English  |  Español  |  Français

Papua New Guinea - Main Details

Show map

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and many outlying islands to the north and east, with a land area of about 462,243 km2, a coastline of 20,197 km and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 3,120,000 km2. The country possesses more than 5,000 lakes, extensive river systems and wetlands. The species-rich mainland coastline includes more than 8,000 km of mangrove swamps, lagoons, wetlands, coral reefs and atolls, plus island archipelagos and hundreds of offshore islands.

The country is remarkably diverse in terms of species, landscapes and ecosystems. The forests of the island of New Guinea constitute the third largest expanse of tropical rainforest on the planet, after the forests of the Amazon and the Congo Basin. Rainforests cover 28.2 million hectares of Papua New Guinea and comprise 80% of the forest estate, with the rest of the forest estate comprised of dry evergreen forest, swamp forest and mangroves. The total forest estate covers approximately 71% of the land area. Approximately 2.9 million hectares of rainforest (about 15% of the total) are currently degraded, with a similar amount having been lost since 1972 when forests were first accurately mapped. This forest is currently being lost at the rate of 1.4% per year. The other major types of forest (dry evergreen forest, swamp forest, mangroves) have remained relatively stable in extent since 1972. The remaining non-forest area includes extensive areas of lowland to mid-montane grassland, sub-alpine and alpine shrubland and grassland, human settlements and water bodies.

Papua New Guinea’s waters exist in a part of the Coral Triangle which is considered the area with highest known level of marine biological diversity in the world. Its coral reefs and associated marine habitat are home to about 2,800 species of fishes, constituting about 10% of the world’s total. Almost all reef types found in Papua New Guinea’s waters are within fringing and/or barrier reefs, with an estimated area of 40,000 km². In addition, the country has some of the largest unpolluted tropical freshwater systems in the Asia-Pacific region. Mangrove swamps occupy 51.6 million hectares (about 2% of the forest estate). A recent study demonstrated that the extent of mangroves in the Gulf of Papua has remained relatively stable for nearly 40 years, with expansion in some areas balanced by regression in other areas. There are 33 species of mangrove trees known, respresenting the highest mangrove diversity in the world.

The flora of Papua New Guinea is poorly known. Scientists estimate that more than half the plants and animals found in Papua New Guinea have yet to be scientifically named. Estimates for the number of vascular plant species for the entire island of New Guinea range from 11,000 to 25,000 species. Endemism probably exceeds 30% for Papua New Guinea and is well over 70% for Papuasia. Papua New Guinea harbors a rich array of animals, including an estimated 150,000 species of insects, 314 species of freshwater fishes (82 endemic), 641 species of amphibians and reptiles (328 endemic), 740 species of birds (77 endemic), and 276 species of mammals (69 endemic). The current status of species in Papua New Guinea includes: 1 extinct, 36 critically endangered, 49 endangered, 365 vulnerable, and 288 near threatened.

Regarding agro-biodiversity, the sweet potato is a central component of the Papua New Guinean diet, with an estimated 5,000 cultivars of this staple found within the country. Numerous other plant species have traditionally been cultivated, including more than 30 root crops, 21 legume species, 40 leafy green vegetables, 60 other vegetables and roots, 43 varieties of nuts, 102 fruits, and 89 other plants used for food or seasonings. Wildlife plays an important part in traditional diets, supplying the primary intake of proteins and fats in many highland areas and other isolated areas of the country. In coastal areas, a wide variety of seafood, including fish, mollusks, and turtles, dominates local diets.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The major threats to biodiversity include rapid and substantial forest degradation, unregulated fisheries, pollution from both sea and land, and activities of industries. It is estimated that, by 2021, most commercially accessible forests will be degraded, while most accessible forests will be under logging concessions and the remaining accessible areas subject to industrial agriculture or the impacts of a rapidly expanding human population. The industry sector is expanding rapidly, with activities linked to mining, oil and natural gas, forestry, fisheries and the production of timber, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, coconut, tea and vanilla.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Implementation of Papua New Guinea’s NBSAP (2007) has been slow and uncoordinated and lacking adequate funding and capacity allocations. Its main goals are to: 1) conserve, sustainably use, and manage the country’s biological diversity; 2) strengthen and promote institutional and human capacity-building for biodiversity conservation, management and sustainable use; 3) strengthen partnership and promote coordination for conserving biodiversity; 4) strengthen existing protected areas and ensure that protected areas for terrestrial species and marine species are increased to 10% by 2010 and 2012, respectively; 5) ensure a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of genetic and ecosystem resources; 6) promote and strengthen research of the country’s biological diversity and the sustainable development of the country’s biological resources; 7) establish measures for the sustainability of biodiversity use, incentives and alternatives; and 8) promote education and public awareness.

Activities are in process concerning revising the NBSAP, including setting national targets aligned with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Papua New Guinea has identified nine terrestrial and five marine ecoregions to serve as reporting units for assessing the status of species and ecosystems and their protection in Papua New Guinea’s Protected Area system. These units are to be used in the monitoring and evaluation framework for the Papua New Guinea Government’s current natural resource management initiatives, once endorsed by the National Executive Council. A cooperative approach to management is being promoted that will continue to be refined as more detailed information on ecosystems and/or other base layers comes to hand.

The Papua New Guinea Development Strategic Plan (2010-2030) sets new directions and parameters for development planning in the country. It has finally translated the Five Directive Principles of the National Constitution, the Eight Point Improvement Plan and the Vision 2050 through the annual planning, programming and budgetary processes. Projects include integrated, ecosystem-based initiatives, significant direction to the additions to Papua New Guinea’s networks of protected areas, addressing climate change issues, restoration of degraded ecosystems, legislation for the protection of species at risk, habitat stewardship programs, sustainable resource management and a variety of ecosystem, species and genetic research and assessment initiatives. Customary landowners in the country own the land and sea and are an integral part of the landscapes and seascapes of the nation. Equal consideration is given to customary landowners when identifying priorities for protection and management.

All main staple food crop species and fruits and nut species of the country have been collected over the years, and are now conserved in “living collections” or field gene banks at various Research Programme Centers of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) located throughout the country. The genetic diversity of major cash crop species, such as sugarcane, coffee, cocoa, coconut, palm oil, rubber and tea, are maintained by their own research and development institutes or companies. Most of this diversity has been introduced from gene banks located overseas.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The New Organic Law on Provincial and Local-Level Governments provides the institutional framework for the planning process in Papua New Guinea. It provides the foundation for a system of bottom-up planning for provinces, to ensure the delivery of better and more appropriate services to the local people in a more efficient manner. The National Forest Act (1991) promotes the development of the National and Provincial Forest Plans and the opportunity for mainstreaming biodiversity conservation. Environmental impact assessments are also mandatory under the Environment Act (2000).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Despite a number of wildlife surveys conducted in the country, there is a lack of scientific and social data. However, for the first time, the terrestrial and marine ecoregions will become the reporting unit for assessing the status of species and ecosystems and their protection in the Protected Area System, once endorsed by the National Executive Council. Indeed, the ecoregion will be used in the monitoring and evaluating framework for the Papua New Guinea Government’s current natural resource management initiatives.

Rate this page - 66 people have rated this page 
  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme