Polynesia-micronesia biodiversity hotspot final draft for submission to the cepf donor council



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CONSERVATION OUTCOMES  
This ecosystem profile includes a commitment and emphasis to achieve concrete 
conservation outcomes. To do this requires defining the set of quantifiable, justifiable 
targets that need to be achieved to prevent biodiversity loss. 
 
Conservation outcomes can be defined at three scales – species, site, and landscape – 
reflecting a simplification of a complex hierarchical continuum of ecological scales. The 
three scales interlock geographically through the presence of species in sites and of sites 
in landscapes. They are also logically connected. If species are to be conserved, the sites 
on which they live must be protected and the landscapes or seascapes must continue to 
sustain the ecological services on which the sites and the species depend. As conservation 
in the field succeeds in achieving these targets, they become demonstrable results or 
outcomes: “Extinctions Avoided” (species level), “Areas Protected” (site level), and 
“Corridors Consolidated” (landscape level).  
 
While CEPF cannot achieve all of the outcomes identified for a region on its own, the 
partnership is trying to ensure that its conservation investments are working toward 
preventing biodiversity loss and that its success can be monitored and measured. 
Therefore, the targets (hereafter “outcomes”), are the scientific underpinning for CEPF’s 
geographic and thematic focus for investment in Polynesia and Micronesia. In the context 
of the archipelagic Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot, only species and site outcomes have 
been defined since landscape-scale outcomes are not considered appropriate.  
 
Species Outcomes 
Defining conservation outcomes is a bottom-up process with a definition of species-level 
targets first, from which the definition of site-level targets is based. The process requires 
detailed knowledge of the conservation status of individual species. Although this 
information has been accumulating in global Red Lists produced by IUCN-The World 
Conservation Union and partners for more than 40 years, our knowledge of the 
population status of most threatened species is still very deficient. This is especially true 
in the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot, where surveys and research on rare species are very 
limited.  
 
The Red Lists are based on quantitative criteria under which the probability of extinction 
is estimated for each species. Species classified as “threatened” on the Red List have a 
high probability of extinction in the medium term future. These include the three IUCN 
categories Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU). Defining 
outcomes is a fluid process and, as data become available, species-level outcomes will be 
expanded to include other taxonomic groups that previously had not been assessed, as 
well as restricted-range species. Avoiding extinctions means conserving globally 
threatened species to make sure that their Red List status improves or at least stabilizes. 
This in turn means that data are needed on population trends; for most of the threatened 
species, there are no such data. 
 
The sheer size and scale of the hotspot and the large number of countries included in it 
meant that the volume of data gathered for defining outcomes was immense. A 

 
20
 
 
comprehensive database was developed to assist this process. Data sources included 
published scientific papers, species recovery plans, NBSAP reports, field guides, and 
personal communications with many scientists. Key data sources for birds were the 
Threatened Birds of the World (BirdLife 2000) and Endemic Bird Areas of the World 
(Stattersfield et al 1998). Data on plant distributions was drawn from volumes 1-5 of 
Flora Vitiensis Nova by A.C. Smith (1979 to 1995), and volumes 2-5 of Pacific Plant 
Areas (Van Balgooy 1966-1993), for amphibians from the Global Amphibian Assessment 
(Frost 2002) and for mammals from Mammals of the South West Pacific and Moluccan 
Islands (Flannery 1995). 
 
Species outcomes in the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot include all those species that are 
globally threatened according to the IUCN Red List (2003) at the time the outcomes were 
defined in the profiling process. At present, there are 476 globally threatened terrestrial 
species in all the countries and territories of the hotspot. Table 4 summarizes the 
taxonomic breakdown of the 476 threatened species in the hotspot while the full list of 
threatened species is shown in Appendix 1. Table 5 shows the geographic distribution of 
threatened species by political unit, while Figure 2 is a map of this information.  
 
Almost half (232 out of 476) of the threatened species in the hotspot are in political units 
that are ineligible for CEPF funding. The vast majority of the species in ineligible 
countries (214 species and almost half of all threatened species in the hotspot) are in 
Hawaii alone. The remaining 244 species in CEPF eligible countries define the full set of 
species outcomes for this ecosystem profile. Species outcomes for the eligible portion of 
the hotspot (of the 244 species) include 129 plants, 42 molluscs, 58 birds, eight 
mammals, six reptiles and one amphibian. Of the 244 species, 92 are Critically 
Endangered, 48 are Endangered and 104 are Vulnerable. Absent from the list are fish and 
invertebrates, other than molluscs. This is likely because of the lack of an assessment of 
the conservation status of these taxa for inclusion in the Red List at the time.  
 
Eighty percent of globally threatened species in eligible countries (192 out of the 244 
species) are in Fiji and French Polynesia alone. The statistics imply that these two 
countries should be a major focus of conservation effort in the hotspot. However, it is 
likely that these figures are also a reflection of the amount of research effort that has been 
conducted in each country. Fiji and French Polynesia, being two of the wealthier 
countries in the hotspot, are where much of the research effort has been focused. It is 
clear that much more research is required in the less-studied countries of the hotspot to 
provide a more accurate representation of the distribution of threatened species 
throughout the hotspot. 
 
It must be stressed therefore that there are significant deficiencies in the Red List for the 
hotspot with respect to both the taxonomic representation and the geographic distribution 
of Red Listed species. The taxonomic deficiencies are especially serious with respect to 
invertebrates, fish, and plants, while the geographic deficiency is especially true for the 
smaller, less wealthy countries of the hotspot. Appendix 2 includes a list of provisional 
species outcomes, which local and regional experts suspect are globally threatened. These 
species are in urgent need of assessment of population and threat status. If they are 

 
21
 
 
reassessed as globally threatened during the five-year investment period, they could 
become species-level targets and therefore potentially eligible for CEPF investment. 
 
Table 4. Summary of Species Outcomes (Globally Threatened Species) in the Polynesia-
Micronesia Hotspot and Those Only in Countries Eligible for CEPF Funding 
 
Total Number of Globally Threatened 
Terrestrial Species in the Hotspot 
Number of Globally Threatened 
Terrestrial Species in Countries 
Eligible  for CEPF Funding 
Taxonomic 
Group 
Vulnerable 
Endang
ered 
Critically 
Endang
ered 
Total 
% of kn
own 
native 
spe
c
ie
s t
hat
 
are 
threaten
ed

No. of kno
w

ex
tinc
tions
 in 
the past 20

yea
rs 
Vulnerable 
Endang
ered 
Critically 
Endang
ered 
Total 
Plants 
94 59  90  243 
4% 
24 
61 19  49  129 
Molluscs 
7 31  68 106 
~90%

134 7 
8  27 42 
Birds 
50 25  21  96 
38% 
35 
33 16  9 
58 
Arthropods  13 
2 0 
15 

39  0 
0 0 
Mammals 
2 3  4  9 
56% 

2 2  4  
Reptiles 
1 2  3  6 
9% 

1 2  3  
Amphibians  0 1  0  1 
33% 

0 1  0  
Totals 
167 123  186  476 


104 48 
92 
244 
Source:  IUCN Red List 2003. 
1. Calculated from data presented in Table 2. 
 
2. Estimate provided by Dr Robert Cowie (pers.comm., 2004)
 
 
 

 
22
 
 
  Figure 2. Distribution of Globally Threatened Terrestrial Species in the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot 

 
23
 
 
Table 5. Summary of Threatened Terrestrial Species in Political Units of the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot 
 
Threatened Terrestrial Species per Political Unit  
 
Taxonomic 
Group 
A
m
erci
ca

Samoa 
Coo
k
 isl
and

Eas
ter 
Island

FSM 
Fiji islands 
Fren
ch 
Pol
y
ne
sia 
Guam 
Ha
waii 
Kiribati 
Marshall 
islands 
Nau
ru 
Niue 
N. Maria
na 
islands 
Palau 
Pitc
airn 
islands 
Samoa 
Tokel
au 
Tonga 
Tuval
u
 
Walli
s & 
Futuna 
US Minor 
islands 
CEPF 
eligible 
specie
s
 
Plants 
1 1 0 5 66 
47 
3 113 
0 0 0 1 4 3 7 2 0 3 0 1 0 129 
Molluscs 
5 0 0 3 0 29 
5 54 
0 0 0 0 2 3 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 42 
Birds 
4 7 2 5 13 
24 
5 30 
4 1 2 1 8 2 7 8 1 3 1 1 1 58 
Arthropods 
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 15 
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 
Mammals 
2 0 0 5 4 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 8 
Reptiles 
2 2 0 2 6 2 2 1 2 2 0 1 2 2 0 2 2 3 2 0 2 6 
Amphibians 
0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 
Totals* 
14 10 2  20 90 102 
17 214 
6  3  2  3  17 12 19 16 3  10 3  2  3  244 
* Totals do not always add up because some species are found in more than one country. 

 
24
 
 
Site Outcomes 
Recognizing that most species are best conserved through the protection of the sites in 
which they occur, key biodiversity areas are defined as targets for achieving site-level 
conservation outcomes. Key biodiversity areas are physically and/or socioeconomically 
discrete areas of land that harbor species of global conservation concern including 
globally threatened species, but also of restricted-range species and globally significant 
congregations. Sites are scale-independent, in other words they can be small or large, but 
a major criterion for their selection is that they should be, as far as possible, manageable 
as a single unit (i.e. a unit with a single type of land tenure). These sites need careful 
management to conserve the species for which they were defined. The process of 
defining key biodiversity areas can only be done when accurate and comprehensive data 
are available on the distribution of threatened species across sites.  
 
When appropriate data were available, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) tools 
were used to map and analyze species distributions. Such maps were useful for the 
identification of site outcomes, or key biodiversity areas. Digital datasets were obtained 
for the following taxonomic groups: birds (from BirdLife 2000), amphibians (from the 
Global Amphibian Assessment- Frost 2002) and corals (from Veron 1986). However, 
detailed species distribution maps have only been generated for a few species, and most 
species were only mapped to the country of occurrence and in a few cases to specific 
islands. 
 
Key biodiversity areas were determined by identifying the sites in CEPF eligible 
countries that contain populations of at least one globally threatened species. Key data 
sources for this analysis included published scientific articles, the IUCN regional 
ecosystem survey (Dahl 1980), a number of GIS data layers, data from the World 
Database on Protected Areas (IUCN-UNEP 2003), NBSAP reports, ecological survey 
data, subregional workshops, and communications with many scientists. Data on 
restricted-range species and globally significant congregations were not available for this 
analysis but could be incorporated at a later date, especially with the upcoming project of 
BirdLife International to define Important Bird Areas (IBAs) for the Pacific. This hotspot 
is likely to have several sites containing globally important congregations of seabirds; 
however only one site, the Phoenix Islands, was identified using this criterion (Angela 
Kepler, pers comm). It is a priority to refine this analysis of key biodiversity areas by 
systematically applying the globally singificant congregations criteria, as well as 
restricted-range criteria, in the near future.  
 
In total, 161 sites were identified for the hotspot, each containing at least one globally 
threatened species, and most of the sites contain several or many globally threatened 
species. A total of 243 species (all but one of the 244 eligible species) were assigned to at 
least one site. The only species which was not assigned to a site is the leatherback turtle 
(Dermochelys coriacea), which does not nest in the hotspot but has been reported from 
Palau and Fiji. 
 
The full list of key biodiversity areas, with distribution by country, is presented in 
Appendix 3. Some of the sites are islands or groups of islands (typically small islands), 

 
25
 
 
because finer-scale data for some areas were not available. Many of the sites selected 
have also been identified as critical sites for conservation by other environmental 
organizations. All sites are within one of the 20 Pacific terrestrial ecoregions (Olson et al 
2001). Furthermore, 54 sites (33 percent) are, or are within, existing or planned protected 
areas, 70 sites (43 percent) are within an endemic bird area (Stattersfield et al 1998), and 
51 sites (31 percent) are within a Center of Plant Diversity (van Royen and Davis 1995). 
Table 6 shows the distribution of sites by the 14 CEPF eligible countries in the hotspot. 
Note that there is also one transboundary site, the proposed Central Pacific World 
Heritage Site, which includes islands in three countries in the central Pacific: Kiribati, the 
United States, and the Cook Islands. 
  

 
26
 
 
Table 6. Distribution of Site Outcomes (Key Biodiversity Areas) by Six Major Taxonomic Groups in CEPF Eligible Countries in the 
Hotspot 
 
Percentage of 
eligible globally 
threatened species 
captured in the sites
Number of Sites in CEPF eligible countries 
Taxonomic 
Group 
Vulnerable 
Endang
ered 
Critically 
Endang
ered 
Total  
Coo
k
 isl
and

Easter Isl
and

FSM 
Fiji islands 
Fren
ch 
Polyne
sia 
Kiribati 
Marshall 
islands 
Niue 
Palau 
Pitc
airn 
islands 
Samoa 
Tokel
au 
Tonga 
 
Walli
s & 
Futuna
Tran
sb
oun
da
r

Total Sites 
Plants 
100 
100 
100 
100 
1 0 11 
27 
18 
0 0 1 1 2 4 0 2 
 

0 68 
Molluscs 
100 
100 
100 
100 
0 0 2 0 6 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 
 

0 12 
Birds 
100 
100 
100 
100 
4 0 11 
27 
32 
3 6 0 4 3 6 1 2 
 


 
102 
Mammals 
100 
100 
100 
100 
0 0 32 
7 0 0 0 0 3 0 3 0 0 
 

0 45 
Reptiles 
100 
100 
67 
83 
3 0 28 
18 
1 3 7 0 0 0 2 1 0 
 

1 65 
Amphibians 
100 
100 
100 
100 
0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 
 

0 3 
Totals* 
100 
100 
100 
100 
5 0 53 
35 
38 
3 7 1 4 3 6 1 3 1  1  161 
* Totals do not always add up because most sites contain a mix of species from different taxonomic groups.

 
27
 
 
SOCIOECONOMIC FEATURES 
 
Human Demography 
Key human demographic features of most countries in the hotspot are high natural 
population growth rates, young populations (on average, around 40 percent of the 
population is under 14 years), increasing urbanization, and high out-migration to 
developed countries of the region such as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. 
  
At current natural population growth rates of between 1 and 3 percent per annum, the 
population of the Polynesia-Micronesia region would be expected to double in the next 
30 years (Micronesia) to 58 years (Polynesia) (SPC 2003a). High natural population 
growth rates are a result of a relatively high fertility rate but a declining death rate. The 
highest fertility rates are in the Micronesian countries such the Marshall Islands and 
Kiribati, with the lowest rates in Niue and French Polynesia. However, Pacific people are 
in general highly migratory and with the exception of Hawaii and most U.S. and French 
territories, all countries and states in the hotspot have experienced negative net migration 
or extensive out migration over the past decade (SPC 2003a).  
 
While much of the migration is to metropolitan Pacific rim countries, such as the United 
States, New Zealand and Australia, some of it is between Pacific countries, such as from 
Samoa to American Samoa, from Micronesian countries to Guam, and from Wallis and 
Futuna to New Caledonia. Migration has artificially reduced the population growth in 
real terms in most countries and even resulted in negative net growth rates in some 
countries. Negative population growth as a result of emigration to New Zealand is a 
particularly serious problem in Niue and Tokelau, which are struggling to maintain viable 
economies and infrastructures with a diminishing labour force. 
 
While the majority of Pacific islanders still live in rural areas, urban settlements are 
growing rapidly throughout the hotspot. As elsewhere in the world, the greater 
development and infrastructure and services available in urban areas has encouraged 
internal migration from rural to urban areas and from outer islands to regional centers and 
national capitals. This is especially true in Micronesia, which is more urbanized than 
Polynesia and also has a higher urban growth rate (SPC 2003a). The population density 
in many townships in the Pacific, but especially on the atolls such as Majuro, Funafuti 
and Tarawa, is reaching high levels, and is associated with health, sanitation, housing, 
and infrastructural problems (UNDP 1994). 
 
The high proportion of young people and adults in the Polynesia-Micronesia region has 
resulted in pressures on infrastructure and services. Unemployment and 
underemployment of young adults is a major development issue in many hotspot states. 
Most PICTs are diversifying their economies to meet demands for semi-formal and 
informal employment but this is compounded by the general lack of vocational and 
technical skills amongst the youth. 
 

 
28
 
 
Economy 
Pacific island economies are highly vulnerable to external economic fluctuations
changing trade policies, and environmental shocks. The susceptibility of economies stems 
from an interplay of factors such as remoteness from world markets, a high dependency 
on exports of agricultural commodities that have relatively low value on international 
markets, geographical dispersion of islands, vulnerability to natural disasters, small 
internal markets, and limited natural resource bases (UNDP 1999). 
 
The ecological dependency of Pacific economies and societies is well recognized. Pacific 
island societies have traditionally depended on the environment and natural resources for 
food, shelter, water, and medicine. However, as aspirations and expectations of Pacific 
communities have changed, economies are becoming increasingly dualistic with the co-
existence of monetary and subsistence economies. At the same time, lifestyles are 
increasingly materialistic and westernized.  
 
Agriculture and fisheries remain the mainstay of the economies of most of the 
independent hotspot countries and are particularly important because they support both 
subsistence economies and export industries that contribute significantly to economic 
growth. Formerly, agricultural exports of copra, cocoa, and bananas were principal 
sources of foreign exchange for many PICTs, but their importance has declined as 
production has increased in other regions, especially South America. Sugar remains a 
major export from Fiji, but may  decrease in importance as preferential access to the 
European market is phased out under World Trade Organization rules. Other extractive 
industries such as logging and mining are not significant industries in the independent 
countries of the hotspot, except in Fiji. Tourism is an important industry in some hotspot 
countries and territories, especially Fiji, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, CNMI, and 
Guam, and is becoming increasingly important to many other island economies. Given 
the large marine area included in the Exclusive Economic Zones of most PICTs, 
development of offshore fisheries is one of the few industries with significant future 
development potential. The fisheries industry contributes approximately 11 percent of the 
combined GDP of all PICTs and about half of the value of all exports from the region  
(Gillet et al 2001).  
 
Economic growth of many hotspot countries has been very slow in recent years with per 
capita incomes stagnant in many countries (UNDP 1999). Hawaii, the U.S. territories, 
and French Polynesia are the wealthiest, most developed, and industrialized political 
entities in the hotspot, while the independent atoll states of Kiribati and Tuvalu and the 
French Territory of Wallis and Futuna have the lowest GDP per capita (Crocombe 2001). 
Economic development within the hotspot varies significantly from country to country 
depending on natural resource endowments and socio-political affiliations with 
metropolitan nations. Because of their small size and lack of terrestrial resources, most 
hotspot states have relatively limited opportunities for development and are highly 
dependent on aid and remittances. In general, the atoll states are the most economically 
vulnerable because of their small, dispersed land masses and limited terrestrial resource 
bases, while it is the larger, volcanic island countries such as Palau, FSM, Fiji, Samoa, 
and Tonga that lead in terms of economic diversification and potential. 

 
29
 
 
 
Aid and remittances are likely to remain an important feature of the economies of the 
independent states of the hotspot. The amount of aid received per person in the Pacific is 
the highest of any region in the world but is declining (Crocombe 2001). Overseas 
development assistance from bilateral donors particularly the Australian Agency for 
International Development (AusAID), the European Union, the Japanese International 
Cooperation Agency, and the New Zealand Agency for International Development 
(NZAid) and multilateral donors and banks, continues to play an important role in most 
Pacific island economies struggling with high debt deficits and deteriorating terms of 
trade (UNDP 1999).  
 
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