Monday, October 4, 2010

Invasive species a growing problem for the Pacific

Invasive species are a rapidly increasing problem across the Pacific islands region and countries are calling on the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to assist with raising public awareness and increasing government engagement in addressing the problem.

A working paper presented by New Caledonia at the 21st SPREP meeting recently held in Madang, Papua New Guinea, highlighted issues relating to invasive species and their impact on livelihoods and ecosystems of the Pacific. The main aim of the paper, titled “Mainstreaming Invasive Species and Biodiversity,” was to inform members of the risks to livelihoods and ecosystems posed by invasive alien species and their predicted interactions with climate change.

Photo: Mont PaniƩ Reserve, site of pest animal management by local communities, North Province, New Caledonia by Dr. Alan Saunders
Dr Alan Tye, SPREP’s Invasive Species Officer, explained that more emphasis on public awareness and government support for invasive species management should be given.  The paper sought the Meeting’s approval for SPREP to undertake a programme to increase public awareness of the value of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems in the Pacific.

He said that, during discussions at a workshop titled “Helping Islands Adapt” in Auckland earlier this year, the Pacific group determined that the fundamental problem which currently prevents adequate investment in managing the impacts of invasive species is lack of political support.

“This is compounded by the fact that modern society does not value biodiversity highly enough and does not understand the magnitude of the impacts of invasive species on economies, livelihoods and the environment,” he said.

The working paper explained that invasive species are recognised as a major driver of biodiversity loss worldwide and that island ecosystems were particularly fragile and vulnerable to invasive species. Although islands cover only 5% of the Earth’s land surface, they are home to about 20% of all known terrestrial species and almost half of all endangered species.

According to the paper, more than 70% of the world’s terrestrial species extinctions have occurred on islands, and most of these were caused by invasive species.

Dr Tye added that invasive species management represents an effective form of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change and that every effort should be made to secure the financial resources necessary to build political support and inspire environmental stewardship. 

Some of the recommendations outlined by the working paper at the 21st SPREP meeting included: reaffirming the importance of healthy ecosystems in helping Pacific islands to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change; reaffirming that invasive species constitute a primary threat to livelihoods and ecosystems; fully supporting SPREP in its search for resources to address the invasive species threat; and requesting SPREP to develop a social marketing strategy and programme that emphasises both political mainstreaming and environmental inspiration for the very young. 

For more details please contact SPREP’s Invasive Species Officer Dr. Alan Tye at

Notes:  The Pacific Group at the “Helping Islands Adapt” workshop in Auckland comprised of representatives of Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, and several international and regional organisations.

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