The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Invasive Species Programme stands ready with systems in place to support Pacific communities manage and prevent the scourge of invasive species.
This was the message from the Secretariat to Pacific countries, delivered during the first Pacific Ecological Security Conference on regional biosecurity being held in Palau, from 3-7 October 2022. The meeting brought together Pacific leaders, development partners, regional organisations, agricultural/food security and natural resource managers, and the media to discuss the importance of addressing the spread of invasive species in Pacific Island environments.
The aim was to create three Strategic Action Plans on Invasive Ants, Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, and Bio-control Technology. Within these three areas, SPREPs Invasive Species Programme focuses on invasive ants through the PRISMSS Protect Our Islands Programme and Bio-control Technology through PRISMSS Natural Enemies – Natural Solutions Programme, which targets the management of widespread weeds.
Pacific ecosystems are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with a large number of species found only in the Pacific and nowhere else. The Pacific faces some of the highest extinction rates in the world. There are over 12,000 species of ants and many species have been introduced to the Pacific. Of the 18 species which may cause problems, five species cause serious problems and three of these are life changing. There have been 725 IUCN RED List species identified across the Pacific which are susceptible to impacts from invasive ants. In addition to biodiversity impacts there are considerable economic costs.
SPREP’s Director General, Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, addressed the conference on the first day. His presentation was preceded by two videos, one titled “Restoring Island Resilience: Why is managing invasive species a key climate adaptation approach for the Pacific?” and “PRISMSS: Building Capacity to Restore Island Resilience.”
“As a region, and with the assistance of donors we are aiming for concrete on-the-ground achievements in invasive species management. We aim to do this by supporting the institutionalisation of invasive species management teams and practitioners in-country, such as here in Niue where the team is managing a broad invasive species programme to protect the environment, livelihoods and increase resilience,” Mr Nawadra told the meeting.
During the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, SPREP committed to the Invasive Species Honolulu Challenge.
“Reflecting on this commitment recently I am pleased to say that we were successful in meeting our challenge. We have increased the volume of operational multi-country projects four-fold. We improved regional invasive species information and knowledge management. And we developed the Pacific Regional Invasive Species Support Service (PRISMSS), as requested by members at the twenty fourth SPREP Meeting in 2013, to strengthen SPREP’s regional support infrastructure through greater technical support and advice.”
The Director General also highlighted EDF11 OCT PROTEGE (11th European Development Fund European - EDF11 Pacific Overseas Countries and Territories - OCT Pacific Territories Regional Project for Sustainable Ecosystem Management - PROTEGE) project invasive species component, which aims to better manage invasive species in the French Territories and Pitcairn Island. This is funded by the European Union.
Another key part SPREP’s systems to support Pacific members is the Global Environment Facility (GEF) 6 Regional Invasive Project, which aims to strengthen national and regional capacities to reduce the impact of invasive alien species on globally significant biodiversity in the Pacific. This is funded by the GEF and is implemented by The UN Environment Programme.
But there is a lot more work to be done. Part of that work includes the establishment of local contextual data to support global science, with Pacific PhD students focused on ecosystem recovery, enhanced distribution of weeds through cyclonic events, and focusing on the invasive species-human relationship to improve management. This is supported by New Zealand and the University of Newcastle, Australia.
“Looking forward we have pledged to support the Island-Ocean Connection Challenge, again committing with PRISMSS partners to further expand the support the financing and capacity building of our Pacific Members in the planning and implementation of several PRISMSS Programmes,” Mr Nawadra said. “We have pledged to support the removal of predators from a further 40 Pacific islands through the PRISMSS Predator Free Pacific Programme.
“In 2023 rodents will be removed from Late island, within the Vava'u Island Group of Tonga with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the David Lucile Packard Foundation through its support of the Island-Ocean Connection Change.
“With funding support from New Zealand we are investigating removing rodents from inhabited islands such as Apolima Island in Samoa, and the whole territory of Tokelau. GEF funding is supporting a similar initiative for the Pacific country of Niue.”
SPREP has also pledged to support the development of seven new PRISMSS Natural Enemies-Natural Solutions national programmes to reduce the impacts of widespread weeds and to assist member countries to restore 30 priority ecological sites through the PRISMSS Resilient Ecosystems – Resilient Communities Programme.
“SPREP and our partners will continue to provide support to the five PRISMSS programmes as resources allow. We welcome and are seeking significant resourcing from donors to facilitate this.”
The first Pacific Ecological Security Conference on regional biosecurity was hosted by the Government of Palau, the Pacific Community, The Nature Conservancy, and the East-West Center. For further information on this please visit: https://www.pacificrisa.org/pesc/