For many centuries, the kava plant, Piper methysticum, a series of sterile clones of a truly wild Piper species, has been used in several high islands in remote Oceania, including Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. Until modern times, its use on all of these islands was largely restricted to chiefly, priestly, and medicinal use. Because of colonial suppression and/or the use of other nonindigenous psychoactive drugs, its use was abandoned on some of these islands. On other islands, such as Pohnpei, its use has increased greatly, with substantial changes in rank, gender, motivation, time, and place. This steep rise in its use has resulted in a large increase in its cultivation. On Pohnpei, intensification of cropping in upland environments is largely responsible for more than 70% loss of the remaining native, tropical rain forest since 1975. This impact and other human activities endanger the unique upland biodiversity of this remote tropical island. Recent historical trends in forest exploitation, threats to biodiversity, and watershed disturbance on Pohnpei are discussed in this paper. The Watershed Conservation Plan and management benefits of the proposed Pacific-Asia Biodiversity Transect (PABITRA) are emphasized with permanent plot establishment for long-term monitoring.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2