Polymotu: an overview of ideas and activities

About the Polymotu concept
References and publication (in construction)
A lesson from ancient (and some contemporary) Polynesians
Letters of support from Cogent and the Global Crop Diversity Trust
Polymotu precursors: Maprao Kathi Island and Makapuno coconut in Thailand
Polymotu precursors: bird conservation in New Zealand
Polymotu and the Global Coconut Conservation Strategy
Amazing coconut-shaped Islands (in construction)
"Family relationships" between islands ? (in construction)

In French Polynesia
Landscaping Tetiaroa Atoll and coconut conservation
About the respect due to the coconut palm... an anthropological approach
Five motu of Tetiaroa to conserve traditional Polynesian coconut varieties
First plantation of coconut palms in the conservatoire of Tetiaroa Atoll, French Polynesia
A traditional genebank disappearing in the Aratika atoll?
Motu (coral islands) born from coconut palms in Fakarava Atoll

In Samoa

Proposal for coconut conservation in the small islands of Samoa
Landscaping two small Islands of Samoa using the Polymotu concept
Collecting the Niu Afa variety in gardens and farmer's fields

In Fiji
A proposal for integrating conservation of the coconut palm into the USP campus, Fiji
Polymotu project is starting in Fiji islands

In Oman
Coconut islands in the desert

A proposal for integrating Polymotu into the USP campus, Suva Fiji

The University of South Pacific (USP) is one of only two regional university’s in the world  and is supported by 12 Pacific Island Countries . This public research university is a regional centre for teaching and research on Pacific culture and environment. USP's academic programmes are recognised worldwide, attracting students and staff from throughout the Pacific Region as well as from other regions and beyond.
Contacts have been initiated to integrate a coconut conservation design inside the Suva campus (Fiji), by using the remarkable Orange and Red Orange Compact Dwarf varieties recently discovered in Fiji and a Tall-type Sweet Husk varieties found in Rotuma and other Fiji Islands.
The coconut palms would not be all planted in one single specific location, but scattered between all the campus buildings as in customary landscaping. This could be an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen the commitment and interest of the thousands of students and the teachers from all Pacific regions regarding more effective conservation and use of coconut genetic resources.

Satellite image of USP campus, Suva Fiji (Click to enlarge)
The representation given up illustrates a possible design:
  • The zone around the campus is colored in blue.
  • Red and Orange dots inside USP represent each a Compact Dwarf Coconut palm with orange or red-orange fruits. About 40 to 60 coconut palms from these varieties could be planted inside the campus.
  • Red and Orange dots in the blue area (outside and around the USP Campus) also represent each a Compact Dwarf Coconut palms with orange or red-orange fruits. About 100 to 200 coconut palms from these varieties will be distributed free to the home gardens surrounding the USP campus.
  • Green dots in the USP campus: about 80 to 100 coconut palms from the Tall-type variety called "Sweet husk" could be planted inside but around the limits of the campus. Seednuts could be preferably imported from Rotuma Island (very large and good fruits) or from other places in Fiji, and preferably be green sprouted.
We estimate the size of the campus at about 100 hectares and the total number of coconut palms to be planted inside the campus at about 150-200. So the global density for coconut  palms inside the campus will be only about one to two palms per hectare, and this is lower than the average coconut density of coconut palms in most tropical cities.

This design will allow production of different kinds of seednuts:

- Various types of Compact Dwarfs with orange or red-orange fruits (orange sprouts)
- "Sweet husk" Tall types (green sprouts)
- Natural or man-made hybrids between the compacts dwarfs and seet husk (brown sprouts)

A rapid appraisal of coconut varieties presently existing on the campus was conducted. Three coconut varieties were identified, two of which are material introduced from abroad : Malayan Yellow and Red Dwarfs. These two varieties are now common in Fiji and already well conserved at the Taveuni coconut centre and in home gardens. The third variety is the most common Fijian Tall type, which can be found everywhere.

The total number of coconut palms in the campus was estimated to 60 to 80, but I could be more. Many coconut palms were felt down at the time of our visit, because the landscaping of the campus was rethinked in order to include more endemic and traditional Pacific plants and crops.

Coconut palms felt down at the USP campus
Within a 6 to 7 years period, the coconut palms which are presently in the campus will have to be progressively removed, because their pollen can contaminate the new rare traditional Fijian varieties to be conserved in the future. There is no need to remove these coconut palms at the beginning, because the Rotuma sweet husk palms will take 6-7 year to start to flower, and the design will be fully operational only when the sweet husk palm will start to produce pollen.

Low productive Coconut palms (Fiji Tall variety) at USP

If, inside the campus, there is any other rare coconut variety (but I did not see any), these few palms could be reproduced and planted at the Taveuni Coconut centre for conservation purposes.

This proposal is derived from a scientific paper on the Polymotu concept presented at  the 45th APCC COCOTECH Meeting, held  2nd - 6th July 2012, in Kochi, India:
Bourdeix, R., Johnson, V., Saena Tuia, V. and Weise, S.. 2012. Three declinations of the Polymotu Concept: “Inland ex Situ”, “Ecotourism on Islands”, “Urban” and their possible applications in Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, French Polynesia and Samoa ( 870KB). Paper presented at the 45th APCC COCOTECH Meeting, 2nd - 6th July 2012, Kochi, India.

Landscaping Tetiaroa Atoll and coconut conservation

Tetiaroa is an atoll in the Windward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The atoll is located 33 miles (53 km) north of Tahiti. The atoll stretches on a total surface of 2.3 square miles (6 square km); approximately 1,445 acres (585 hectares) of sand are divided in 13 motus (islets) with varying surface areas.

During the pre-European period, Tetiaroa was the summer residence of the chiefs of the village of Arue (now a municipality of Tahiti) and the royal Pomare family. In 1904, the royal family offered Tetiaroa Dr. Johnston Walter Williams (1874-1937), the only dentist of Tahiti and the British consul from 1916 to 1935. In 1965, in accordance with Polynesian property laws, the famous actor Marlon Brando leased the terrestrial part of the atoll for 99 years.

In 2002, two years before the actor’s death, Brando signed a new will and trust agreement that left no instructions for Tetiaroa. Following his death in 2004, the executors of the estate granted development rights to Pacific Beachcomber SC, a Tahitian company that owns hotels throughout French Polynesia and shared in Brando’s vision for an eco-luxury resort on the atoll. Beachcomber SC began construction on Tetiaroa in 2009.

In June 2009, the company Beachcomber SA and the Brando family gave their agreement to integrate the atoll of Tetiaroa in a project of conservation of Polynesian coconut varieties.

Here is our landscaping proposal to include rationale coconut conservation on the Tetiaroa Atoll (click on the picture to enlarge it). Practically, four small islands and a small peninsula will each be replanted with a single variety. Thanks to the geographic isolation of these places, coconuts palms will breed only between palms of the same variety, allowing conservation, production and dissemination of certified seednuts. Five varieties of coconut palms will be then preserved on Tetiaroa.

In this design, more coconut palms are cut than replanted. Indeed, we do not want to cover again the Tetiaroa Atoll with coconut palms. Large areas of the atolls (in red in the figure) will be freed of coconut palms to allow endemic vegetation to increase and birds to nest - although birds are also nesting in the coconut palms.

About 100 years ago, the coconut grove was planted on Tetiaroa by decision of Dr. Johnston Walter Williams, dentist of the royal family, in order to produce copra. At the time, the planting technique consisted, in most cases, cut off all the natural vegetation, to let it dry and then burn everything. Most of the coconut palms seedlings were imported from Tahiti. Maintenance of coconuts was done, at least to a certain period, by "vacuum cleaning", i.e.  by cutting and burning everything that was not coconut palm. These planting techniques were harmful to the biodiversity of endemic species (Dupon, 1987). There were also damaging for the coconut palms themselves, especially from the point of view of conservation of the coconut genetic diversity.

The current density of adult palms is very high, up to 450 palms per hectare, whereas the normal planting densities are about 100 to 200 coconut palms per hectare. The photograph attached compares the density of coconut Tetiaroa to that of a standard plantation of coconut hybrids. Only 20 to 40% of coconut palms  follow the original planting device. They are recognizable on the satellite photos to the fact that they are planted in a straight line, generally oriented north-south and east-west. These original coconut plantation are mainly localized on the motus Tiraunu, Hiraan and Horoatera.

Harvesting of coconut and copra production ceased in the 1970s. Many coconut fell on the ground have sprouted, others are eaten by rats, whose population has increased. Coconuts pierced by rats and partially filled with rainwater promote the proliferation of mosquitoes and flies. The total number of adults on Tetiaroa coconuts can be estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000 trees.

In April 2010, although no funding was dedicated to this activity by the local government, the first planting of the conservatoire began on Tetiaroa. Seednuts of the horned coconut variety were planted a a small motu of Tetiaroa. For more information on the horned coconut palm, please visit our Tetiaroa blog.