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close this bookAgroforestry in the Pacific Islands: Systems for Sustainability (UNU, 1993, 297 pages)
close this folder6 Agroforestry in Micronesia
View the documentA note on Micronesia
View the documentTraditional agroforestry in the high islands of Micronesia
View the documentAtoll agroforestry on Tarawa and Abemama, Kiribati

A note on Micronesia

Micronesia extends across the western Pacific Ocean from 15°N to 3°S latitude and from 132°E to 177°E longitude. Although covering an ocean area of over 7 million sq km, it contains a land area of only 2,706 sq km. Except for Kiribati and Nauru - which at the time of their independence were, respectively, a British colony and a UN trust territory administered by Australia - Micronesia's most recent colonial administrator was the United States of America. Today, what was the American Trust Territory is divided into the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the four Federated States of Micronesia - Yap, Chunk (Truk), Kosrae, and Pohnpei.

Micronesian agroforestry can be separated into two distinct types. The first is practiced on the higher and larger islands of central and western Micronesia. Although similar to many of Polynesia's agroforestry systems, certain differences of emphasis can be discerned. The giant swamp taro. Cyrtosperma chamissonis, is more important in Micronesia than in Polynesia; there is a greater emphasis on mulching, artificial soil improvement, and water management in Micronesia; and the mixed tree gardens, or "agroforests" - the equivalent of Polynesia's permanent tree groves - are perhaps even more important in Micronesia than in Polynesia.

The second type of Micronesian agroforestry is practiced on atolls, where environmental constraints are extreme and population densities are high compared with most of Melanesia and Polynesia. The agroforestry system developed in response to these severe conditions is unique in the relative dominance of trees over ground crops and in the sophisticated, intensive systems of mulching and soil improvement employed in the face of the impoverished atoll soils.