This theme focusses on Pacific islands ecosystems and the increasing pressure and threats posed to them, from human-created origins.  Some threats are of local origin, but external pressures from outside the Pacific are also significant.

Internal pressures related to past or current practices within the Pacific islands include deforestation, fires, urbanisation, destruction of natural environment for construction and development, unsustainable local use of certain species, various forms of pollution linked to waste management.  The threats vary from country to country.

External pressures come from outside the Pacific and are constantly increasing.  These include invasive introduced species, over exploitation of nature and mining resources, pollution, tourism and the effects of climate change.   Island environments are particularly vulnerable to external pressures.

This is a large thematic to be covered at the Conference.  A diverse range of threats will be covered at the conference including invasive alien species, waste pollution, development and extractive industries, and the cross-cutting issues of climate change.

Invasive Alien Species

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are the key driver of terrestrial biodiversity loss in the Pacific. Managing invasive species is a key strategy to safeguard genetic diversity and ecosystems, and the provision of ecosystem services. Successful management of invasive species is also key to enhancing the resilience of island ecosystems and communities to climate change.

The conference will look at the threats posed by invasive species to the livelihoods and environments of Pacific Island Countries and Territories. It will investigate the challenges of managing IAS and discuss emerging solutions that are being implemented in the region.

Regional tracking of invasive species management has identified major gaps in the scope and quantity of management action required to address this key issue. Contributing to this gap is the lack of ongoing resourcing and the coordination of the diverse scope of knowledge, skills and support required. These factors are essential to maintain consistent and comprehensive invasive species programmes locally, nationally and regionally. The IAS topic will outline these gaps and the innovative solutions currently being applied or in development, including biosecurity, biocontrol, eradication and the potential of new technologies. The role of the new Pacific Regional Invasive Species Management Support Service (PRISMSS) in helping to develop and coordinate regional invasive species management programs will be highlighted.

There have been some great success stories in the Pacific with local communities, government agencies, local and international non-government organisations, inter-governmental organisations and donors working together. National, regional and international networks have been core to these successes. The Theme will explore how these networks, including the Pacific Invasives Partnership (PIP) and Pacific Invasives Learning Network (PILN), are working to tackle common problems locally, regionally and globally.

The IAS Theme will seek answers to major challenges for the Pacific including how can we increase the scope and quantity of invasive species management in the Pacific? How can we increase the resources, coordination, knowledge, skills and support available? And how can we better demonstrate the intimate relationship between invasive species, sustainable development, and climate change resilience?

Waste pollution

There are multiple impacts of poorly managed waste on nature. Habitats are polluted and contaminated by leakage on land and at sea, and lost to make way for waste facilities; wildlife health and survival are adversely affected by entanglement and ingestion of waste items, including bioaccumulation of toxins up the food chain; and ecosystems and populations are threatened by invasive species and diseases introduced or nurtured by poorly disposed of waste (e.g. food source, habitat or raft). The effects of climate change (e.g. sea level rise, storm surges and more intense cyclones) can exacerbate these effects, while well managed waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The complexity of issue and associated costs for good waste management is a challenge for the region. The cost of the plastic pollution on the ocean alone has been estimated by the United Nation Environment Programme to be US$8B per year. Being net importers of commodities, Pacific islands not only deal with current volumes of a diverse range of waste items, they also deal with stockpiles. Superimposed on this, is the incoming volume of ‘foreign’ plastic waste polluting coastlines that sustain fisheries, coral reefs, bird and turtle nesting sites and reduce the aesthetic values important for tourism and cultural practices. The Governments of Pacific Island Countries and Territories, in partnership with the private sector, civil society, donors and community, have adopted an integrated waste management approach to addressing the issue of waste, with a focus on the top end of the waste management hierarchy: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.  

In this topic, we will demonstrate good practice and innovative solutions to waste management, along with lessons learned; demonstrate the scale of the problem and impact on nature for different waste streams; and offer novel ways to collect data at a range of scales (local to regional).

Key questions include What is the impact of waste pollution on nature (local, province, country, regional scale)? What are predictions for the movement of ocean plastics in relation to protected areas, sanctuaries, bird and turtle nesting sites? What practices embrace whole-of-sector engagement in waste management? And innovative solutions to waste management that suits the Pacific reality.

Climate change

The profound impact and pressures of climate change on vulnerable Pacific island ecosystems can be minimised by implementing ecosystem-based approaches to adapt to climate change, applying traditional knowledge to quantify and measure the impacts of a changing climate and variability and  sustain biodiversity with the provision for ecosystem services that supports livelihood and sustainable development. Climate change is a threat multiplier to many of these common  problems, for example invasive species thrive in post-cyclone habitats, while increased sea surface temperature exacerbate already stressed coral reef ecosystems. Traditional knowledge has the potential to address environmental challenges faced globally, regionally and nationally. In the Pacific, where we can combine science with local eco-friendly technology, materials and alternatives to build resilience. Traditional knowledge can bring across expertise, techniques and solutions that have been tested over time and has the capability to resolve many of the common problems faced in the region.

Links

Manage threats to biodiversity, especially invasive species and degradation -  Objective 5 -Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in the Pacific Islands 2014-2020

Aichi Biodiversity Target 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,14,18 - Convention on Biological Diversity