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Samoa - 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.

Samoa's vegetation is divided into five plant communities (littoral vegetation, wetland vegetation, rainforest, volcanic scrub, disturbed vegetation). The country’s flora consists of 500 species of native flowering plants and about 220 species of ferns in 96 families and 298 genera, making it one of the most diverse flora in Polynesia. Overall, about 25% of the native plant species are endemic to Samoa and 32% endemic to the Samoan archipelago. In the agricultural ecosystem, the main cultivated crops are taro, bananas, breadfruits, yams, cacao and coconuts. Samoan coastal and marine ecosystems are characterized by large and vulnerable reefs cover (490 km3), as well as 14 families with at least 45 species of corals (mainly Acropora). In terms of faunal diversity, there are 13 species of terrestrial mammals, 44 species of land birds, 21 seabirds, 15 reptiles, 59 species of insects, 64 species of land snails and 28 species of butterflies. In particular, Samoa's fish fauna is regarded as among the richest in the world, with up to 991 species recorded (890 inhabiting shallow water or reefs, 56 found in deeper water and 45 being pelagic). In terms of freshwater biodiversity, which remains relatively unknown, 30 species of fish and 17 species of macro-crustaceans have been reported. In 1999, 198 taxa of algae, with a known species count of 287, were reported.

At present, ecosystems of global and national significance, such as coastal and montane rainforests, are being degraded, more or less critically. While some require immediate interventions, others have already been completely destroyed in the past two decades as a result of human activities and cyclones. An example of a vulnerable ecosystem is the Samoan forest, whose cover has been in steady decline since the first aerial photos were taken in 1954. Although the highest rate of forest loss, resulting from commercial logging and cyclones, was reached between the early 1970s and early 1990s, degradation and fragmentation are expected to continue as a result of cyclones, agro-deforestation and settlements, which are likely to increase as a result of the Government’s objective to expand commercial agriculture, as set forth in the National Development Strategy (2008-2012). Other ecosystems, such as coral reefs, display less straightforward trends. Assessments led in 2002, 2004 and 2008, as part of the Status of Coral Reefs of the World reports, saw percentages of living coverage fluctuating from a mean of 39% in 2002, to 10.3% in 2004 and 43% in 2008 – a sign of remarkable recovery, although the impact of overfishing, coastal development and cyclones remains a major threat.

The status of faunal and floral species follows the overall declining trend in natural habitats. Eleven terrestrial and 65 marine species found in Samoa are listed as globally threatened on the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but the true number of threatened species in Samoa is much higher, perhaps in the hundreds. Some of these species, such as the Ma’oma’o and the Manumea, two bird species for which conservation projects were launched in 2006, are found nowhere else in the world. In 1992, 136 floral species were listed as threatened or endangered, with a further 500 or so plant species having been introduced, most of which are beneficial to the environment however others have since become highly invasive.

Samoa’s economy relies heavily on ecosystem protection, especially in the agricultural sector which accounts for more than one-tenth of the country’s GDP, as well as in industry which is based mainly on tourism, coconuts, small-scale manufacturing and fishing. In particular, exports from Samoa, which have amounted to almost $16 million in recent years, depend directly on the availability of coconut products and fish.

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 main threats to biodiversity identified in the NBSAP include: forest clearance, population growth, over-exploitation of natural resources, non-sustainable development, natural disasters and the spread of introduced animal and plant pests. More specific threats can also be mentioned, such as climate change, coastal pollution, logging, agricultural clearing, forest fires and human settlement. The underlying drivers of change and causes of threats include economic, demographic, institutional, technological, cultural, social and political factors.

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.

Samoa’s NBSAP was formally approved by Cabinet in April 2001, concluding a planning process begun in March 1998, upon approval of UNDP funding. The NBSAP was officially launched on the International Day for Biodiversity in May 2001 and defines objectives, goals and actions organized under 8 themes: mainstreaming biodiversity; ecosystem management; species management; community empowerment, awareness, involvement, ownership and benefits; access and benefit-sharing from the use of genetic resources; biosecurity; agrobiodiversity; financial resources and mechanisms. Based on information available, 70% to 80% of actions contained in the NBSAP that directly address various articles of the Convention have been implemented, or are in the process of implementation. Good progress has been made in regard to implementation of 6 thematic areas (only limited progress has been made in regard to the 2 themes of access and benefit-sharing and financial resources and mechanisms).

Samoa has submitted a proposal to UNEP for support for revising its NBSAP.

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.

Since the establishment of the NBSAP, notable progress has been achieved in regard to protected areas, whose collective area has more than doubled over the last 10 years. Thirteen botanical reserves were established between 1999 and 2007, bringing the total number of reserves, including botanic, marine, and recreational reserves, to eighteen, with Samoa’s marine protected areas network now comprising 12,011,437 hectares. In addition, several programs and projects are targeted at protecting or rehabilitating vulnerable ecosystems, such as the GEF Small Grants Programme with NZAID, the AusAID co-financed project for the rehabilitation of coastal ecosystems and the establishment of marine reserves and replanting of mangroves and corals, as well as the AusAID-financed Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources. Samoa also actively supported and participated in the SPREP-coordinated Conservation of Sea Turtles Campaign in 2006/2007.

The NBSAP has also been catalytic for the formulation of several biodiversity-related policies. For instance, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s National Invasive Alien Species Implementation Action Plan (2005) includes actions for increasing the effectiveness of border control, monitoring rodents and Giant African Snails, as well as eradication activities targeting rats, myna birds and Merremia peltata vine. Samoa’s National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) was implemented in 2006 to address climate change, and the National Water Resources Management Strategy (2007-2017) promotes the control, management and protection of water resources.

The Samoan Government conducts public awareness, training and education activities targeting community people, notably through the creation of community fisheries reserves, while also promoting local community participation. An indicator of positive change in practices is the growing number of organic farms (in 2005, 16 fully certified organic farms were reported in Samoa and 10 more farms were in the process of obtaining full certification).

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.

Since the adoption of the NBSAP, 4 pieces of biodiversity legislation have been enacted and 9 biodiversity-related policies and national strategies have been approved (e.g. Biodiversity Conservation Policy, Land Use Policy, National Water Resources Management Strategy, National Water Resources Policy, Forest Reserve Conservation Policy). At the sectoral level, biodiversity mainstreaming is advanced in legislation and policies related to forestry, water resources, fisheries, urban planning, as well as tourism and education (which both highlight the importance of biodiversity and environmental sustainability in their Master Plans). In addition to efforts being taken in sectoral planning, biodiversity integration at the projects and activities level is also noteworthy.

Agriculture continues on a path of increased genetic diversification in crops and domestic animals, with new species and varieties being introduced to improve yields, disease resistance and export prospects. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) leads a highly successful village-based fisheries and marine reserves program that supports communities in the rehabilitation of depleted inshore areas while encouraging sustainable fisheries management (an aquaculture development initiative uses introduced tilapia, giant clams and trochus). The Forestry Division now operates under the integrative umbrella of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), with links to other MNRE divisions dealing with land, water resources and biodiversity conservation now significantly facilitated.

Cross-sectoral integration is well advanced in certain areas, including environmental impact assessments (EIA Regulation, 2007), waste management, land management and climate change adaptation. The Sustainable Development Strategy (2008-2012) signals the Samoan Government’s intent to give prominence to environmental and disaster risk management concerns as cross-cutting considerations in all planning activities. This objective is also supported by efficient administrative organization. Samoa is promoting biodiversity-related dialogue through the establishment of inter-agency and multi-stakeholder mechanisms, such as the Cabinet Development Committee, and various ad hoc committees on specific projects that discuss biodiversity conservation related issues within the broader context of national development. Moreover, the restructuring of the old Department of Lands, Surveys and Environment into a single ministry (MNRE) now consolidates the planning and management of land, water, forestry, national parks and reserves, energy, meteorology, environmental protection and urban planning under one agency.

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.

Samoa has developed several tools to generate and compile information on biodiversity data and trends (e.g. GIS-based data management system that generates mapping data and information on the extent of forests and protected areas coverage, within the framework of the MNRE-Forestry SAMFRIS Project). The MAF (Fisheries) supports the monitoring of inshore fisheries for the existing network of village-based fisheries reserves under its village-level monitoring activities. Special monitoring programs are also conducted for several species, including the sheath-tailed bat and the Hawksbill turtles. However, the NBSAP itself has not been monitored at all since it was adopted, presenting a major constraint to assessing its effectiveness. In light of this, the MNRE has prioritized the development of an NBSAP monitoring plan, with relevant and measurable indicators, as well as commitment to its regular implementation.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme