Pacific Islands

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Pacific Islands

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1. Pacific Islands

3. Physical Features Pacific Ocean = over 1/3 of the planet’s surface Not counting Papua New Guinea, the region comprises 21 island states, 200 high islands and 2500 low islands and atolls Four largest states (Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Vanuatu) account for most of the land mass Except for the Pitcairn group and the southern part of French Polynesia, all lie in the tropical zone

4. Cultural Sub-Regions Ethnically, culturally, and linguistically there are three sub regions: Melanasia: Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Caledonia Micronesia: Palau, FSM, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, and Kiribati Polynesia: Tuvalu, Tokelau, Samoas, Niue, Cook Islands, and French Polynesia

6. Melanesian Countries Western Pacific (Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Fiji) Large, mountainous and mainly volcanic islands. Considerable natural resources: fertile soils, large forests, and mineral deposits Rural and agricultural (about 85% of the people live in rural areas; 90% of Solomon Islanders are farmers) Cultural and social diversity. More than 100 dialects are spoken each in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu Ethnic conflicts (in Fiji there are major conflicts between Indian and Melanesian groups) Fast growing cities (7.3% in Vanuatu, 6.2% in the Solomon Islands)

7. Mid-sized Islands of Polynesia and Micronesia Mid-sized islands of Polynesia (Tonga, Samoas, French Polynesia) and Micronesia (Palau, FSM, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands) have limited land resources, little or no commercial forests, and no commercial mineral deposits Few tradable natural resources and virtually no manufacturing industry But…many of these islands enjoy a high standard of living from foreign assistance and remittances from expatriate island communities

8. Small, Low, Island States Small coral islands and atolls spread over vast areas of the ocean Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, FSM, Marshall Islands, Niue, and Nauru Land and soil poor 60,000 Marshall Islanders live on 181 sq km of land, giving each person only 0.3 hectares of land Natural resources are mostly limited to the ocean High urban area growth rate (e.g. Marshall Islands, 8.2% per year) The most vulnerable places on Earth to the adverse impacts of climate change and sea level rise. Elevation usually only 1-2 meters (Kiribati, Marshalls, Tokelau, and Tuvalu) Key problems: shore erosion, vulnerability to storms and droughts, fresh water scarcity, ground water pollution, solid waste disposal

9. All but one of the countries of the region (Tonga) were colonized by European nations during the 18th century Most Pacific countries became sovereign states in the last 40 years American Samoa US territory Cook Islands New Zealand-affiliated developing country Fiji Independent developing country French Polynesia French territory French Polynesia French territory Guam US territory Kiribati Independent developing country Marshall Islands US-affiliated developing country Micronesia US-affiliated developing country Nauru Independent developing country New Caledonia French territory

10. Niue New Zealand-affiliated developing country Northern Marianas Commonwealth of the US Palau US-affiliated developing country Pitcairn Islands Dependency of UK Samoa Independent developing country Solomon Islands Independent developing country Tokelau Dependency of New Zealand Tonga Independent developing country Tuvalu Independent developing country (world’s smallest independent nation) Vanuatu Independent developing country Wallis and Futuna French territory

11. Regional Cooperation The region has a strong history of “regionalism”, which derives from Many island states share common problems, which justify a collaborative search for common solutions Island states do not have the technical expertise or human resources to deal with global or regional issues and therefore have organized specialized bodies to address them (such as South Pacific Regional Environment Program, SPREP.. Mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation were established as part of island’s colonial history

12. Physical Characteristics Low arable land per person Poor soil on the small islands results in limited agricultural production and a greater dependence on marine products for food and income Coral reefs typically surround the islands either close to the shore (fringing reef) or further offshore (barrier reef) Mangrove forests often border the inshore waters, especially those of the larger islands, and provide habitat for the juveniles of many important food fish Marine and terrestrial biodiversity is greatest in the equatorial region in west of the Pacific Islands area

13. Coastal Resources Heavy reliance on living marine resources for subsistence and economic, social, and cultural well-being The economies of most atoll and small islands are based on marine resources. Coral reef ecosystems, mangroves, and lagoons provide habitat for commercial fish and shellfish species and protect the coastline from erosion,the force of waves and cyclones Fish and other marine resources provide a high percent (40%) of the total animal protein in the diet of Pacific Islanders (> 2X the worldwide average) Tourism, which is highly dependent on the quality of the coastal environment, provides the islands with an estimated $1 billion in revenues annually

14. Economic Characteristics People living in “territories” have better access to goods and services than people of the independent states Typically a big difference between urban and remote area lifestyle and standard of living Outer island communities are generally small, isolated and resource poor In terms of relative development, Solomons and Vanuatu are the poorest Economic growth rate is low in last 2 decades; population and urbanization growth rate are high High level of development assistance per capita and remittance income tend to mitigate the appearance of poverty

18. Population Pressures Population growth, combined with low economic growth rate and weak prices for agricultural commodities such as copra and taro, has intensified the commercial harvesting of coastal resources As more people migrate from island interiors and distant atolls to population centers, coastal pollution worsens Increasing urban population density results in spread of shantytowns and slums, and environmental degradation For example: 3/4 of all Tahitians live in the capital city of Papeete 95% of the population of American Samoa live and work on the main island of Tutuila, most in the capital of Pago Pago Small islands, with limited space and resources can least afford the damaging effects of crowded coasts

19. Productive Activities Agriculture and fishing are the main activities Agriculture employs more than 40% of the labor force: Melanesian states, FSM, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati Tourism is the fastest growing industry. Guam, Fiji, New Caledonia and French Polynesia are the major tourist destinations. Tourism is important in the economies of Palau and Cook Islands Virtually all countries produce and export copra and other coconut products. Decline in copra markets has seriously affected the economies of most outer islands and rural areas Timber is an important resource in large forested countries of Melanesia. Aggressive harvesting by mainly foreign companies has caused controversy in recent years

20. Commercial Fishing Exclusive economic zone is a major economic resource in the region Little large-scale commercial fishing from Pacific island states Some countries earn significant expert earning by selling fishing rights to their waters

21. Non-market/Subsistence Economy Subsistence culture: condition of well-being outside the cash economy and limited consumerism Non-monetary subsistence economy is still high: Solomon Islands (80%), Samoa (60%), FSM (at least 50%) Development of cash-economy opportunities is limited

22. Factors that Contribute Fertile soil and benevolent climate. Subsistence farming and fishing provide an efficient means of surviving Effective traditional resource management, land ownership, and social support systems that provide a safety net for disadvantaged members of society…and prevents anyone from suffering absolute poverty High level of development aid per capita and cash remittances by relatives living overseas

23. Subsistence Culture is Under Threat high rates of rural to urban migration (and emerging pockets of urban poverty) deterioration of traditional authority and social systems increasing dependency on the cash economy population growth unsustainable practices in natural resource use aid and remittances face an uncertain future as the countries that provide aid and the countries that accept Pacific Island immigrants change their policies

24. Environmental Problems Coastal and marine resources Global warming Biodiversity Freshwater resources Pollution Unsustainable agricultural practices Forestry

25. Coastal Resource Decline A growing realization in the 1990s that the physical environment of Pacific nations was fragile World Bank (1999) study surveyed 31 communities throughout the Pacific Islands region and found a common perception that coastal resources are declining, particularly as the result of overharvesting and pollution (sewage, fertilizers, silt and toxins) Other reasons include destructive fishing practices, use of poisons, and global warming

26. Level of Threats to Coral Reefs

27. Biodiversity The plants and animals of the Pacific island are often found nowhere else on Earth New Caledonia has been isolated from other lands for 80 million years. 76% of the flora and fauna evolved on the island Worldwide, the largest number of documented extinctions has occurred on islands of the Pacific The decline of biodiversity of the Pacific island began with the arrival of the first humans…but, the arrival of European settlers greatly accelerated the loss of biodiversity Agriculture, logging, hunting, population growth, habitat change and introduction of exotic species are main causes of loss Marine biodiversity is threatened by pollution, overexploitation, global warming and destructive fishing practices

28. Pacific and South-East Asia Coral Distribution

29. Management Actions Conservation areas -- planned and managed by local communities with government agencies and NGOs Endangered species protection strategies (e.g. sea turtles) Land use planning Control of agriculture and forestry development Community-based resource management Education and public awareness Promote enterprises that are linked to biodiversity…e.g. eco-tourism, handicrafts, whale watching, butterfly ranching International assistance (e.g. $10 million SPREP grant for biodiversity conservation from GEF)

30. Climate Change Sea level rise caused by elevated sea temperatures. In most Pacific islands, the people, agricultural land, tourist resorts and infrastructure are concentrated in the coastal zones and are especially vulnerable to any rise in sea level Coral bleaching caused by global warming and elevated sea temperatures El Nino is thought to be associated with global warming. El Nino brings increased risk of tropical cyclones Shifts in rainfall patterns from climate change causes droughts in some regions and excessive rainfall/flooding in others. Recent severe droughts in Marshall Islands, FSM, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati and Fiji.

31. Responses Small island developing states banded together into an Alliance of Small Island States during the 1990 World Climate Conference An active and united forum arguing for industrialized countries to pay damages to small island states and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases immediately Assess vulnerability to climate change Develop adaptation options Continue to lobby industrialized nations to take action

32. Freshwater Resources Water shortages and contamination problems are critical in smaller Pacific islands, and on the leeward side of large high islands Population growth, tourism, and agriculture elevate water use to unsustainable levels Many Pacific island fresh water streams are contaminated by silt and sewage Groundwater supplies, especially in islands with porous limestone aquifers, are endangered by sewage and agricultural chemical pollution Water treatment systems are not maintained. It is seldom safe to drink water from urban systems

33. Pollution Serious problems with disposal of raw sewage, domestic wastes, non-biodegradable wastes, and toxic chemicals Few working sewage treatment plants Most sewage and municipal wastes end up in shallow lagoons or shallow coastal waters The coastlines around nearly every urban center in the Pacific are clogged with untreated sewage, municipal wastes and household garbage Few landfills. Unregulated dumping of solid wastes and synthetic chemicals is a common problem Hazardous chemicals and nutrient pollution find their way into the marine environment and damage wetlands, mangrove forests, sea grass beds and coral reefs

34. Agricultural Practices Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation in the Pacific islands Poor practices result in topsoil erosion from both rain and wind (in drought conditions), loss of biodiversity, pesticide and nutrient runoff Some 60 percent of the South Pacific’s islands suffer from soil degradation Fiji has destroyed over 4,000 hectares of mangrove forests for the expansion of agricultural land (mostly sugar cane) In Ponopei, forests are converted to grow Sakau

35. Forestry The big Melanesian island have extensive tropical rainforests: Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu In the Solomon Islands, commercial licenses have been granted to harvest up to 97% of the existing rainforests. It provides a large part of the nation’s foreign exchange needed to pay for imports (fuel, machinery, vehicles and electronics) Commercial logging results in erosion, soil degradation, and loss of biodiversity Siltation of streams and runoff smothers coral reefs

36. Environmental Problems and Causes Environmental Concerns Coastal erosion Coral reef damage Declining fish stocks Deforestation and biodiversity loss Land erosion and siltation from poor land use practice Eutrophication Solid waste disposal and management in urban areas Freshwater scarcity and degradation Sea level rise Natural disasters Invasion of exotic species Pressures and Challenges Urbanization Population density and growth rate Rapid tourism growth Destructive fishing practices Sand and gravel mining Coral harvesting Over-fishing Commercial logging Low awareness of resource decline Weak institutional coordination Poverty Unemployment

37. Case Study: American Samoa American Samoa is caught in a whirl of environmental change -- population is growing while natural resources are declining Coral reefs have been severely damaged by natural disasters and human impacts Major infestation of Crown of Thorns starfish in the late 1970’s Devastating hurricanes in 1990 and 1991 In 1994, coral bleaching from elevated sea temperatures killed over 80% of the living corals to a depth of 10 meters and fishing catches declined drastically in the wake of the coral death Live coral coverage has dropped from about 60% to 10% Fish numbers have dropped 75%

39. Pollution Sedimentation. After every heavy rainfall, chocolate colored plumes of sediment are flushed out of the streams and onto the coral reefs Eutrophication. Only about 10% of the homes in American Samoa are hooked to a sewer line. Abundance of algae in near shore waters indicates nutrient enrichment. Overgrown algae kills coral Pollution. Recent surveys find near shore fish contaminated with toxic substances, such as heavy metals

40. Overfishing Over fishing. Some highly prized resources such as giant clams have been over harvested. One species is locally extinct and the other two are scarce

41. Causes-Effect Relationships American Samoa reef decline illustrates how human-induced and natural stresses combine to adversely impact the marine ecosystem Impacts are additive…hurricanes have been hitting the island for millions of years, but... Corals ability to survive natural stresses might be weakened by the incremental impacts of sediment loading, pollution and overgrown algae Only one sure conclusion…need to treat the coral reefs with greater care and respect

42. Constraints to Environmental Protection in the Pacific Limited money, people, and expertise in public agencies Weak interagency cooperation…makes it difficult to carry out the integrated efforts needed to manage island environments Lack of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) devoted to conservation Difficulty communicating between countries Low awareness in government that natural resources are declining to critical levels and that management is necessary for their recovery Break-down of traditional culture and resource management

43. Environmental Principles Recognition of the limits to growth and acceptance of a conservation ethic Recognition of the wisdom of restraint; some natural resources will be more valuable in the future Recognition that for management to be successful it must be socially acceptable…work with and do not ignore traditional systems of resource management Recognize that island ecosystems differ from temperate ecosystems. The multi-species nature of tropical fisheries demands more cumbersome regulations and correspondingly more enforcement than systems in temperate waters Recognize that rapid population growth overtaxes the natural resources of Pacific islands, making resource management increasingly difficult

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