Anne Tierney working with the water quality team testing the pH and soil. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/22021128
On Wednesday, February 2 a number of young Cook Islanders gathered to investigate and research about our wetlands behind Pa Ariki Palace in Ngatangiia, writes Gabriella Napa.
Groups from different organisations came
together to acknowledge the importance of our wetland environments. The
participants represented Muri Environmental Care, Te Ipukarea Society, and training
teachers from the Ministry of Education. All collaborated to conduct research
based on three themes – plant life, insect life and water quality. The Youth
Media Team were there to capture all the action to share and raise awareness.
Investigations conducted looked at what
life lives in our wetland waterways, where insects such as dragonflies and
damselflies live around our wetland waters as well as plants such as Tiemu, two
types of wetland taro and water netting. An interesting point to note is names
for these taro plant may differ from island to island, for example – Manaura
Taro on Rarotonga is known as Taro Rakahanga on Rakahanga.
Young researchers had heaps of fun chasing
dragonflies with nets and collected samples of plants, insects and water using
numerous methods including; locating, collecting, measuring, mixing,
identifying and photographing. Names of plants were entered into online sites
to get their scientific name. Insect colours and characteristics were used to
identify them against others online.
Testing the pH of soil was interesting to observe. Ara and Pipi, two keen young environmentalists conducted these tests. They added white vinegar to one sample and bubbles came up meaning the dirt was acidic. They added baking soda to the other and there was no reaction. A fizzing reaction means the soil has a basic alkaline pH level, and our wetlands need both for different organisms to thrive.
It was amazing seeing everyone enjoying
themselves, laughing while researching and exploring topics that can sometimes
be boring to learn about for youth. Especially as the young ones got the
opportunity to really get involved and do the research themselves. There were
hilarious moments watching the youth media team attempt to catch dragonflies
themselves, only to capture one another in their nets!
Ecologist, Brennan Panzarella, who facilitated
the event for Muri Environmental Care, said: “We had a blast getting to know one of
Rarotonga’s many wetlands in greater detail. Through discovering and identifying
species of plants and dragonflies in the wetland, we hope the attendees were
left inspired by what they saw and experienced. We also played around with some
scientific tools and ways of thinking.”
“Wetlands are important features in the landscape that provide numerous
beneficial services for people, fish and wildlife. Some of these services or
functions include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and
wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow
during dry periods.”
Alanna Smith from Te Ipukarea Society said:
“Te Ipukarea Society is a non-government environmental organisation formed to
conserve and protect our heritage. Grass root engagement is an area TIS work
closely in particularly in awareness raising as well as being a voice for the
“Getting people to start caring for our
wetlands will involve getting the people to understand the value wetlands
provide us through ecosystem services (helping reduce floods, taking out
nitrates before reaching our lagoon where they contribute to the yucky algae we
are seeing today).
“Recognising this value and foreseeing the
negative impacts our communities may face if we destroyed our wetlands may just
flick a switch, where more people start to care, and more importantly want to
MEC Youth Media member, Henare Tapuvae,
15, said: “I’ve learnt so much from this experience, that I wish for current
and future generations to protect our wetlands and to protect our home. Keep an
eye out for the footage from our youth media team.”
Without our wetlands, cities have to spend
more money to treat water for their citizens, floods are more devastating to
nearby communities, storm surges are displaced from hurricanes that can
penetrate farther inland, animals are displaced or die out, and food supplies
are disrupted, along with livelihood.
They have so many benefits, they act as a natural filter. This slows the
water down making it less likely to cause erosion. Climate change is also
expected to impact wetlands due to change in temperature and the amount of
We are a major threat to wetlands, and in
Rarotonga our wetlands such as taro plantations, are just one of the things
that we use to grow, harvest and live from. So what are you going to do to help
protect our island and take good care of our environment? To support, go to
Muri Environment Care and Te Ipukarea Society on Facebook and follow us, the
Youth Media team. Join us on our journey to a better tomorrow!