Early this year, rapid surveys covering 1,894 hectares of protected areas and immediate vicinity were carried out by PCS, PALARIS, and state protected areas offices to understand the extent of threat from the kebeas (Merremia peltata) vine. The survey covered protected areas in Ngaraard, Ngardmau, Ngiwal, Melekeok, Ngaremlengui, and Aimeliik. The survey results showed only 3 states where protected areas were threatened or where the kebeas has crossed the protected area boundary lines threatening healthy trees and plants.
Of the six states, protected areas in Melekeok, Ngaraard, and Ngeremlengui were either threatened by the kebeas that was within very close proximity to the boundaries of the protected area, or has penetrated the protected area. Between the three states, an estimated 57 hectares was affected by the kebeas. Early this month PCS in working with the Melekeok Conservation Network office rounded 65 volunteers including Governor Polloi to remove the kebeas in and around Ngardok Nature Reserve. Just this last weekend, the Ngaremlengui State PAN Office and 51 volunteers with Governor Remengesau and PCS completed removal of kebeas in and around Ngarmeskang Bird Sanctuary. Next up is Ngaraard where kebeas has encroached into Ngerchokl Conservation Area.
As for Ngardmau, Ngiwal, and Aimeliik, where kebeas at this time does not threaten their protected areas had community meetings with PCS, the National Invasive Species Committee (NISC) Coordinator Ngeyaol Basilius, and the Regional Invasive Species Council Coordinator Jacques Idechong.
According to the “Report to the Republic of Palau: 2008 Update on Invasive Species”, the kebeas vine is quite invasive along forest edges and wherever there has been disturbance, overtopping even mature trees. It is not known whether this species is native or an early introduction to Palau, but it is reported as a native species. Substantial land clearing or the more areas are disturbed give the vine suitable habitats to grow and expand. Whether native or not, the vine is aggressive. Landowners, developers, and utility companies have to be mindful to maintain their land once it has been deforested, to keep the kebeas from growing and encroaching into healthy forests.