Curbing Invasive Species to enhance climate adaptation in the Pacific region

Noumea

Invasive species weaken ecosystems and makes them more vulnerable to climate change. Many Invasive Species (IS) can propagate rapidly to higher latitudes and altitudes as the climate warms, out-pacing native species. Representing a significant disruption to regional and local ecosystems, IS threaten human livelihoods and biodiversity. How do Pacific territories manage and/or eradicate IS, creating pathways for climate resilience?

The destruction and degradation of habitats is the number one cause of species extinction that threatens the planet's biodiversity but, what’s the second? ? Is it global warming? Increasing exploitation of natural resources?  

None of them... its biological invasions.

Biological invasions is a term that encompasses tens of thousands of species of all kinds (plants, animals, fungi, microbes) and from all environments (terrestrial and aquatic) displaced by human activities outside their original region. When introduced to a new area, these invaders can cause extinctions of native plants and animals.

Invasive Species (IS) are the most common threat to amphibians, reptiles and mammals on The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List that lists the extinction risk of animal plant and fungal species. 

The Impact of Invasive Species on Pacific Island Biodiversity

Pacific ecosystems are some of the world's biodiversity hotspots, with many species found only in the Pacific and nowhere else. According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), invasive species have been formally identified as a threat to 1,531 species in the region.

90% of all animals that have become extinct since 1800 were island birds, and 90% of these fell victim to invasive species.

Eradicating rats from islets helps preserve local biodiversity

In Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia, rats are considered extremely harmful. Imported by boats or cargo ships, they affect nesting sea turtle and bird activities through the predation of eggs. Moreover, as both climate change and invasive species are environmental stressors, being able to remove rats from islets is essential and achievable to preserve local biodiversity.

. In Nukuatea islet (Wallis and Futuna) and Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Community (SPC) through the PROTEGE, are removing rats to l allow  birds to repopulate islets and continue their biodiversity functions: pollinate plants, disperse seeds, and help control insects.

In their 2016 ‘Battling Invasive Species in the Pacific’ report SPREP found that the removal of rats in the Pacific region has doubled the population of reptile species, removed 20% of turtle predation, and increased bird breeding success from 0–5% to ≥85% Aligned with eradication activities, awareness campaigns should be implemented to avoid the re-introduction of rats through human activities.

Protecting New Caledonia’s biodiversity with drone technology and AI.

In New Caledonia, deer pose a severe ecological threat to local biodiversity. The Rusa deer has contributed, along with other introduced herbivores and fire, to the loss of dry forest, which today occupies only 1% of its original area. This invasive species consumes more than 130 endemic, native or introduced plants (IUCN). It also significantly influences carbon sequestration with their consumption of vegetation jeopardizing the climate change adaptation capacities of local biodiversity.

To face this challenge, SPREP is working on a feasibility study allowing thermal sensor drones to identify deer better and facilitate their regulation. In this project, drone technology and sensors are combined with artificial intelligence algorithms to allow a rapid and comprehensive assessment of several different species simultaneously while also improving countries' ability to monitor and control invasive species.

"Through the PROTEGE project, Pacific territories are supported in implementing resilience activities considering local resources and new technologies. As climate change facilitates the spread and establishment of invasive species worldwide according to IUCN studies, it is essential that they be incorporated into both national and regional policies to tackle climate change issues." explains Peggy Roudaut, Project Manager for PROTEGE, Pacific Community.

Invasive species havew become a high-profile policy topic for the international community in recent years. As the climate changes, incorporating biosecurity, early detection, and rapid response in climate change policy will help prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species.

Know more about invasive species challenges in the RESILIENCE broadcast (Broadcast  #4):

Know more about Wallis and Futuna actions against invasive species.

About PROTEGE: 
PROTEGE (“Pacific Territories Regional Project for Sustainable Ecosystem Management” or “protect” in French) is an initiative designed to promote sustainable and climate-change-resilient economic development in the European Pacific overseas countries and territories (OCT) by emphasising biodiversity and renewable resources. Implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), PROTEGE is a regional cooperation project that supports the public policies of the four Pacific OCTs, i.e. New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna and Pitcairn.

About RESILIENCE broadcast:
Resilience is a 26-minute program that highlights the actions taken by women and men in Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna to enhance climate adaptation and mitigation. This programme is produced by the Pacific Community, with the financial support of the European Union. The contents are the sole responsibility of the Pacific Community and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (CCES) Programme
Polynesia Regional Office
SPC's European Office

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Author(s)

Maëva Tesan

Information, Communication and Knowledge Management Officer

Angèle Armando

Communication Officer, PROTEGE Project