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Timor-Leste - Country Profile

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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.

Timor-Leste is a country positioned in a biodiversity hotspot, known as Wallacea, which harbors a number of globally significant ecosystems and endemic species. The geographic position of Timor-Leste also places it in a strategic area for marine biodiversity. The country is located in the Coral Triangle which sustains about 120 million people and where 76% of the world’s coral species and 6 of the world’s 7 marine turtle species can be found.

Timor-Leste has a coastline approximately 700 km in length, and a potential Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 75,000 km2. Over 100 rivers from the highlands flow into the coastal zone, but the discharges are short and fast flowing due to the steep topography. There are 24 key wetland sites that have been identified as environmentally significant and in need of conservation and resource management.

The most recent checklist for Timor lists 983 species. No modern census or complete list of flora for Timor or Timor-Leste exists from which to establish the size of the flora. Recent terrestrial surveys identified new species of bats, frogs, geckos and skinks. There are about 15-20 amphibian species and 40 or more reptiles. Levels of endemism are moderate to high for frogs (about 50% Timorendemic), skinks (25%) and geckos (25%). Bats are the best represented group with at least 34 species, including 12 species of fruit bats. There are at least 7 species of rats and mice and 5 species of shrews. Timor once had a rich native rat fauna, including giant rats, but these may have become extinct after the introduction of many mammals associated with human settlement during the last 1,000-7,000 years. These species include the common spotted cuscus, long-tailed macaque, common palm civet, wild pig, rusa deer, house mouse, house rat, brown rat and field rat. A recent marine megafauna survey in Timor-Leste’s waters, completed in November 2008, in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Government of Timor-Leste (through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport), revealed the existence of over 1,000 marine megafauna species in surrounding waters.

Based on analysis of satellite images, forest cover in East Timor decreased by almost 30% over the 1972-1999 period. Approximately 35% (4,538.5 km2 or 453,850 ha) of the land area (excluding approximately 22 km2 of water bodies) has some type of forest cover. Remaining primary forest vegetation is minimal. Estimates range from 1% to 6% of the territory. Recent coastal mapping funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has revealed significant and ongoing coastal habitat loss in Timor-Leste, particularly in coastal mangroves. In 1940, the mangrove area of Timor-Leste totaled 9,000 hectares. By 2008, the areas had decreased to only 1,802 hectares, which translates into an 80% loss.

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.

Over-exploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources, as well as habitat degradation and fragmentation are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in Timor-Leste. These are mainly caused by deforestation, unabated collection of sand and stones in rivers, unsustainable agricultural practices, and land conversion to other uses. Pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change are also contributing factors to biodiversity loss.

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.

Timor-Leste became a CBD Party in 2007 and adopted its first NBSAP in February 2012. The NBSAP covers the 2011-2020 period and is closely linked to the National Strategic Development Plan of Timor-Leste for the next two decades. It is also consistent with other policy frameworks, such as the National Adaptation Programme of Action on Climate Change, National Action Programme to Combat Land Degradation, Fisheries Sector Plan and the Forestry Sector Plan, and serves as a guiding policy framework for district and sub-district authorities, civil society and the private sector. The development of the NBSAP was guided by the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. It contains 5 Priority Actions and 5 Priority Targets and 21 Strategic Actions, as well as additional detailed activities for implementing the Nagoya outcomes over the decade. The NBSAP uses the Ecosystem Approach and notably contains both a CEPA Strategy and Action Plan as well as a Partnership Strategy for addressing financing needs. A priority target of the NBSAP is to establish, by 2015, a national biodiversity monitoring and reporting system using the CHM as an operational tool. The NBSAP also includes actions related to the development of a Biodiversity Decree Law, as well as a strategic outline for ratifying and implementing the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing.

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.

Currently, there are 30 protected areas, 15 of which are legislated (another 15 have been identified to be put under legislation). There are also 16 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and up to 261 identified bird species in Timor-Leste. Further, removal of wood for industrial purposes is currently banned, while cutting of large diameter trees is permitted only for domestic use. The National Action Program to Combat Land Degradation (NAP, 2009) has identified project activities addressing deforestation and land degradation processes in Timor-Leste focusing on sustainable land management. These include restoring degraded areas, protecting and conserving unaffected areas of high agriculture and environment significance, and building capacity for the implementation of both land rehabilitation and conservation activities.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, with the Government of Australia through the Australian Agency for International Development and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Timor-Leste implemented “The Seeds of Life” Program in 2005, a bilateral assistance programme aimed to address food security issues in Timor-Leste. Regarding genetic diversity, Timor Leste has established two central seed centres for genetic conservation of rice, corn, soybean, peanuts and mung bean.

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.

Biodiversity is mainstreamed in the National Strategic Development Plan for the next two decades, as well as in other plans and policy frameworks (e.g. Strategic Action Plan for the Programme of Work on Protected Areas; National Adaptation Programme of Action on Climate Change; National Action Programme to Combat Land Degradation; Fisheries Sector Plan; Forestry Sector Plan). Concerns are likewise incorporated, to varying degrees, in the development plans of the education, health, energy, tourism and environment sectors.

Timor-Leste is in the process of developing a Biodiversity Decree Law which will specifically target biodiversity conservation concerns, such as the protection of habitats and ecosystems, threat and management of invasive alien species, trade of species and penalties. The National Adaptation Programme of Action on Climate Change (NAPA, 2010) envisions the Timorese people to be more resilient to climate change, recognizing their high vulnerability in an economy that is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Adaptation measures will focus on reducing the adverse effects of climate change and promote sustainable development. These measures will build on existing strategies and plans across all sectors, including the process of establishing national priorities.

In February 2011, Timor-Leste enacted the Environmental Licensing Decree making environmental impact assessment mandatory for selected projects.

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.

By 2015, a national biodiversity monitoring system will be established.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme