The Pacific-Asia Biodiversity Transect (PABITRA) is a collaborative program for investigating the function of biodiversity and the health of ecosystems in the tropical Pacific Islands. Particular emphasis is put on the comparative analysis of indigenous upland and inland forests of the volcanic high islands and their role as ecological reserves and watersheds. The project involves an elevational transect and looks both at primary and disturbed island ecosystems (Fig. 1) and how these function under the natural biogeographic restraints of isolation.

Fig. 1: The mountain to reef concept (or Ahupua‘a Model) of PABITRA that that takes into account anthropogenic landscape impacts. (Source: Chapter 6 of Imamura CK & Towle E (1987) Integrated renewable resource management for U.S. insular areas (Island study 1987). Pacific Basin Development Council Research Institute, Honolulu)

The initiative brings together conservation scientists working in the Pacific with the purpose to develop environmental knowledge among Pacific Islanders and researchers active in the Pacific. Current PABITRA sites are shown in Figure 1 and illustrate a west-east latitudinal transect. PABITRA recognizes that island ecosystems are unique and the need to build capacity independent Pacific Island nations to investigate and manage their biodiversity. A manual for research methods that are particularly relevant of island ecosystems and developed by members of PABITRA is available via this link.

Fig. 2: Current PABITRA sites, (Source: Mueller-Dombois D & Fosberg FR (1998) Vegetation of the tropical Pacific Islands. Springer-Verlag, New York)

PABITRA evolved from the Pacific Science Association (PSA) Committee on Ecology, Conservation, and Environmental Protection (ECEP), chaired by Dieter Mueller-Dombois since 1975 (the 13th PSA Congress in Vancouver).  In August 1999 (the 19th PSA Congress in Sydney), the ECEP became the Division for Ecosystem Conservation in the PSA Task Force on Biodiversity, and the PABITRA initiative its new program.  Currently, PABITRA is co-ordinated by Gunnar Keppel. Other co-principal co-ordinators are Prof. Dieter Mueller-Dombois (Hawaii), Dr. Jean-Yves Meyer (Tahiti), Dr. Nacanieli (Nat) S. Tuivavalagi (Guam), Mr. Marika Tuiwawa (Fiji), Prof. Hans Juergen Boehmer (Fiji), Prof. Harley I. Manner (Guam) and Prof. Randy R. Thaman (Fiji).

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