approach in which the village actively participates in managing, conserving, and protecting its wetlands. This is a very unique program in which the village and the government are partners in resource management. Thus, the community is empowered and therefore more likely to participate and support wetland management efforts.
The CBWMP has recently revisited its approach and has utilized the Participatory, Learning and Action (PLA) tool as an enhancement to the process. The PLA aids in gathering information about their wetlands, environment and resources that assisted them to develop potential community action plans for wetland and coastal resources conservation.
What Can You Do To Help?
There are several things that you can do to help protect the wetlands of American Samoa; 1) Start a Wetland Cleanup Program in your village, 2) Teach your family or friends about the importance of wetlands, 3) Dispose of all trash, fill, sewage, and other wastes in the proper manner, 4) Notify the DOC at (684) 633-5155 if you see any activities that may have an adverse impact on a wetland, and 5) contact the DOC to obtain a Land use permit before beginning any construction project.
For more information, please contact Solialofi Tuamu at (684) 633-5155 ext. 274 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maps for all the wetlands for Tutuila and Manu’a can be downloaded from our GIS users group website at http://gis.doc.as, or for more information contact Junior Sauni at email@example.com or 633-5155 ext. 278, or the GIS/IT division at the Department of Commerce at (684) 633-5566.