Status and Trends of Biodiversity
Tuvalu is a small atoll nation located in the Central Pacific and has a total land area of only 26 sq km. The Islands are generally low with an average height of one meter above sea level while the highest elevation is no greater than 4 metres. Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone covers an ocean area of some 900,000 sq km. From a geological perspective, the islands of Tuvalu are very young, with poorly developed, infertile, sandy or gravel coralline soils.
The marine environment is comprised of six major ecosystem types (oceanic, outer reef, lagoonal, back reef, lagoon floor, patch reefs and natural channels between the ocean and lagoon). These ecosystems produce the sediment required for island building and maintenance and support communities of corals, other invertebrates, algae, plankton, fish and marine mammals and reptiles.
Tuvalu has actively participated in various national, regional, and international capacity-building environmental initiatives. One such initiative is the UNDP-funded South Pacific Regional Capacity 21 programmes through which the country focused its efforts on the development and formulation of a National Environmental Strategy (NEMS). The NEMS provided a framework for environmental efforts in Tuvalu and enabled the development of key environmental policies that have guided the sustainable management of Tuvalu’s limited resources over the past years.
Tuvalu signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 and only ratified it on 20 December 2002.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
Tuvalu has established six conservation areas on six of its nine islands with only one being regulated under a formal legislation while the rest through traditional management systems. Preparations are underway to expand its protected area networks. This will be identified under the National Biodiversity Strategy.
Percentage of Forest Cover
The soil of Tuvalu is generally of poor quality, and only supports a limited variety of flora. Indigenous plants are rare because of habitat modifications such as the extensive planting of coconuts and other food plants by early settlers. There are probably 200 plant species in Tuvalu, 50 of which are possibly indigenous (Lane, 1993). There are probably no indigenous land mammals, though there are indigenous birds (28 species), insects, land crabs and a few species of lizards of which only one has been confirmed to be endemic.
The table below shows vegetation by class in Tuvalu and percentage of land covered, c1998 Type of vegetation/Area (ha)/Percentage: Coconut woodland/1, 619/53.9; Broadleaf woodland/122/4.1; Coconut & broadleaf woodland/51/1.7; Scrub/419/13.9; Pandanus/10/0.3; Mangroves/515/17.1; Pulaka pits & pulaka basin/65/2.2; Village, buildings/172/5.7; Others (i.e. low ground cover)/33/1.1; Total/3, 006/100. (Land discrepancies) Sources: McLean & Hosking (1991) and Seluka et al (1998)