Guest Article #7

Value Island Biodiversity – It's Our Life

Biodiversity is a hot topic these days – a simple Google search will give you around 46 million results. But, what is biodiversity? It is a word coined to refer to the variety of all living things on Earth – all the species, genetic resources and ecosystems on the planet and how they function and interact. Biodiversity is the cornerstone of life in the Pacific – our plants, animals, and ecosystems are essential for livelihoods of Pacific people. Biodiversity has helped shape our culture and traditions.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) works closely with Pacific governments and a range of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to provide support and advice to Pacific countries on biodiversity conservation.

We also support Pacific countries at international meetings such as those of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Pacific input at the 2010 CBD Convention of the Parties Meeting in Nagoya, Japan showcased our biodiversity under the theme, “The Pacific Voyage.” This highlighted our unique biodiversity and the approaches used in this region. Many promotional materials and events highlighted conservation successes and challenges in the Pacific.

The 2010 CBD Meeting assessed global targets for reducing biodiversity loss - targets that were agreed by countries in 2002. Sadly, countries have failed to meet the targets, and we continue to lose our biodiversity assets.

We have heard that one species from our planet is being lost every 38 minutes! When a species becomes extinct, it is lost forever. Prevention is our only option – there is no cure.

The authoritative Red List of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) confirms that many plant and animal species are in crisis: that one bird out of eight, one mammal out of four, and six marine turtles out of seven are threatened with extinction.

In the Pacific, biodiversity is seriously threatened by development pressures, causing habitat loss, invasive species and, ever increasingly, the many impacts of climate change.

There is a need to better protect our unique biodiversity. The 2010 CBD Meeting agreed new targets (“Aichi Targets”) to protect 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 percent of marine areas. Also included are measures to control invasive species and to increase awareness of the values of biodiversity.

These Aichi Targets are ambitious but achievable in our Pacific region.

Pacific countries have worked diligently to protect our unique biodiversity. We can boast the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati – the largest marine protected area on Earth – now a World Heritage Site. In our region we also have the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment by the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Guam and the Northern Marianas to conserve at least 30 percent of the near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. The Aichi Targets will help us strengthen our conservation work across the Pacific.

In some cases we are on track with the targets, and in other cases we need to work harder in a concerted and holistic manner as a region so that by 2020, the Pacific region can once again showcase to the world our achievements in biodiversity conservation.

However, limited capacity and resources remain a constraint, and additional resources must be made available to Pacific countries to ensure our unique biodiversity is well protected for current and future generations. Adequate financial resources are essential for the Pacific as our countries now need to translate the ambitious Aichi Targets into action. Additional support from the international community is essential, as the biodiversity of this region has global importance.

The challenge now is to identify opportunities and innovative ways to better implement biodiversity conservation in the Pacific region. SPREP stands ready to work with members and partners to better protect the unique biodiversity of the Pacific region.

And please: “Remember to Value Pacific Island Biodiversity – It's Our Life."