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Pacific Islands


Pacific and South-East Asia Coral Distribution. Tropic of Capricorn to the ... Some 60 percent of the South Pacific's islands suffer from soil degradation ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Pacific Islands

Pacific Islands
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Physical Features
  • Pacific Ocean over 1/3 of the planets 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

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

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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
  • Cultural and social diversity. More than 100
    dialects are spoken each in Solomon Islands and
  • 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)

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

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
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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

  • 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
    (worlds smallest independent nation)
  • Vanuatu Independent developing country
  • Wallis and Futuna French territory

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
  • 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 islands colonial history

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
    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

Coastal Resources
  • Heavy reliance on living marine resources for
    subsistence and economic, social, and cultural
  • 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
  • Fish and other marine resources provide a high
    percent (40) of the total animal protein in the
    diet of Pacific Islanders (gt 2X the worldwide
  • Tourism, which is highly dependent on the quality
    of the coastal environment, provides the islands
    with an estimated 1 billion in revenues annually

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

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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
  • 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

Productive Activities
  • Agriculture and fishing are the main activities
  • Agriculture employs more than 40 of the labor
    force Melanesian states, FSM, Tonga, Samoa,
  • 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

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

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
  • Development of cash-economy opportunities is

Factors that Contribute
  • Fertile soil and benevolent climate.
    Subsistence farming and fishing
    provide an efficient means of
  • 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

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

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

Coastal Resource Decline
  • A growing realization in the 1990s that the
    physical environment of Pacific nations was
  • 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

Level of Threats to Coral Reefs
  • 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
  • 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

Pacific and South-East Asia Coral Distribution
  • Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer
  • Indo-Pacific reefs Greatest Species Diversity

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)

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.

  • Small island developing states banded together
    into an Alliance of Small Island States during
    the 1990 World Climate Conference
  • http//
  • 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

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

  • 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
  • Hazardous chemicals and nutrient pollution find
    their way into the marine environment and damage
    wetlands, mangrove forests, sea grass beds and
    coral reefs

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 Pacifics 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

  • 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
    nations foreign exchange needed to pay for
    imports (fuel, machinery, vehicles and
  • Commercial logging results in erosion, soil
    degradation, and loss of biodiversity
  • Siltation of streams and runoff smothers
    coral reefs

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
  • Eutrophication
  • Solid waste disposal and management in urban
  • 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

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
  • Major infestation of Crown of Thorns starfish in
    the late 1970s
  • 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
  • Live coral coverage has dropped from
    about 60 to 10
  • Fish numbers have dropped 75

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  • 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

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

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

Constraints to Environmental Protection in the
  • Limited money, people, and expertise in public
  • 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

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
  • 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