Climate change and extreme weather events in Oceania endanger the continent's biodiversity and make it difficult to achieve international conservation goals set for 2020.
In the last 150 years since the industrial and agricultural revolutions began - among other anthropocentric factors, such as the uncontrolled growth of cities - inadequate environmental management has caused major changes in the world's ecosystems. Particularly in Oceania, where changes in climate translate into extreme weather events and contribute to exacerbate natural resources mismanagement issues such as deforestation and uncontrolled soil erosion. All of which represent a greater risk of biodiversity loss for Oceania than that which other continents face, by reducing both the natural capacity of Oceania´s ecosystems to regenerate and the probability of survival for their endemic species of plants and animals.
Faced with the reality that threatens the continent's biodiversity, the governmental and institutional efforts of Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia, New Zealand, and Polynesia have sought to minimize their effects through efforts focused on assessing ecosystems using the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems methodology (RLE); a valuable tool to inform authorities and the global community about conservation priorities according to the risk of collapse of ecosystems, and progress towards achieving international environmental objectives. To date, nineteen ecosystem case studies have been conducted in Oceania using the LRE criteria: sixteen subglobal assessments and three global assessments (which means that the ecosystem was evaluated in its entirety). Of these nineteen assessments, sixteen identified ecosystems that were in some category of threat:
Other measures of prevention and resilience in the face of current environmental challenges include, but are not limited to, the establishment of laws such as Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and agreements such as the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, thanks to which countries like Australia and New Zealand agreed to reduce carbon emissions. Also worthy of mention, is the increase in initiatives that seek to identify conservation and natural resource management priorities, many of which focus on identifying conservation objectives and resource management strategies in Oceania’s small island states.
Oceania: Looking ahead ...
Much like global goals, Oceania's current goals to slow and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2020 are ambitious. In order to achieve them in time, member countries must focus jointly on ensuring, among other things, improvements in the application of conservation and natural resource management policies. In this sense, the systematic application of the RLE criteria at local, national and continental scale offers an alternative to help with the global monitoring of biodiversity, providing decision-makers with bases on which to support policies and conservation plans.
At the moment, three Australian states and territories have already incorporated the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems into their environmental laws and regulations. In addition, the results of the ecosystem risk assessment completed for the Coastal Upland Swamps (Keith et al., 2013) currently influence legal protection and the proper design of mines to minimize hydrological impacts in that ecosystem.
On the other hand, both the IUCN Oceania Regional Plan 2017-2020 and the Pacific nations’ Pacific Oceanscape Framework seek to raise interest in the preservation of their natural resources in the region. Data from tools such as RLE will increasingly have the capacity to inform holistically about global progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Written by: Mariana Hernández-Montilla y Clara Gómez
Style and format: Lila García y Clara Gómez
Translation: Clara Gómez
Provita Apr 29, 2019