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Five-Year Investment Successfully Conserves Biodiversity in Polynesia-Micronesia

This week the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and its stakeholders will look back on the programme’s past five years of conservation investment to share outcomes and assess the future plan for the region’s biodiversity conservation.

The crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) is one of 67 globally threatened species targeted by CEPF for protection in the Polynesia-Mircronesia biodiversity hotspot, © William CrosseSuva, Fiji (April 15, 2013) – Five years of conservation work in the Polynesia-Micronesia biodiversity hotspot will be examined this week, beginning today,  at an evaluation workshop in Suva. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) has invested US $7 million to help preserve the region’s threatened ecosystems. This has supported more than 90 projects in 13 countries. 

Leilani Duffy-Iosefa, Regional Implementation Team Manager for Conservation International, said, “Reviewing the past five years of the Polynesia-Micronesia program has highlighted how the CEPF grants for this region have delivered a number of success stories.  We have averted the imminent extinction of a bird in French Polynesia, we have developed effective community-based projects for the benefit of both wildlife and people, and we have removed invasive alien species from a number of islands giving native wildlife a much greater chance of survival.” 

In his opening remarks at the workshop today, Mr Saverio Baleikanacea, Fiji’s Acting Permanent Secretary Ministry for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment said, “Here in Fiji our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan highlights six main areas of work to focus on to benefit the environment.  I am encouraged that the various projects undertaken by NGOs here in Fiji, and funded through CEPF, have contributed to each of these six areas.”  

The six main areas of work are: generating community support, awareness, involvement and ownership, improving knowledge of Fiji’s ecosystems and their biodiversity, developing protected areas, species conservation, control of invasive species, and capacity building and strengthening. 

Baleikanacea remarked on the particular success of this investment towards improving knowledge of Fiji’s ecosystems and their biodiversity, and improved invasive species management. He highlighted the research carried out on land snails, butterflies and dragonflies, the biodiversity assessment of the Southern Lau Islands and the invasive species management of the American iguana. Baleikanacea said, ‘The immediate benefits of these projects are apparent, but I would anticipate that they will continue to impact on our biodiversity for many years to come.’

The natural assets of the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot are among the most threatened in the world, with less than a quarter of the original vegetation remaining intact. About three-quarters of all endangered species in the region are threatened by invasive animal and plant species. There have been more recorded bird extinctions in this hotspot than in anywhere else globally. Also, climate change is a predicted threat to species and people on the low-lying islands and atolls here, some of which could disappear completely due to resulting sea level rise. The preservation and conservation of the region’s natural assets is vital to essential industries such as agriculture and tourism and overall essential to human wellbeing.

John Watkin, Grant Director for CEPF said, “Socioeconomic changes and population growth in the region have put more pressure on these natural systems, due to increased dependence on cash-crop production, increased deforestation, over-harvesting of resources and the use of destructive harvesting techniques. These practices have significantly reduced and degraded existing habitats.” 

Today’s workshop brings together all of the grantees and stakeholders  to assess the gains made with CEPF support in the region and how this investment will be integrated into wider biodiversity conservation efforts in the Pacific region. Grantees will share experiences and lessons learned from their various projects and directly discuss with the donors how this investment has made a difference in the region and on the ground in their communities. 

Don Stewart, Director BirdLife International Pacific Partnership said ‘’Governments, NGOs, communities and individuals all have a part to play in the protection, and indeed, improvement of our environment.  This CEPF programme has shown what can be achieved.  It is important that we do not let this opportunity disappear.’’

The CEPF Final Evaluation Conference for the Polynesia‐Micronesia Hotspot is being held from the 15-18th April in Suva, Fiji. CEPF is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.  A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.

Example CEPF project successes: 

In Fiji, a partnership between the National Trust of Fiji, the Pacific Invasives Initiative, BirdLife International and the local community eradicated goats and rats on Monuriki in the Mamanucas.  This will provide a safe island haven for the Critically Endangered Fiji Crested Iguana and insurance in case anything should go wrong with the main, healthy, population on Yadua Taba – as well as provide a secure nesting ground for seabirds.  Currently the partnership is undertaking active restoration, monitoring the spread of weeds and considering how to attract other breeding seabirds to the island.  There are plans to employ a local full time ranger to provide interpretation for the tourists to the island, and to investigate further sustainable livelihood opportunities with the community.

In Kiribati, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), is the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage site and is recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by Conservation International due to its exceptionally high diversity and abundance of marine and terrestrial biota. It features important bird areas (IBAs), recognized by BirdLife International, and includes globally important seabird colonies, such as the Endangered Phoenix petrel and white-throated storm-petrel, which are largely confined to Rawaki.  CEPF has supported the successful removal of terrestrial invasive species, including rats, cats and rabbits, from two islands, Rawaki and McKean. CEPF has also helped improve biosecurity measures to monitor vessels in these waters. The CEPF grant further strengthened the protection of the natural habitats for these globally significant seabird colonies and the World Heritage Site.

In Kayangel Atoll, Palau, an eradication operation has successfully removed two species of rat and cats. This has protected Palau’s local population of the globally threatened Micronesian megapode. The eradication has also enabled the community to grow traditional crops and a variety of other fruits and vegetables that were previously destroyed by rats. These livelihoods and Kayangel’s biodiversity are now protected by the establishment of community-based biosecurity measures. The success of this project has helped to create the Kayangel Protected Areas Network, much of which was designated under Palauan law in March of last year. 

In French Polynesia the Fatu Hiva Monarch, a bird restricted to a single island in the Marquesas, declined from a healthy population in 1990 down to 274 birds in 2006 and just 3-4 active breeding pairs in 2010 following the accidental introduction of Ship rats in the 1990s.  This bird would have been effectively extinct within 3-5 years.  CEPF funding enabled the local NGO to work, together with the local community, to create a rat- and cat-free area within which birds were able to successfully breed.  It is still early days but the outlook now is much more optimistic than at the start of the CEPF-funded project.
 

The Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot:

The Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot includes all the islands of Micronesia, tropical Polynesia, and Fiji. Included in this enormous expanse of ocean are more than 4,500 islands, representing 11 countries, eight territories and one U.S. state (Hawaii). Despite its large marine coverage, which is four times larger than the United States, it is one of the smallest hotspots in terms of terrestrial land area, covering only 46,315 square kilometers – an area about the size of Switzerland. 

CEPF Funding in the region was focussed on initiatives in the Cook Islands, Easter Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, and Wallis & Futuna.  The CEPF investment in the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot is administered by Conservation International. 

The largest investment was made in Fiji, where a total of US $1.5 million in grants has been awarded to various non-governmental organizations. Regional projects covering two or more countries received the second largest portion of the CEPF investment, at US $1.4 million, and Samoa was the recipient of the third largest amount of grant funding, with a total of US $656,000. 

In Polynesia-Micronesia, CEPF aims to catalyze society into action to counter threats to biodiversity in key biodiversity areas. The partnership also works to strengthen the conservation status and management of 60 key biodiversity areas, and build awareness and essential participation among the local leaders and community to ensure that these initiatives are supported and continued by the people of the region.

The geographic complexity and isolated nature of the Pacific Islands has led to the development of extremely high levels of endemism in this hotspot. The extreme vulnerability of island ecosystems and species to impacts such as habitat destruction and invasive species has resulted in the flora and fauna of this hotspot being amongst the most endangered in the world. In fact, species extinction rates in this hotspot approach the highest in the world, especially for birds and land snails. Overall the hotspot is home to over  5,000 native vascular plant species, over 240 native bird species, over 60 native terrestrial reptiles, and 15 native mammals, all bats. Land snail diversity is particularly high, with more than 750 species in Hawaii alone, and perhaps 4,000 species in the insular tropical Pacific. On average, more than half of these species are endemic to this hotspot. 

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Photographs and Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot Map available at: http://goo.gl/tnVmJ  


For more information, contact:
Emmeline Johansen, Regional Communications Manager, Asia Pacific Field Division, Conservation International | Mobile +64 4 277 793 401 | Email ejohansen.conservation@gmail.com 

Note to editors:

About Conservation International (CI) – Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature and its global biodiversity to promote the long-term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25th anniversary in 2012, CI is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area. CI employs 900 staff in nearly 30 countries on four continents and works with more than 1,000 partners around the world. For more information, please see www.conservation.org or visit our Human Nature blog, Facebook and Twitter.

About the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund - The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund unites seven global leaders who are committed to enabling nongovernmental and private sector organizations to help protect vital ecosystems.  These are the l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. For more information, please see www.cepf.net​

About BirdLife International (BI) - BI is a global partnership of non-government conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.  It is the world's largest partnership non-government of conservation organisations, with over 100 partners including, in the Pacific region, Birdlife Australia, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, the Palau Conservation Society, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie, Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie and Te Ipukerea Society. The Partnership is the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting bird life.
The crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) is one of 67 globally threatened species targeted by CEPF for protection in the Polynesia-Mircronesia biodiversity hotspot, © William Crosse