Conservation in tropical Pacific Island countries: why most current approaches are failing

Conservation in tropical Pacific Island countries: why most current approaches are failing Introduction The terrestrial diversity and endemism per unit area in Oceania are among the highest in the world ( Keast & Miller 1996 ; Kier . 2009 ). There are four global biodiversity hotspots within the region, which harbor more than 30,000 plant and 3,000 vertebrate species ( Mittermeier . 2004 ; Legra . 2008 ). More than half of this diversity is in the 14 independent developing island nations of the tropical Pacific ( Table 1 ; Fig. 1 ), often with high endemism. 1 Population size, terrestrial area, and proportion of land in different land tenure classes in Pacific Island countries Country Population Terrestrial area (km 2 ) Land tenure class Public (%) Freehold (%) Customary (%) Cook Islands 20,000 240 Some Little 95 Fiji 849,000 18,274 4 8 88 Federated States of Micronesia 111,000 702 35 <1 65 Kiribati 98,000 811 50 <5 >45 Marshall Islands 62,000 181 <1 0 >99 Nauru 10,000 21 <10 0 >90 Niue 1,400 260 1.5 0 98.5 Palau 20,000 459 Most Some Some Papua New Guinea 6,732,000 462,840 2.5 0.5 97 Samoa 179,000 2,831 15 4 81 Solomon Islands 523,000 28,400 8 5 87 Tonga 104,000 748 100 0 0 Tuvalu 10,000 26 5 <0.1 95 Vanuatu 240,000 4,700 2 0 98 Sources: AusAid (2008) and PDDESAUNS (2009) . 1 The 14 independent Pacific Island nations (gray shading) and dependent territories in the Western Pacific. Nonshaded shapes indicate Pacific territories that are not self‐governing. Despite this global conservation significance, only 0.15% of total land area and less than 20% of known ecosystems in tropical Pacific Island countries are in designated protected areas ( Chape . 2003 ) and few of these areas are well managed ( Shearman . 2009 ; Kool . 2010 ). Protected areas are also relatively small and often fail to represent the variety of ecosystems and habitats ( Dinerstein & Wiramanayake 1993 ; Gillespie & Jaffré 2003 ). Furthermore, knowledge of the biota and ecological processes, including conservation threats, in Pacific Island nations is limited ( Keppel . 2009 ; Kool . 2010 ). This is evident in the IUCN red list, where only 9% of all known species from the region have been assessed ( Morrison 2012 ), and the absence of official national threatened species lists for most countries. As a result, conservation planning is often based on the limited data available, introducing large uncertainties and error. With rapidly growing human populations and related pressures, the terrestrial biodiversity of the region is among the most threatened in the world ( Mittermeier . 2004 ; Kier . 2009 ; Kueffer . 2010 ). On most archipelagos, this biodiversity crisis is driven by habitat loss and degradation, although other factors, such as invasive species, are also important ( Kingsford . 2009 ; Woinarski 2010 ). Climate change is likely to considerably exacerbate existing problems ( Wardell‐Johnson . 2011 ) and, in combination with other factors, will extend the already high extinction record of the tropical Pacific ( Steadman . 2002 ; Steadman 2006 ). Despite commitments through National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans in association with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the presence of numerous nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and increasing availability of funding, rapid habitat degradation, and species loss in Pacific Island countries continues ( Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ; Shearman . 2009 ; Wardell‐Johnson . 2011 ). Differences in conservation approaches and priorities of two major stakeholder groups, big international nongovernment organizations (BINGOs) and international donor agencies versus government and local NGOs, contribute to the inefficiency of conservation efforts ( Axlford . 2008 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). The latter group is generally low on resources ( Kingsford . 2009 ) and can mismanage available resources ( Kabutaulaka 2000 ; Foale 2001 ; Laurance . 2011 ), while the former often fail to produce conservation success despite adequate funding ( Hunnam 2002 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). As a result, there are serious concerns about the persistence of large components of Pacific biodiversity and the effectiveness of current approaches to conservation in the region. Conservation plans and theory for Pacific Island countries are generally developed by conservationists most familiar with practices in countries that are comparatively well‐developed and have legal provisions to declare protected areas for conservation purposes. As most Pacific Island countries are Third World countries and land is owned by communities that have a strong connection to their natural resources, much of the current theory for conservation planning and practice is not entirely applicable to island nations in the Pacific. There is a critical need to design and implement effective ways of conserving biodiversity in Pacific Island countries ( Hunnam 2002 ). We argue that a collaborative and coordinated approach of all stakeholders (including landowners) is critical for achieving conservation success and requires efficient utilization of available resources and support for long‐term projects. We evaluate available resources and discuss relevant stakeholders before discussing the complexities and problems in current conservation practices. Finally, we propose solutions for effective conservation in the region based on successful conservation efforts illustrated with relevant case studies. The Pacific region Pacific Island countries comprise 14 nations with about nine million people living on 520,000 km 2 of land over 29 million km 2 of the Pacific Ocean ( Table 1 ; Fig. 1 ). Country size ranges considerably from Papua New Guinea (462,840 km 2 ) to Nauru (22.5 km 2 ). Most people live in relatively small, isolated coastal or rural village communities, and remain closely reliant on their local natural resources for subsistence and economic development ( Morrison & Buckley 2010 ). Three systems of land tenure (customary, public, and freehold) exist ( Table 1 ). Most land (>80%) is under customary (or traditional) ownership, managed by customary groups according to their own processes, often linked to social and spiritual/religious beliefs. Public land is owned by the state while freehold land is owned by individuals or corporate bodies ( Ward 2000 ). Public and freehold land can be sold and transferred to someone else while customary land cannot be sold except to other customary groups or the state. Government income is heavily dependent on primary industry including fishing, logging, and mining by companies from outside the region. Lately, tourism is of increasing importance, accounting for up to 80% of GDP in some countries ( Morrison & Buckley 2010 ). Australia, New Zealand, and French and American territories, while in the geographic region, are not included in this review, which focuses on the terrestrial environments of independent developing nations. Stakeholders and challenges Various government departments, local and international NGOs, United Nations agencies, regional intergovernmental institutions, community‐based groups, and landowners are involved in the conservation sector of Pacific island nations. For example, in Fiji there were five major government agencies, four local, two regional, and 13 international organizations active in the conservation sector in 2006 ( Lees 2007 ). In addition, some of the embassies and private companies based in Pacific Island nations provide funding for conservation projects (e.g., Keppel 2002 ; Saffitz 2010 ). All these stakeholders vary in availability of financial resources, size of personnel, commitment to conservation, knowledge of conservation theory, and presence of local knowledge ( Table 2 ). 2 Distribution of six different conservation resources (commitment to achieve conservation outcomes, knowledge of theory for conservation planning and implementation, local knowledge, ability to approve conservation measures, personnel involved in conservation sector, funding available) among major stakeholders in the conservation sector in Pacific Island nations Stakeholder Commitment Theory Local knowledge Approval Personnel Funding BINGOs a High High Low No Mod High Local NGOs b High Moderate High No Low Low/moderate Government Variable Moderate High Yes Low Very low Local experts High Moderate/high Moderate/high No Low Low/moderate Landowning communities Variable Low High Yes High None a Big, international, nongovernment organizations. b Nongovernment organizations. Landowners are of central importance for conservation in Pacific Island countries because they own most of the land ( Table 1 ), have broad and unique knowledge of their biodiversity, and are dependent on their environment for survival. Therefore, conservation areas and activities generally cannot be implemented by the government or other organizations without support and approval by landowning communities ( Hunnam 2002 ; van Helden 2005 ). Most rural landowning communities in Pacific Islands still possess extensive knowledge of their environment and often have unparalleled and otherwise unavailable knowledge, critical for developing appropriate and effective conservation approaches ( Cox & Elmqvist 1991 ; Baines & Hviding 1992 ; Raynor & Kostka 2003 ; West 2006 ). The wide variety of stakeholders, the central importance of landowners, and poor resources make implementing conservation programs and activities fundamentally different from more developed neighboring nations, such as Australia and New Zealand. These factors make relevant Pacific Island government departments unable (underfunded, understaffed, limited legal authority) and sometimes unwilling (alternative priorities, corruption) to achieve their CBD obligations ( Kabutaulaka 2000 ; Keppel 2006 ; Lees 2007 ; Laurance . 2011 ). Below, we outline five major difficulties for implementing conservation in Pacific Island countries: resource discrepancies; participation of and benefits for landowning communities; collaboration between stakeholders; social, political, and cultural dynamics; and management of conservation funding. Resource discrepancies The number of personnel, availability of scientific information, and financial resources for conservation activities and programs are low in Pacific Island countries, compared to their more prosperous neighbors in Australia and New Zealand ( Kingsford . 2009 ). In addition, available resources within Pacific Island nations are strongly skewed toward BINGOs ( Table 2 ), which have large financial, technical, and personnel resources, compared to government departments ( Kingsford . 2009 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). As in many developing nations, this has resulted in BINGOs dominating conservation efforts in Pacific Island nations ( Rodríguez . 2007 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). For example, 45 government staff were working in Fiji's conservation sector in 2006 with a total budget of about 1 million Fiji Dollars, compared to 79 staff with a total budget of Fiji $8 million employed by BINGOs ( Lees 2007 ). BINGOs are also often led by nonnationals that spend a limited number of years in the Pacific, have to achieve targets set by their parent institution and donors, and have limited responsibility to local governments. Consequently, conservation programs in the Pacific are often prioritized and implemented by outsiders ( Hviding 2003 ). This dominating external influence in conservation funding and activities is exacerbated by conservationists from developed nations dominating the international scientific discussion of conservation practices and policies (e.g., Kingsford . 2009 ; Woinarski 2010 ), which developing Pacific nations are then expected to follow or desire to emulate. Participation of and benefits for landowning communities Most land in Pacific Island countries is owned by indigenous communities, which therefore hold the key to successful conservation. Despite their importance, the needs and knowledge of these communities are often given limited consideration ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ). Often, the only involvement of landowners is the discussion of plans and agendas introduced by external parties. This top‐down approach is considered by many local conservationists as a major reason for the failure of conservation programs ( Foale 2001 ; van Helden 2005 ; Rodríguez . 2007 ). For example, insufficient involvement of landowners in the conception, planning, and implementation of community‐based conservation projects at the 17 sites of the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Program was a major reason for the overall failure of the project ( Hunnam 2002 ). Landowning communities still have a close relationship with their environment, which provides many of their needs. These dependencies on biodiversity are important considerations in conservation planning ( Cox & Elmqvist 1991 ; Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ). The same natural resources also often provide the only source of income for these communities, mostly through destructive practices such as logging and mining ( van Helden 2005 ; West 2006 ). In addition to basic household expenses, healthcare, and education, many in these communities aspire to possess goods and resources that require considerable money ( Foale 2001 ; Hviding 2003 ). Therefore, the lack of sufficient economic benefits for local communities, associated with conservation, sometimes reduces the effectiveness of conservation efforts. Social, political, and cultural dynamics A complex network of political, social, and cultural layers exists at various scales and levels in Pacific Island nations, which can be difficult to navigate. These include individuals, family clans, groups, and associations (e.g., women's clubs or youth groups) within local communities and villages that may hold some traditional right over the same land ( Ward 2000 ; van Helden 2005 ; Hviding 2006 ). In addition, there are regional administrations under the national government ( Raynor & Kostka 2003 ) and various environmental policy paradigms ( Filer 2011 ). Important stakeholders exist in each administrative level and political, social, and cultural dynamics vary among regions, based on their histories ( Hviding 2006 ; Schwarz . 2011 ). Conservation efforts need to understand and link into this complex network ( Hunnam 2002 ; van Helden 2005 ). Matters are often further complicated by stakeholders outside the community. Farming, logging, or development projects may occur on community land, such as Southeast Asian logging companies in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea ( Kabutaulaka 2000 ; Keppel 2006 ; Laurance . 2011 ). In addition, religious organizations have influenced in recent history and now play a central role in the political, social, and cultural dynamics of Pacific communities ( Foale 2001 ; Hviding 2006 ). Within this complex network, disagreements and underlying issues may exist between various parties/individuals dating back several years or several generations, sometimes predating European and Christian influences ( Keesing 1989 ). Such problems can considerably complicate conservation work ( Foale 2001 ; van Helden 2005 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). There are also different stakeholder perceptions and practices of conservation. The Western scientific concept of conservation seeks to protect species because of their esthetic or evolutionary value. Most Pacific Islanders view their biodiversity as a resource of great cultural and subsistence importance, where conservation safeguards these resources for continued supply or cultural reasons ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ; Bottrill . 2011 ). For example, while “scientific conservation” seeks to establish marine protected areas as long‐term no‐fishing (no‐take) zones to increase biodiversity, traditional protection (sustainable‐use) zones are often short‐term allowing abundant harvest when lifted ( Ruddle . 1992 ; Veitayaki 1997 ; Foale & Manele 2004 ). Collaboration between relevant stakeholders Often, there is little consultation and collaboration between the many different NGOs, government departments, and academic institutions ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2006 ). This may be surprising as they purportedly share the common goal of biodiversity and ecosystem protection. However, each organization has its own goals and approaches, requiring demonstration of successes to donor agencies to attract more funding. As a result, organizations often follow their own agendas, which frequently do not relate to national and local priorities and/or may be in conflict with the interests of other stakeholders ( Hviding 2006 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ; Bottrill . 2011 ). Furthermore, there are different perceptions of successful conservation. Donor agencies and BINGOs equate success to eventual self‐sufficient running of the community‐based project by local communities, while many local conservationists are more concerned about committed and satisfied landowners ( Axlford . 2008 ). The latter realize that financial sustainability is unlikely for many conservation projects without continuous support (financial and/or technical). Management of conservation funding Although funds are occasionally mismanaged ( Foale 2001 ; Dowie 2009 ), most financial resources are lost by inefficient application and/or management. Inefficiencies occur through repetitive (and hence redundant) processes, excessive administrative costs, and inadequate prioritization of conservation targets. There is also duplication. For example, the important bird areas identified by Birdlife International ( Masibalavu & Dutson 2006 ) and remote forest refugia identified by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other NGOs ( Olson . 2010 ) for Fiji are similar to important conservation areas already identified in earlier work ( Lees 1989 ), but would have utilized considerable finances in wages, workshops, and report compilation and dissemination. Funds are often spent on administration and programs of limited relevance, with comparatively little money spent on actual implementation of conservation programs and improving the livelihoods of landowners ( Bottrill . 2011 ). This can be viewed as modern colonialism, where high salaries in BINGOs are financed by the conservation resources in these developing countries. Furthermore, the distribution of funding can be questionable. For example, although most endemic biodiversity in larger Pacific archipelagos resides on land ( Wardell‐Johnson . 2011 ), less conservation effort is invested in terrestrial environments compared to better‐studied marine environments ( Kool . 2010 ). Finally, international donor‐assisted projects usually have short funding cycles (3–5 years), restricting the time available to achieve project aims and establish community involvement ( Hunnam 2002 ; Bottrill . 2011 ). This is insufficient time to produce, promote, and implement successful conservation programs, accounting for the needs of all stakeholders. Many behavioral and socioeconomic changes needed for conservation in the Pacific region occur slowly and incrementally, demanding 10 or more years of resources ( Sayer & Campbell 2004 ). In addition, international funders increasingly seek multiple objectives in project proposals ( Bottrill . 2011 ), complicating project designs and making it difficult for local community‐based programs to deliver timely results. Such local projects are often deemed failures with little opportunity for further funding. Solutions There is an urgent need to improve the efficiency and productivity of conservation programs in Pacific Island nations. We outline six solution areas that will help achieve this goal: sociocultural analyses; landowner participation; alternative revenue for local communities; conservation funding and stakeholder collaboration; enduring investment; and capacity building. However, conservation success will ultimately differ among communities and countries due to cultural, economic, political, and social differences. Sociocultural analyses Sociocultural analyses of host communities are essential before any project is undertaken (see also Sewall . 2011 ). These can identify the most suitable approach for a particular community. For example, land in Fiji and the Solomon Islands is controlled by indigenous landowning communities, but legally linked to the government in Fiji ( Ward 2000 ). Hence, the involvement of relevant government departments is more important for conservation projects in Fiji than in the Solomon Islands. In addition, it is preferable that local community facilitators conduct sociocultural assessments and monitor community perceptions because they have in‐depth knowledge of local dynamics ( van Helden 2005 ). The importance of detailed sociocultural understanding of landowning communities is illustrated by conservation initiatives on the island of Pohnpei (Federated State of Micronesia). Several early unsuccessful initiatives failed to gain support from the broader community because of limited consultation and ignorance of traditional resource use. However, an initiative by the Nature Conservancy with the government, a local NGO, and landowners has initiated a successful and ongoing project based on a thorough sociocultural understanding ( Raynor & Kostka 2003 ). Landowner participation Landowners need to participate at all stages, from the initiative to conserve their natural resources, biodiversity assessments, project planning, project implementation, up to and including monitoring and evaluation ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ; Game . 2011 ). Different perceptions of “no‐take zones” versus “subsistence‐use” zones and other aspects of conservation ( West 2006 ; Brockington . 2008 ) require intensive and continuing dialogue and education between landowners and the implementing organization(s) at all stages. Such dialogue would also allow all stakeholders to ascertain sincere commitment toward conservation by all parties involved, which is essential for success ( van Helden 2005 ). Furthermore, it allows increased ownership of the project and improved long‐term support by local communities. The crucial role that landowners play is illustrated by the successful conservation of the rich terrestrial and marine biota of the uninhabited (for several decades) Tetepare Island, Solomon Islands ( Read & Moseby 2006 ). Tetepare islanders established the Tetepare Descendants Association in 2001 to convert the entire island to a community conservation area and prevent logging with support from the European Union, World‐Wide Fund for Nature, and Australian Volunteers International. This project successfully included local communities at all stages of development and implementation and provides real economic benefits through ecotourism. Alternative revenue for local communities Conservation programs must provide for sustainable economic and social development in landowning communities ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ). Simple funding transactions are not sufficient and raise unrealistic expectations ( Foale 2001 ; Hviding 2003 ; van Helden 2005 ). Instead, innovative ways and alternative income‐generating activities need to be developed. Ecotourism provides an alternative source of revenue but may be unrealistic because of the remoteness of some communities and potential adverse effects on biodiversity conservation ( Morrison & Buckley 2010 ). Other alternative income strategies have often focused on increasing revenue for existing produce of communities ( van Helden 2005 ). Alternative income generation was developed to promote the financial and social development of landowners in the Sovi Basin Conservation Area, Fiji, which contains old‐growth tropical lowland rainforest and numerous rare and threatened flora and fauna species ( Keppel . 2011 ). After several years of discussions and planning led by Conservation International and the University of the South Pacific, a trust fund was established with funding from the bottled water company Fiji Water. The interest accumulated pays lease premiums, compensates foregone timber royalties, provides community development opportunities, and implements the comanagement plan for the protected area. In addition, a scholarship program for landowning communities was created, supporting more than 150 students. Conservation funding and stakeholder collaboration Collaboration by all concerned stakeholders is required to maximize benefits from conservation efforts through efficient spending of available conservation funding and addressing the needs of stakeholders. A local body for each country can achieve effective coordination, funding, and communication between different stakeholders for conservation. This could either be an independent local NGO or a committee composed of representatives from different stakeholders. In addition, Memorandums of Understanding established between conservation NGOs and national governments for establishment, operation, and accountability could be expanded to include a Code of Conduct, defined consequences for breaches of this, and mechanisms to ensure transparency of operations. Enduring investment Medium‐ or long‐term program approaches with committed stakeholders and funding agencies are needed. Ideally, these stakeholders should invest in projects for at least 10–15 years. For example, the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), created in 2002, supports biodiversity conservation and related sustainable development for the people of the Federated States of Micronesia and includes members from national, state, and municipal governments, NGOs, business, and academic institutions. A primary aim is to build an endowment of US$20 million for long‐term support of sustainable biodiversity resource management in Micronesia ( MCT 2011 ). In 2009, the MCT obtained US$2 million from various public and private sources, funding 55 local projects. Capacity building Capacity building at all levels (community, national, and regional) is essential for meaningful participation of all stakeholders and sustainability for the conservation program ( Hunnam 2002 ; Raynor & Kostka 2003 ; Table 3 ). There is an urgent need to improve regional and local capacity in conservation management, including scientific data collection, species and threat management, project management, generation of funding, and sustainable development. This should include training people, currently active in the conservation sector, and developing future conservation leaders through scholarships. The latter can curtail the problem of overseas conservationists leading conservation programs in the region with limited Pacific experience. In addition, attractive and challenging local positions need to be created to retain excellent local conservationists in the region. Furthermore, the role of local institutions in conservation needs to be strengthened in the Pacific ( Foale 2001 ), as in other developing countries ( Rodríguez . 2007 ). This will focus conservation activities on national priorities, rather than those of outside organizations. 3 Summary of capacity building needs in relation to conservation in the Pacific region. Modified from Raynor & Kostka (2003) Level Group Capacity needs Landowning community Local village members; Women's groups; Youth groups; Church groups; Local volunteers (non land owners); School groups Basic business skills; Proposal writing and fundraising; Traditional ecology and resource management methods; Ecological principals and basic resource management; Conservation area management planning Traditional leaders Village chiefs Legal responsibilities; Community organization; Community meeting and record keeping; Conservation area management planning Government Field officers; Senior and midlevel officers of government agencies involved in conservation Conservation area management planning; Community planning and evaluation Legal responsibilities; Ecological principals and resource management; Monitoring and evaluation; Community liaison and involvement NGOs (conservation and academic) Staff involved with conservation, community development, and education Proposal writing and fundraising; Monitoring and evaluation Community planning and evaluation; Identification of conservation priorities including research BINGOs Staff involved with conservation, community development, and education Community planning and evaluation; Local social, economic, land tenure, and cultural dynamics; Traditional ecology and resource management methods Conclusions We have illustrated that most conservation efforts in Pacific Island countries are inefficient, noninclusive, and insufficiently sensitive to locality. While previous papers (e.g., Kingsford . 2009 ; Woinarski 2010 ) focus on policy measures, we highlight land tenure systems, cultural values, and social complexities that make conservation in Pacific Island countries fundamentally different from developed nations. As conservation efforts and policy are often built on scientific approaches conceived in developed nations, they may not be practical and effective in developing Pacific Island nations. We recommend a shift in conservation planning and implementation toward central participation of landowning communities at all stages of conservation programs, better understanding of socioeconomic and cultural complexities, local capacity building, generation of alternative income for landowning communities, and the prioritization and coordination of available conservation resources. Effort needs to focus on national priorities and move away from current ad hoc approaches to greatly improve the effectiveness of conservation in Pacific Island countries. Changes need to be implemented urgently because every failed project undermines the credibility of NGOs and the national conservation communities ( van Helden 2005 ). Many of the problems identified are known and not unique to the Pacific or developing nations ( Mace 2004 ; Brockington . 2008 ). Furthermore, most of the suggested changes are not novel and have been successfully incorporated in some conservation programs. Nevertheless, a fundamental paradigm shift is urgently required to develop effective strategies to safeguard the vanishing biodiversity of Pacific Island countries and to prepare for the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Although there is no magic formula for successful conservation in Pacific Island countries because of the great cultural and socioeconomic diversity, adoption of our suggested solutions would greatly improve the success of conservation actions and programs. Acknowledgments An Asia‐Pacific Science Foundation grant (APSF10/4) contributed to facilitating the conception and compilation of this article. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Conservation Letters Wiley

Conservation in tropical Pacific Island countries: why most current approaches are failing

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Abstract

Introduction The terrestrial diversity and endemism per unit area in Oceania are among the highest in the world ( Keast & Miller 1996 ; Kier . 2009 ). There are four global biodiversity hotspots within the region, which harbor more than 30,000 plant and 3,000 vertebrate species ( Mittermeier . 2004 ; Legra . 2008 ). More than half of this diversity is in the 14 independent developing island nations of the tropical Pacific ( Table 1 ; Fig. 1 ), often with high endemism. 1 Population size, terrestrial area, and proportion of land in different land tenure classes in Pacific Island countries Country Population Terrestrial area (km 2 ) Land tenure class Public (%) Freehold (%) Customary (%) Cook Islands 20,000 240 Some Little 95 Fiji 849,000 18,274 4 8 88 Federated States of Micronesia 111,000 702 35 <1 65 Kiribati 98,000 811 50 <5 >45 Marshall Islands 62,000 181 <1 0 >99 Nauru 10,000 21 <10 0 >90 Niue 1,400 260 1.5 0 98.5 Palau 20,000 459 Most Some Some Papua New Guinea 6,732,000 462,840 2.5 0.5 97 Samoa 179,000 2,831 15 4 81 Solomon Islands 523,000 28,400 8 5 87 Tonga 104,000 748 100 0 0 Tuvalu 10,000 26 5 <0.1 95 Vanuatu 240,000 4,700 2 0 98 Sources: AusAid (2008) and PDDESAUNS (2009) . 1 The 14 independent Pacific Island nations (gray shading) and dependent territories in the Western Pacific. Nonshaded shapes indicate Pacific territories that are not self‐governing. Despite this global conservation significance, only 0.15% of total land area and less than 20% of known ecosystems in tropical Pacific Island countries are in designated protected areas ( Chape . 2003 ) and few of these areas are well managed ( Shearman . 2009 ; Kool . 2010 ). Protected areas are also relatively small and often fail to represent the variety of ecosystems and habitats ( Dinerstein & Wiramanayake 1993 ; Gillespie & Jaffré 2003 ). Furthermore, knowledge of the biota and ecological processes, including conservation threats, in Pacific Island nations is limited ( Keppel . 2009 ; Kool . 2010 ). This is evident in the IUCN red list, where only 9% of all known species from the region have been assessed ( Morrison 2012 ), and the absence of official national threatened species lists for most countries. As a result, conservation planning is often based on the limited data available, introducing large uncertainties and error. With rapidly growing human populations and related pressures, the terrestrial biodiversity of the region is among the most threatened in the world ( Mittermeier . 2004 ; Kier . 2009 ; Kueffer . 2010 ). On most archipelagos, this biodiversity crisis is driven by habitat loss and degradation, although other factors, such as invasive species, are also important ( Kingsford . 2009 ; Woinarski 2010 ). Climate change is likely to considerably exacerbate existing problems ( Wardell‐Johnson . 2011 ) and, in combination with other factors, will extend the already high extinction record of the tropical Pacific ( Steadman . 2002 ; Steadman 2006 ). Despite commitments through National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans in association with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the presence of numerous nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and increasing availability of funding, rapid habitat degradation, and species loss in Pacific Island countries continues ( Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ; Shearman . 2009 ; Wardell‐Johnson . 2011 ). Differences in conservation approaches and priorities of two major stakeholder groups, big international nongovernment organizations (BINGOs) and international donor agencies versus government and local NGOs, contribute to the inefficiency of conservation efforts ( Axlford . 2008 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). The latter group is generally low on resources ( Kingsford . 2009 ) and can mismanage available resources ( Kabutaulaka 2000 ; Foale 2001 ; Laurance . 2011 ), while the former often fail to produce conservation success despite adequate funding ( Hunnam 2002 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). As a result, there are serious concerns about the persistence of large components of Pacific biodiversity and the effectiveness of current approaches to conservation in the region. Conservation plans and theory for Pacific Island countries are generally developed by conservationists most familiar with practices in countries that are comparatively well‐developed and have legal provisions to declare protected areas for conservation purposes. As most Pacific Island countries are Third World countries and land is owned by communities that have a strong connection to their natural resources, much of the current theory for conservation planning and practice is not entirely applicable to island nations in the Pacific. There is a critical need to design and implement effective ways of conserving biodiversity in Pacific Island countries ( Hunnam 2002 ). We argue that a collaborative and coordinated approach of all stakeholders (including landowners) is critical for achieving conservation success and requires efficient utilization of available resources and support for long‐term projects. We evaluate available resources and discuss relevant stakeholders before discussing the complexities and problems in current conservation practices. Finally, we propose solutions for effective conservation in the region based on successful conservation efforts illustrated with relevant case studies. The Pacific region Pacific Island countries comprise 14 nations with about nine million people living on 520,000 km 2 of land over 29 million km 2 of the Pacific Ocean ( Table 1 ; Fig. 1 ). Country size ranges considerably from Papua New Guinea (462,840 km 2 ) to Nauru (22.5 km 2 ). Most people live in relatively small, isolated coastal or rural village communities, and remain closely reliant on their local natural resources for subsistence and economic development ( Morrison & Buckley 2010 ). Three systems of land tenure (customary, public, and freehold) exist ( Table 1 ). Most land (>80%) is under customary (or traditional) ownership, managed by customary groups according to their own processes, often linked to social and spiritual/religious beliefs. Public land is owned by the state while freehold land is owned by individuals or corporate bodies ( Ward 2000 ). Public and freehold land can be sold and transferred to someone else while customary land cannot be sold except to other customary groups or the state. Government income is heavily dependent on primary industry including fishing, logging, and mining by companies from outside the region. Lately, tourism is of increasing importance, accounting for up to 80% of GDP in some countries ( Morrison & Buckley 2010 ). Australia, New Zealand, and French and American territories, while in the geographic region, are not included in this review, which focuses on the terrestrial environments of independent developing nations. Stakeholders and challenges Various government departments, local and international NGOs, United Nations agencies, regional intergovernmental institutions, community‐based groups, and landowners are involved in the conservation sector of Pacific island nations. For example, in Fiji there were five major government agencies, four local, two regional, and 13 international organizations active in the conservation sector in 2006 ( Lees 2007 ). In addition, some of the embassies and private companies based in Pacific Island nations provide funding for conservation projects (e.g., Keppel 2002 ; Saffitz 2010 ). All these stakeholders vary in availability of financial resources, size of personnel, commitment to conservation, knowledge of conservation theory, and presence of local knowledge ( Table 2 ). 2 Distribution of six different conservation resources (commitment to achieve conservation outcomes, knowledge of theory for conservation planning and implementation, local knowledge, ability to approve conservation measures, personnel involved in conservation sector, funding available) among major stakeholders in the conservation sector in Pacific Island nations Stakeholder Commitment Theory Local knowledge Approval Personnel Funding BINGOs a High High Low No Mod High Local NGOs b High Moderate High No Low Low/moderate Government Variable Moderate High Yes Low Very low Local experts High Moderate/high Moderate/high No Low Low/moderate Landowning communities Variable Low High Yes High None a Big, international, nongovernment organizations. b Nongovernment organizations. Landowners are of central importance for conservation in Pacific Island countries because they own most of the land ( Table 1 ), have broad and unique knowledge of their biodiversity, and are dependent on their environment for survival. Therefore, conservation areas and activities generally cannot be implemented by the government or other organizations without support and approval by landowning communities ( Hunnam 2002 ; van Helden 2005 ). Most rural landowning communities in Pacific Islands still possess extensive knowledge of their environment and often have unparalleled and otherwise unavailable knowledge, critical for developing appropriate and effective conservation approaches ( Cox & Elmqvist 1991 ; Baines & Hviding 1992 ; Raynor & Kostka 2003 ; West 2006 ). The wide variety of stakeholders, the central importance of landowners, and poor resources make implementing conservation programs and activities fundamentally different from more developed neighboring nations, such as Australia and New Zealand. These factors make relevant Pacific Island government departments unable (underfunded, understaffed, limited legal authority) and sometimes unwilling (alternative priorities, corruption) to achieve their CBD obligations ( Kabutaulaka 2000 ; Keppel 2006 ; Lees 2007 ; Laurance . 2011 ). Below, we outline five major difficulties for implementing conservation in Pacific Island countries: resource discrepancies; participation of and benefits for landowning communities; collaboration between stakeholders; social, political, and cultural dynamics; and management of conservation funding. Resource discrepancies The number of personnel, availability of scientific information, and financial resources for conservation activities and programs are low in Pacific Island countries, compared to their more prosperous neighbors in Australia and New Zealand ( Kingsford . 2009 ). In addition, available resources within Pacific Island nations are strongly skewed toward BINGOs ( Table 2 ), which have large financial, technical, and personnel resources, compared to government departments ( Kingsford . 2009 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). As in many developing nations, this has resulted in BINGOs dominating conservation efforts in Pacific Island nations ( Rodríguez . 2007 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). For example, 45 government staff were working in Fiji's conservation sector in 2006 with a total budget of about 1 million Fiji Dollars, compared to 79 staff with a total budget of Fiji $8 million employed by BINGOs ( Lees 2007 ). BINGOs are also often led by nonnationals that spend a limited number of years in the Pacific, have to achieve targets set by their parent institution and donors, and have limited responsibility to local governments. Consequently, conservation programs in the Pacific are often prioritized and implemented by outsiders ( Hviding 2003 ). This dominating external influence in conservation funding and activities is exacerbated by conservationists from developed nations dominating the international scientific discussion of conservation practices and policies (e.g., Kingsford . 2009 ; Woinarski 2010 ), which developing Pacific nations are then expected to follow or desire to emulate. Participation of and benefits for landowning communities Most land in Pacific Island countries is owned by indigenous communities, which therefore hold the key to successful conservation. Despite their importance, the needs and knowledge of these communities are often given limited consideration ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ). Often, the only involvement of landowners is the discussion of plans and agendas introduced by external parties. This top‐down approach is considered by many local conservationists as a major reason for the failure of conservation programs ( Foale 2001 ; van Helden 2005 ; Rodríguez . 2007 ). For example, insufficient involvement of landowners in the conception, planning, and implementation of community‐based conservation projects at the 17 sites of the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Program was a major reason for the overall failure of the project ( Hunnam 2002 ). Landowning communities still have a close relationship with their environment, which provides many of their needs. These dependencies on biodiversity are important considerations in conservation planning ( Cox & Elmqvist 1991 ; Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ). The same natural resources also often provide the only source of income for these communities, mostly through destructive practices such as logging and mining ( van Helden 2005 ; West 2006 ). In addition to basic household expenses, healthcare, and education, many in these communities aspire to possess goods and resources that require considerable money ( Foale 2001 ; Hviding 2003 ). Therefore, the lack of sufficient economic benefits for local communities, associated with conservation, sometimes reduces the effectiveness of conservation efforts. Social, political, and cultural dynamics A complex network of political, social, and cultural layers exists at various scales and levels in Pacific Island nations, which can be difficult to navigate. These include individuals, family clans, groups, and associations (e.g., women's clubs or youth groups) within local communities and villages that may hold some traditional right over the same land ( Ward 2000 ; van Helden 2005 ; Hviding 2006 ). In addition, there are regional administrations under the national government ( Raynor & Kostka 2003 ) and various environmental policy paradigms ( Filer 2011 ). Important stakeholders exist in each administrative level and political, social, and cultural dynamics vary among regions, based on their histories ( Hviding 2006 ; Schwarz . 2011 ). Conservation efforts need to understand and link into this complex network ( Hunnam 2002 ; van Helden 2005 ). Matters are often further complicated by stakeholders outside the community. Farming, logging, or development projects may occur on community land, such as Southeast Asian logging companies in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea ( Kabutaulaka 2000 ; Keppel 2006 ; Laurance . 2011 ). In addition, religious organizations have influenced in recent history and now play a central role in the political, social, and cultural dynamics of Pacific communities ( Foale 2001 ; Hviding 2006 ). Within this complex network, disagreements and underlying issues may exist between various parties/individuals dating back several years or several generations, sometimes predating European and Christian influences ( Keesing 1989 ). Such problems can considerably complicate conservation work ( Foale 2001 ; van Helden 2005 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ). There are also different stakeholder perceptions and practices of conservation. The Western scientific concept of conservation seeks to protect species because of their esthetic or evolutionary value. Most Pacific Islanders view their biodiversity as a resource of great cultural and subsistence importance, where conservation safeguards these resources for continued supply or cultural reasons ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ; Bottrill . 2011 ). For example, while “scientific conservation” seeks to establish marine protected areas as long‐term no‐fishing (no‐take) zones to increase biodiversity, traditional protection (sustainable‐use) zones are often short‐term allowing abundant harvest when lifted ( Ruddle . 1992 ; Veitayaki 1997 ; Foale & Manele 2004 ). Collaboration between relevant stakeholders Often, there is little consultation and collaboration between the many different NGOs, government departments, and academic institutions ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2006 ). This may be surprising as they purportedly share the common goal of biodiversity and ecosystem protection. However, each organization has its own goals and approaches, requiring demonstration of successes to donor agencies to attract more funding. As a result, organizations often follow their own agendas, which frequently do not relate to national and local priorities and/or may be in conflict with the interests of other stakeholders ( Hviding 2006 ; Lees & Siwatibau 2009 ; Bottrill . 2011 ). Furthermore, there are different perceptions of successful conservation. Donor agencies and BINGOs equate success to eventual self‐sufficient running of the community‐based project by local communities, while many local conservationists are more concerned about committed and satisfied landowners ( Axlford . 2008 ). The latter realize that financial sustainability is unlikely for many conservation projects without continuous support (financial and/or technical). Management of conservation funding Although funds are occasionally mismanaged ( Foale 2001 ; Dowie 2009 ), most financial resources are lost by inefficient application and/or management. Inefficiencies occur through repetitive (and hence redundant) processes, excessive administrative costs, and inadequate prioritization of conservation targets. There is also duplication. For example, the important bird areas identified by Birdlife International ( Masibalavu & Dutson 2006 ) and remote forest refugia identified by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other NGOs ( Olson . 2010 ) for Fiji are similar to important conservation areas already identified in earlier work ( Lees 1989 ), but would have utilized considerable finances in wages, workshops, and report compilation and dissemination. Funds are often spent on administration and programs of limited relevance, with comparatively little money spent on actual implementation of conservation programs and improving the livelihoods of landowners ( Bottrill . 2011 ). This can be viewed as modern colonialism, where high salaries in BINGOs are financed by the conservation resources in these developing countries. Furthermore, the distribution of funding can be questionable. For example, although most endemic biodiversity in larger Pacific archipelagos resides on land ( Wardell‐Johnson . 2011 ), less conservation effort is invested in terrestrial environments compared to better‐studied marine environments ( Kool . 2010 ). Finally, international donor‐assisted projects usually have short funding cycles (3–5 years), restricting the time available to achieve project aims and establish community involvement ( Hunnam 2002 ; Bottrill . 2011 ). This is insufficient time to produce, promote, and implement successful conservation programs, accounting for the needs of all stakeholders. Many behavioral and socioeconomic changes needed for conservation in the Pacific region occur slowly and incrementally, demanding 10 or more years of resources ( Sayer & Campbell 2004 ). In addition, international funders increasingly seek multiple objectives in project proposals ( Bottrill . 2011 ), complicating project designs and making it difficult for local community‐based programs to deliver timely results. Such local projects are often deemed failures with little opportunity for further funding. Solutions There is an urgent need to improve the efficiency and productivity of conservation programs in Pacific Island nations. We outline six solution areas that will help achieve this goal: sociocultural analyses; landowner participation; alternative revenue for local communities; conservation funding and stakeholder collaboration; enduring investment; and capacity building. However, conservation success will ultimately differ among communities and countries due to cultural, economic, political, and social differences. Sociocultural analyses Sociocultural analyses of host communities are essential before any project is undertaken (see also Sewall . 2011 ). These can identify the most suitable approach for a particular community. For example, land in Fiji and the Solomon Islands is controlled by indigenous landowning communities, but legally linked to the government in Fiji ( Ward 2000 ). Hence, the involvement of relevant government departments is more important for conservation projects in Fiji than in the Solomon Islands. In addition, it is preferable that local community facilitators conduct sociocultural assessments and monitor community perceptions because they have in‐depth knowledge of local dynamics ( van Helden 2005 ). The importance of detailed sociocultural understanding of landowning communities is illustrated by conservation initiatives on the island of Pohnpei (Federated State of Micronesia). Several early unsuccessful initiatives failed to gain support from the broader community because of limited consultation and ignorance of traditional resource use. However, an initiative by the Nature Conservancy with the government, a local NGO, and landowners has initiated a successful and ongoing project based on a thorough sociocultural understanding ( Raynor & Kostka 2003 ). Landowner participation Landowners need to participate at all stages, from the initiative to conserve their natural resources, biodiversity assessments, project planning, project implementation, up to and including monitoring and evaluation ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ; Game . 2011 ). Different perceptions of “no‐take zones” versus “subsistence‐use” zones and other aspects of conservation ( West 2006 ; Brockington . 2008 ) require intensive and continuing dialogue and education between landowners and the implementing organization(s) at all stages. Such dialogue would also allow all stakeholders to ascertain sincere commitment toward conservation by all parties involved, which is essential for success ( van Helden 2005 ). Furthermore, it allows increased ownership of the project and improved long‐term support by local communities. The crucial role that landowners play is illustrated by the successful conservation of the rich terrestrial and marine biota of the uninhabited (for several decades) Tetepare Island, Solomon Islands ( Read & Moseby 2006 ). Tetepare islanders established the Tetepare Descendants Association in 2001 to convert the entire island to a community conservation area and prevent logging with support from the European Union, World‐Wide Fund for Nature, and Australian Volunteers International. This project successfully included local communities at all stages of development and implementation and provides real economic benefits through ecotourism. Alternative revenue for local communities Conservation programs must provide for sustainable economic and social development in landowning communities ( Hunnam 2002 ; Hviding 2003 ). Simple funding transactions are not sufficient and raise unrealistic expectations ( Foale 2001 ; Hviding 2003 ; van Helden 2005 ). Instead, innovative ways and alternative income‐generating activities need to be developed. Ecotourism provides an alternative source of revenue but may be unrealistic because of the remoteness of some communities and potential adverse effects on biodiversity conservation ( Morrison & Buckley 2010 ). Other alternative income strategies have often focused on increasing revenue for existing produce of communities ( van Helden 2005 ). Alternative income generation was developed to promote the financial and social development of landowners in the Sovi Basin Conservation Area, Fiji, which contains old‐growth tropical lowland rainforest and numerous rare and threatened flora and fauna species ( Keppel . 2011 ). After several years of discussions and planning led by Conservation International and the University of the South Pacific, a trust fund was established with funding from the bottled water company Fiji Water. The interest accumulated pays lease premiums, compensates foregone timber royalties, provides community development opportunities, and implements the comanagement plan for the protected area. In addition, a scholarship program for landowning communities was created, supporting more than 150 students. Conservation funding and stakeholder collaboration Collaboration by all concerned stakeholders is required to maximize benefits from conservation efforts through efficient spending of available conservation funding and addressing the needs of stakeholders. A local body for each country can achieve effective coordination, funding, and communication between different stakeholders for conservation. This could either be an independent local NGO or a committee composed of representatives from different stakeholders. In addition, Memorandums of Understanding established between conservation NGOs and national governments for establishment, operation, and accountability could be expanded to include a Code of Conduct, defined consequences for breaches of this, and mechanisms to ensure transparency of operations. Enduring investment Medium‐ or long‐term program approaches with committed stakeholders and funding agencies are needed. Ideally, these stakeholders should invest in projects for at least 10–15 years. For example, the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), created in 2002, supports biodiversity conservation and related sustainable development for the people of the Federated States of Micronesia and includes members from national, state, and municipal governments, NGOs, business, and academic institutions. A primary aim is to build an endowment of US$20 million for long‐term support of sustainable biodiversity resource management in Micronesia ( MCT 2011 ). In 2009, the MCT obtained US$2 million from various public and private sources, funding 55 local projects. Capacity building Capacity building at all levels (community, national, and regional) is essential for meaningful participation of all stakeholders and sustainability for the conservation program ( Hunnam 2002 ; Raynor & Kostka 2003 ; Table 3 ). There is an urgent need to improve regional and local capacity in conservation management, including scientific data collection, species and threat management, project management, generation of funding, and sustainable development. This should include training people, currently active in the conservation sector, and developing future conservation leaders through scholarships. The latter can curtail the problem of overseas conservationists leading conservation programs in the region with limited Pacific experience. In addition, attractive and challenging local positions need to be created to retain excellent local conservationists in the region. Furthermore, the role of local institutions in conservation needs to be strengthened in the Pacific ( Foale 2001 ), as in other developing countries ( Rodríguez . 2007 ). This will focus conservation activities on national priorities, rather than those of outside organizations. 3 Summary of capacity building needs in relation to conservation in the Pacific region. Modified from Raynor & Kostka (2003) Level Group Capacity needs Landowning community Local village members; Women's groups; Youth groups; Church groups; Local volunteers (non land owners); School groups Basic business skills; Proposal writing and fundraising; Traditional ecology and resource management methods; Ecological principals and basic resource management; Conservation area management planning Traditional leaders Village chiefs Legal responsibilities; Community organization; Community meeting and record keeping; Conservation area management planning Government Field officers; Senior and midlevel officers of government agencies involved in conservation Conservation area management planning; Community planning and evaluation Legal responsibilities; Ecological principals and resource management; Monitoring and evaluation; Community liaison and involvement NGOs (conservation and academic) Staff involved with conservation, community development, and education Proposal writing and fundraising; Monitoring and evaluation Community planning and evaluation; Identification of conservation priorities including research BINGOs Staff involved with conservation, community development, and education Community planning and evaluation; Local social, economic, land tenure, and cultural dynamics; Traditional ecology and resource management methods Conclusions We have illustrated that most conservation efforts in Pacific Island countries are inefficient, noninclusive, and insufficiently sensitive to locality. While previous papers (e.g., Kingsford . 2009 ; Woinarski 2010 ) focus on policy measures, we highlight land tenure systems, cultural values, and social complexities that make conservation in Pacific Island countries fundamentally different from developed nations. As conservation efforts and policy are often built on scientific approaches conceived in developed nations, they may not be practical and effective in developing Pacific Island nations. We recommend a shift in conservation planning and implementation toward central participation of landowning communities at all stages of conservation programs, better understanding of socioeconomic and cultural complexities, local capacity building, generation of alternative income for landowning communities, and the prioritization and coordination of available conservation resources. Effort needs to focus on national priorities and move away from current ad hoc approaches to greatly improve the effectiveness of conservation in Pacific Island countries. Changes need to be implemented urgently because every failed project undermines the credibility of NGOs and the national conservation communities ( van Helden 2005 ). Many of the problems identified are known and not unique to the Pacific or developing nations ( Mace 2004 ; Brockington . 2008 ). Furthermore, most of the suggested changes are not novel and have been successfully incorporated in some conservation programs. Nevertheless, a fundamental paradigm shift is urgently required to develop effective strategies to safeguard the vanishing biodiversity of Pacific Island countries and to prepare for the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Although there is no magic formula for successful conservation in Pacific Island countries because of the great cultural and socioeconomic diversity, adoption of our suggested solutions would greatly improve the success of conservation actions and programs. Acknowledgments An Asia‐Pacific Science Foundation grant (APSF10/4) contributed to facilitating the conception and compilation of this article.

Journal

Conservation LettersWiley

Published: Aug 1, 2012

Keywords: ; ; ; ; ; ;

References

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