Tavita Togia’s recognized once again for combating invasive species
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) has recognized American Samoa’s Biodiversity Conservation Office director as a ”Battler on a Mission” — this comes 5 years after he was recognized as the "Pacific Invasive Species Battler of the Year”.
Tavita Togia’s commitment to eradicating invasive species spans over a decade, focusing on managing Tamaligi Falcataria moluccana, an aggressive invasive tree on Tutuila. His innovative approach involves continual improvements to control methodologies, increasing the efficiency of addressing the large and spreading Tamaligi population.
“Tavita's leadership extends beyond his scientific endeavors; he has fostered a strong team culture, uniting them not only in their work but also in shared activities like paddling and a unique forest dance,” a press release issued by the Governor’s Office says.
His workflow is rooted in simplicity: eradicate the invasive trees, restore the site through native plantings to reduce sunlight on the forest floor and limit Tamaligi seed germination. Critical to the success of his project is meticulous data collection, stored in a comprehensive database that facilitates easy follow-up of infested sites and showcases the tangible impact of invested funds.
The success of Tavita's Tamaligi project is not just ecological but also financial.
Following demonstrable success in earlier years, a $300,000 grant was secured, and the project implemented from 2015 to 2018 played a pivotal role in securing an additional $459,274 grant in 2018 from the United States Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs. This grant supports the project "Recovering Endangered the Tutuila Tree Snails from Feral Animals and Restoring Nuu’uli Wetland, Watershed and Streams and Clearing Tamaligi Seed Banks."
Through the constant improvement in control methodologies and adoption of spatial data to prove success of the control operations, Tavita was able to gain further support for his work and build a capable team to lower the impacts of this invasive species for the betterment of American Samoa.
To recognize the dedicated Invasive Species Battlers in the Pacific, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) established the "Pacific Invasive Species Battler of the Year Award." This award, presented for the second time in 2018, aims to honor individuals making substantial contributions for the benefit of their communities, countries, territories, or states and the broader Pacific region.
Mr. David Moverley, SPREP Invasive Species Adviser, said, “Tavita Togia was awarded the Pacific Battler of the Year in 2018, the second year it was awarded. Tavita’s award was presented for his outstanding commitment and dedication to managing the Tamaligi tree on Tutuila, American Samoa.
Recognizing the urgent need to combat invasive species, the Pacific Invasive Species Learning Network (PILN) affirms that these intruders are the primary cause of biodiversity loss in the Pacific Islands. Invasive species pose a significant threat to ecosystem resilience, impacting ecosystem services and hindering the region's ability to adapt to climate change.