At least 356 protected areas exist in the Polynesia-Micronesia hotspot, covering 18,722 km² of land and sea. Almost one-third of these are found in Hawai'i. Excluding Hawai'i, about 154, or 60 percent, of these protected areas are terrestrial, accounting for about 6.7 percent of the land area of the hotspot. However, figures relating to coverage must be taken as approximates for two reasons. The first is that many protected areas have no recorded size, partly because boundaries have not been defined or updated. Also, communities are sometimes hesitant about publicizing information about locally managed areas. There are many temporary and permanent closures that constitute protected areas, but which are not recognized by national governments. An analysis using the World Database on Protected Areas gives a lower number of protected areas in the hotspot.
Even after taking into account traditionally managed areas, many more protected areas are needed to conserve the varied and unique biodiversity of this region. One way of ensuring that the network of protected areas adequately conserves biodiversity is through the identification and conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), globally important sites for biodiversity conservation. For Polynesia-Micronesia, KBAs this process was led by CI's Melanesia program in partnership with the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), WCS-Pacific Islands, TNC-Micronesia, the Societé d'Ornithologie de la Polynésie, the Délégation à la Recherche de la Polynésie française, Te Ora Fenua (Tahiti Conservation Society) and the Bishop Museum. Of the 162 sites, only roughly one-third are within existing or planned protected areas.
Most current conservation investment in the region occurs in the form of relatively small grants. Multilateral donors include the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and United Nations agencies, mainly through GEF enabling activities and mid-size projects. Bilateral donors include mainly the governments of New Zealand, Australia, Japan, France and the United States. Except in the most developed nations, a lack of capacity and technical infrastructure impedes the ability of governments to implement conservation projects. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight successes such as the Takitumu Conservation Area in the Cook Islands.
During the past several thousand years, the Pacific has arguably lost more species to extinction than any other region on Earth. Thus, coordinated regional efforts above and beyond the establishment of protected areas are needed to share information and address common threats, such as invasive alien species, are showing great promise and offer the best hope for preserving what remains of the extraordinary biota of the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot. One example is the technique of translocating threatened species to nearby islands and eradicating invasive species. For example, the Rarotongan monarch or Kakerori (Pomarea dimidiata, EN) was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered status in the Cook Islands, following 15 years of intensive management involving predator control and translocation to the nearby rat-free island of Atiu. An important Pacific-wide effort was funded in 2004 by the New Zealand Government: the Pacific Islands Cooperative Initiative on Invasive Species, which aims to control and eradicate alien invasive species. The main partners in this initiative are the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, Cl, SPREP and SPC.
Because so much of the biota of Polynesia-Micronesia remains unknown, there is a crucial need for a comprehensive biological survey to guide conservation in the region. Plants, land snails, and flying foxes are particularly understudied. The Pacific Science Association, the Bishop Museum, SPREP, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and others are working on major initiatives such as the Pacific Biological Survey and the Pacific Basin Information Facility. More localized biodiversity surveys are also underway, initiative by Fiji, French Polynesia and other nations.
Using a $10 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), through UNDP, SPREP executed the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme (SPBCP) to establish and manage a series of large, diverse Conservation Areas throughout the region between 1993 and 2001. The Roundtable for Nature Conservation, facilitated by SPREP, is working with national governments to determine regional priorities and develop and implement the resulting action plans for combating invasive species and conservation whales and dolphins, marine turtles, dugongs and avifauna.