Protecting fragile island and island-like ecosystems is key to reducing rates of biodiversity loss worldwide. That was the main conclusion reached at the eighth Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) when representatives from 159 governments and some 3,000 non-governmental, academic, industry, and local participants placed island biodiversity high on the international conservation agenda.
The meeting in Curitiba, Brazil
last month was the largest gathering in the governing body's 12-year history and suggests the increasing momentum with which countries are approaching their 2010 and 2012 biodiversity goals. CBD goals call for the significant reduction of biodiversity loss worldwide, both as a matter of environmental concern and toward the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development.
CI dispatched 70 staff members to the event to rally political will and local support for key conservation issues that were the subject of 36 unanimously adopted decisions. They included island biodiversity, protected areas management, human welfare, climate change
, marine conservation, and invasive species
So Much Biodiversity, So Little Room
There are more than 100,000 islands on Earth and countless other self-contained, island-like habitats such as mountaintops, freshwater ecosystems, seamounts, and atolls. Until recently, island species have thrived in isolation but habitat destruction, over-harvesting, invasive species, and pollution are now pushing them to the brink of extinction. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and other climate change-induced pressures compound threats to island biodiversity.
Today, 10 of the 34 biodiversity hotspots
wholly comprise islands harboring a quarter of Earth's threatened endemic mammals and a third of all threatened native birds. Of the 595 Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, 218 are islands containing the sole surviving population of one or more Critically Endangered or Endangered species.
"In terms of achievements, the adoption of the new island biodiversity work program a strategic priority for CI was one, if not the greatest success of COP8," says Laura Ledwith, manager of international policy and science at CI. "Governments welcomed the work program and strongly encouraged its adoption."
CI helped design the work plan on island biodiversity adopted at COP8. It requires island nations to safeguard their terrestrial and marine ecosystems by incorporating protected areas, biodiversity corridors, and sustainable resource management practices into existing national conservation strategies. The newly created Phoenix Islands Protected Area, announced by the Republic of Kiribati at the conference, is an example of this effort. Supporting island nations like Kiribati will be a major objective of CI's new Pacific Islands
Program, unveiled at COP8, which focuses on the Polynesia-Micronesia
and New Caledonia