Caring for nature is part of the Pacific way of life. Pacific Leaders have endorsed regional and national priorities for protecting and managing the Pacific environment and its diverse ecosystems and for improving our relationship with nature.
This digital story introduces the State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report, which assesses the status and trends of the endorsed 31 regional environment indicators across seven thematic areas.
The information contained in this regional report is targeted to national and regional priorities. Each indicator is mapped to facilitate reporting to priority international agreements and the global Sustainable Development Goals, used to address today’s challenges, such as climate change, pollution, and resource extraction.
Keep scrolling to discover, or download the full report here.
Natural resources are fundamental to Pacific economies and cultures. Pacific ecosystem resources and services provide wealth, rewarding our management efforts.
The challenges facing nature in the Pacific are connected. Pressure on one species, place, or resource can result in problems that grow. But the opposite is also true: a positive management action, conservation, or reduction of human pressure can have benefits that reach far through the islands and into the future.
We must take advantage of these critical connections for effective, efficient environment and conservation management.
Throughout this report, you will find reminders of these connections, both from an ecosystem perspective and a management perspective.
Ecosystem-based solutions can enhance resilience, sustain wealth and livelihoods, and support human health. When we work to save biodiversity, we all benefit.
Core environment indicators reflecting Pacific priorities were selected in consultation with countries and regional experts in 2012 and formally endorsed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Members. Countries have been using these indicators in national State of Environment reporting and other processes, prioritising and adding to the indicators as needed.
To build on this coherent data collection and monitor environmental conditions and changes in the Pacific Islands region, a multiyear process of consultation and indicator development was initiated in 2018 to create core regional environment indicators from the foundation of the core national indicators. This process was conducted with the 21 Pacific island countries and territories, coordinated by the SPREP with the support of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
This first regional state of the environment and conservation report for the Pacific islands uses these regional environment indicators to assess the status, trends, and data quality and availability for the endorsed Pacific environmental priorities.
Pacific habitats and species are diverse. Local knowledge matters, and community connections are vital for success. Our management must reflect that.
To achieve the diverse skills embedded in strong community connections that are needed to sustain healthy Pacific ecosystems, we require a commitment to science, knowledge, and appropriate technologies; investment in the education and engagement of our young people; and continuous up-to-date reporting on the status of the Pacific environment.
High-quality national and regional environmental information—intertwined with and informed by Pacific values, ways of life, and identities—rests on this foundation.
To explore present capacity and priorities, check out video sessions on YouTube from the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.
The health of Pacific species, environments, and natural resources depends on sustainable, long-term management. In our islands, this builds on traditions and innovation in our governance.
Sound environmental governance is foundational for healthy Pacific societies and economies. Environmental management has as its aim the long-term survival of Pacific ecosystems and species as well as the health, economic and cultural activities, and identities of the people who rely on Pacific nature.
The indicators in this theme track how much we spend on nature management and how we are doing in measuring, monitoring, and reporting on our environmental commitments.
A special focus of the 2020 regional report examines the conservation, diversity, and use of Pacific bats.
Many natural resources or pressures on those resources cross boundaries and affect species, habitats, and people in multiple countries: international agreements provide the framework to manage transboundary threats. Integrated reporting using common and consistent indicators that can fulfil multiple objectives helps us direct effort to action, not just reporting, while easing the burden on small national administrations.
With over 20 MEAs to govern transboundary protection of nature, we need strong partnerships to report on our successes and challenges.
Despite limited land and freshwater resources in the Pacific islands, agriculture and forestry are dominant sectors of island economies. Subsistence and commercial agriculture are central to Pacific food systems, livelihoods, culture, and wellbeing.
Yet the highly unique and diverse ecosystems and species of the Pacific islands are imperilled by invasive species, climate change, land-use change, and pollution, among others. Threats to Pacific species and the ecosystem services they provide are also threats to the health, security, and resilience of Pacific communities.
The Regional Environment Indicators endorsed by the Pacific island countries and territories within this theme track how much island land is used for agriculture or covered by native forest communities, as well as the quality of freshwater.
Fisheries dominate many island economies and supply the primary protein for the majority of Pacific people. Subsistence and commercial seafood harvests are central to Pacific food systems, livelihoods, culture and wellbeing.
Pacific islands govern 10% of the world’s ocean, in total, and 20% of the part of the ocean that is inside national economic zones. We need a healthy ocean for a healthy planet, and the Pacific islands have long traditions of sustaining life from the sea.
Many Pacific islanders rely on coastal species for food, cultural practices, and livelihoods. These same species are under pressure from pollution, changing land use, and other human activities.
Effective management takes advantage of traditional land tenure and community ownership, traditional systems such as spatial protection, and the multiple, cross-cutting benefits of a ridge-to-reef approach for wholistic island health.
The Regional Environment Indicators endorsed by the Pacific island countries and territories within this theme address the status of these ecosystems and of emerging threats, such as plastic pollution.
Pacific island countries and territories are well placed to lead in the protection of nature, with customary land tenure and vast expanses of ocean under national management. Establishing protected areas has been used as a key mechanism to conserve biodiversity around the world and in the Pacific island countries and territories.
The highly unique and diverse ecosystems and species of the Pacific Ocean and islands are imperilled by human changes to nearshore habitat and overextraction, multiplied by the growing impacts of climate change and pollution. Threats to Pacific species and the ecosystem services they provide are also threats to the health, security, and resilience of Pacific communities.
The Regional Environment Indicators endorsed by the Pacific island countries and territories within this theme quantify the extent of protected areas and examine the management of protected spaces in the context of biological demands of species as well as the needs of Pacific societies.
Our unique island wildlife is central to Pacific lives and identities. Subsistence and commercial use of primary resources, particularly in agriculture and fisheries, are central to Pacific food systems, livelihoods, culture and wellbeing.
The number of assessments of Pacific species on the internationally standardised IUCN Red List is growing! This means we have more, high-quality, publicly available knowledge about Pacific species. However, the share of assessed species that are vulnerable or at risk is high, showing us the urgency of acting to conserve and sustain nature.
Pacific islands have large numbers and high proportions of unique species, found only on one island or island group. These species are under pressure for their survival in the face of competition with invasive species, climate change, and habitat change.
Biodiversity management supports both Pacific people and Pacific ecosystems and species. Healthy levels of biodiversity bring benefits to Pacific societies and economies.
Planning and cooperative action can help save Pacific biodiversity, using management designed for species that are our priority, that migrate between countries, and those that invade.
The Regional Environment Indicators endorsed by the Pacific island countries and territories within this theme monitor the status of priority Pacific species and address some of the major threats to native Pacific biodiversity.
Pacific islands have large numbers and high proportions of unique species, found only on one island or island group.
Climate change is recognised as a leading threat to Pacific communities, ecosystems, and species. From the global to local scale, response to climate change requires urgent action with committed support.
Pacific islands are experiencing the most immediate effects of climate change, despite historically low contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2019). Pacific islands now face expected annual losses of 0.3% to 6% of GDP or more directly due to natural disasters, such as flooding and cyclone damage, with increasing risks under climate change (IPCC 2019).
Unsustainable pressure on species and ecosystems can lower the resilience of those species and of the people served by Pacific ecosystems.
One of the brightest success stories is the Pacific and global commitments to stop the release of ozone-depleting substances. This work improved the health of our atmosphere and protected both humans and wildlife from the harmful effects of damage to the ozone layer.
The Regional Environment Indicators endorsed by the Pacific island countries and territories within this theme tackle both mitigation to control climate change and adaptation to build our resilience to handle change. A new way of measuring national readiness for adaptation is proposed with the Pacific Climate Change Preparedness Scorecard.
Energy use, built infrastructure, and waste from human activities are key drivers of the appearance and health of island, coastal, and ocean ecosystems. Pacific people value living alongside nature. Measuring, monitoring, and innovating to manage our energy, infrastructure, and discard-related needs can help sustain that close connection into the future.
The resilience of built infrastructure in the Pacific islands is increasingly prioritised in the face of climate change, natural disasters, and other pressures on sustainable societal systems. International agreements are essential to manage the transboundary effects of decisions about energy and material consumption.
The indicators within this theme address some of the major threats to Pacific ecosystems and services as well as the opportunities for independent, sustainable energy systems.
This regional report has been produced by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the regional organisation established by the Governments and Administrations of the Pacific charged with protecting and managing the environment and natural resources of the Pacific islands.
The Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT) was established in 1998 as a coalition of nature conservation and development organisations, governments, inter-governmental agencies, donor agencies, and community groups created to increase effective conservation action in the Pacific Islands Region.
PIRT is the key coordination mechanism for the implementation of the endorsed Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in the Pacific Islands region 2021–2025. The present SOEC report is a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the Framework.
Want to dig deeper? In November 2020, the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas
brought together leaders, technical experts, community representatives and decision-makers active in understanding and building relationships with nature in the region. Conference
tracks were arranged in accordance with the present SOEC report and the Framework.
Videos from all conference sessions are freely available on YouTube. Listen in and join the conversation!
Fourteen independent Pacific countries are represented in this assessment: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The seven territories and protectorates of American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Tokelau, and Wallis and Futuna are included in the assessments whenever data were available. Information was excluded when it was specific only to the entire metropolitan country partner, namely Australia, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom, or United States of America. Pitcairn Island is also included in many analyses, where data availability permitted.
For more about creating the State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report, download the full PDF here.
A growing number of knowledge portals, data libraries and programmatic or project-related collations of data, knowledge products and communication materials are available to support Pacific environmental management. The following non-exhaustive summary provides external links to the major resources used during the preparation of the State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands.
The information in this digital report comes from the State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report (SPREP 2020).
The SOEC 2020 examines the status and trends of 31 regional environment indicators in 22 island countries and territories, focusing on the period 2015–2020.
The information in the report presents the Pacific priorities for environmental management, data gaps and opportunities, and the ways in which Pacific environments and resources are changing. This regional view supports the development of sound policies, practices, and investments affecting Pacific island and ocean ecosystems as well as those who depend on them.