Micronesia/Melanesia: Small islands, large seas – and a different view on protected areas

The northern Pacific Ocean is a seemingly endless stretch of water, scattered with thousands of islands and atolls, which average a third of a square mile in size. However, these Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) are also “Large Ocean Countries” – with their combined marine territories covering an area the size of the continental United States. Climate change impacts are immediate – not as something to be expected in a distant future - they are impacting water and food security, migration patterns, economic activities and many other realities of life.

Food for such traditional ceremonies and feasts is directly linked to the management of nearby coral reef systems and is an important component in maintaining cultural and economic vitality in a village such as this in Papua New Guinea.

IUCN partners with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in a new project funded under the BMUB International Climate Initiative (IKI), which supports communities on vulnerable islands across four countries to better understand climate risks, enhance their adaptive capacity, and support the integration of nature-based adaptation options into policy. Studying and supporting adaptation efforts in this region not only means helping those most suffering from and least responsible for a globally changing climate, but it also allows to draw valuable lessons that can be applied elsewhere.

The project works in four SIDS across Micronesia and Melanesia – Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, as well as Papua New Guinea – implementing activities in five watersheds and five atolls, for upscaling across the region. Atolls are particularly vulnerable due to their small size, isolation, low elevation and low income levels. Many watersheds in Micronesia and Melanesia are threatened particularly by deforestation, leading to soil erosion.

For IUCN, the project provides an entry door into the northern Pacific region. Through its Oceania Regional Office (ORO), IUCN will engage at the national level particularly by supporting the government of the Republic of Marshall Islands in integrating learnings from project activities into the national adaptation plan “Reimaanlok”. The Marshall Islands rise 10 meters above sea level at their highest point; many atolls are inhabited by not more than 50 or 100 people.

The Global Protected Areas Programme will support the dissemination of lessons from the local to the global level, by sharing them through the Blue Solutions and Panorama initiatives and bringing them to the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai’I in 2016, as well as other global fora and policy processes. The project also provides a direct opportunity for IUCN to engage in two regional commitments relating to protected area establishment and management – the Micronesia Challenge and the Coral Triangle Initiative.

It is foreseen that the application of the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas (GLPA) standard in Micronesia will inform adaptation of the standard. The concept of “protected areas” is different in the Pacific, as compared to many other places, with locally-managed marine areas, declared at the village level, being widespread, and natural resource management often being addressed in a holistic manner, rather than by setting aside specific areas for conservation. Applying the Green List Standard in such a context will enrich it with an islands perspective, while helping to measure progress against achievement of the Micronesia Challenge commitment.

Work area: 
Climate Change
Disaster Risk Reduction
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
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