The East Melanesian Islands hotspot holds exceptional cultural and linguistic diversity. Vanuatu, for example, has 109 living traditional languages, more per unit area than any other country. The Solomon Islands, with 74 languages, is only slightly less diverse. Because many languages are spoken by only a few hundred people, they are dying out or mixing into "Pijin-Austronesian-Creoles," leading to a rapid loss of traditional knowledge and practice. Although this loss often leads to an erosion of traditional links between communities and the forests that have long served as their source of wealth and subsistence, it has been a shift to the modern cash economy, more than anything, that is the underlying force behind the rise in destructive exploitation of the region’s natural environments.
In just the last three decades, rapid forest clearance and degradation has left only about 25 percent of the region's lowland forests in pristine, old growth condition. Such acceleration in habitat loss is the primary reason for the reclassification of this region from a wilderness area to a biodiversity hotspot. The remaining lowland forests are in the least accessible parts of the hotspot, especially where local communities have resisted foreign logging companies. While the upland humid forests are in better condition, population growth presents a serious threat to these forests, which are being cleared for subsistence agriculture.
The Bismarcks, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have been most affected by extensive logging of lowland and hill forests and subsequent land clearing for copra and oil palm plantations, while the Admiralties have been most affected by agricultural expansion. Another major threat to the region is the impact of invasive alien species, especially pigs, cats (several species of giant rodents have been extirpated from Guadalcanal by cat predation), rats and little red fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata), which have reached plague levels on many of the Solomon Islands.
Mining is a threat in a few localized areas of the region, including Bougainville and Lihir. Poor governance and government instability throughout the hotspot have led to inadequate management of resources, poor (and poorly managed) deals with international resource developers, such as mining and logging companies, and social and cultural disruption. For example, a nearly decade-long war on Bougainville was related to poor management of the large Panguna Copper Mine on the island, and the fact that local people suffered most of the costs of the mine yet reaped few benefits.