Country Profiles

Niue - Main Details

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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.

The nation of Niue consists of one island in the south Pacific Ocean. It is the smallest independent nation in the world but is the largest uplifted coral atoll. It has three primary ecosystems: agricultural, forest, and ocean. It is largely an agriculturally based economy—one traditionally based on subsistence agriculture, and recently expanded to crops for export—but the uniqueness of Niue’s natural environment has been realized and it is now also being marketed as an eco-tourism and adventure tourism destination.

Niue’s small population has made current farming practices sustainable to a certain extent. Recently though, emphasis has been placed on organic farming practices for both vanilla and nonu (Morinda citrifolia) farming in order to capture the high value market. However, regardless of organic farming practices being promoted, there is still ongoing high usage of herbicides and synthetic fertilizers to manage weeds and boost growth of Niue’s traditional and staple food crop, taro. Over the last 20 years, traditional methods of farming taro have also changed dramatically (e.g. the traditional slash and burn method has been replaced by the usage of bulldozers to clear land for plantations). This clearance of forest area to accommodate agricultural activities had an historically high rate, however, it has slowed in recent years and secondary forest area is increasing. The forest is the critical habitat for three prized food species: fruit bat, wood pigeon and the coconut crab. The forest also yields edible ferns, medicinal plants and minor wood products.

Niue’s coastline descends precipitously, at times over 1000 m within 5 km of the shore. There is a narrow fringing reef with a thin layer of corals around most of the island, and richer coral growth at its edge. The total area of reef flat and sub-tidal reef has been estimated at 620 ha and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Niue is 390,000 km². However, Niue does not have an abundance of fish stock sources and has closed its waters to foreign fishing activities. On the other hand, the freshwater supply and resources of Niue come from underground sources and rain catchments. The rainfall infiltrates the porous coral and topsoil of the island until it reaches the saline water that lies underneath, where its lower density allows it to form a pool over the salt water. This lens provides the freshwater used for human consumption, agriculture and industry.

Niue does not show particularly high species diversity and has low endemism, due to its isolation, relatively young age, and small size. Animals arriving have not had enough time for evolution in the restricted range of habitats and ecosystems on Niue. There are 31 bird species, 2 terrestrial mammals, 5 reptiles, 376 invertebrates, 4 insect pests, 8 land crabs, 2 marine mammals, 2 reptiles, 240 fish, 25 invertebrates, and 175 plants species recorded on Niue. Additionally, 43 of the 70 known coral genera in the Pacific Islands have been recorded in Niue. There are also 2 endemic bird sub-species and one endemic sea snake; other endemic species probably exist among invertebrates but have not been fully surveyed. Threatened and endangered species on Niue include the Pacific pigeon, the fruit bat, the blue crowned lory, and the spotless crake, as well as 56 threatened endemic plant species.

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.

Niue’s ecosystems and biodiversity are particularly vulnerable to disturbances because of its small size and isolation. Threats include natural disasters like cyclones, some fishing techniques, coral bleaching in recent years, natural instability and alien invasive species. There has also been unregulated hunting of some targeted species like the pacific pigeon and fruit bat, and over-harvesting of coconut crabs. Of special importance is the vulnerability of the aquifer strata to contamination from activities carried out on the surface as they are porous and any large-scale contamination of the freshwater lens will pose a risk to the population. To date, however, there has been no outbreak of diseases attributed to untreated water.

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.

The vision of Niue’s NBSAP (2001) was to turn Niue into an environmentally-friendly nation supporting the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity, which will then be able to support all of its living community. Its six goals include: retaining and enhancing existing biodiversity; integrating biodiversity into government development policies and plans; improving local community understanding about biodiversity and mobilizing their participation in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and benefit-sharing; improving capacities for sustainable management of natural resources; developing financial mechanisms at various levels for conservation and sustainable management; and strengthening environmental education and awareness and improving information-sharing. The NBSAP’s seven themes cover terrestrial habitats, terrestrial species, marine biodiversity, governance, waste management and water resources, alien invasive species, and public awareness and education. Priority actions identified include: protection of traditional knowledge, in situ and ex situ conservation, protection of threatened species and establishment of a biodiversity database. Niue’s NBSAP was developed on the basis of two pieces of legislation: the Environment Bill and the Integrated Environment Planning and Management Bill. One major outcome of the NBSAP was the enactment of the Environment Act in 2003. Biodiversity is also included in Niue’s Integrated Strategic Plan as well as in some policies and laws, such as the National Inshore Fisheries Management Plan and Domestic Fishing Regulation.

Activities are currently underway to revise the 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.

In association with the Government, one of the main aims of the Niue Organic Farming Association (NIOFA) is to work towards declaring Niue the first organically-certified nation. Organic farming practices for vanilla and nonu are being promoted and have thus become a widely accepted practice by farmers. Organic farming practices are also expected to be tested at the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) farm, which is a project developed and implemented after concern was noted regarding the impact to biodiversity and Niue’s water lens from bulldozer land clearing, fertilizers and pesticides. This project hopes to demonstrate a sustainable and integrated land-use system (e.g. with agro-forestation and mixed farming activities).

There are two terrestrial and one marine protected areas on Niue established to protect forest, marine biodiversity and traditional knowledge. The Huvalu Forest Conservation Area and the Hakupu Heritage and Cultural Site (the latter being family owned and operated) have initiatives to strengthen the capacity of the community to manage the local conservation area, with the focus being on the sustainable use of the resources of these areas. The Anono (Namoui) Marine Reserve was established first by the Government of Niue, and later with the International Waters Programme (IWP) which is a GEF-funded programme. There is also a proposed GEF Forestry and Protected Area Management project which will address the sustainable management of Niue’s forest resources as well as a proposed Niue Forest Bill. A framework to guide the management and development of Niue’s coast was developed with the Coastal Management Development Policy (2008), allowing for the maintenance and enhancement of resilience by coastal biodiversity components for adaptation to climate change. As a result of the Coastal Management Development Policy, the Integrated Coastal Management and Development Plan and the National Tuna Fishery Management and Development Plan were developed.

Some species are protected and conserved on Niue. All marine mammals are protected, including the humpback whale, the minke whale, pilot whales and the spinner dolphin; all species of shark and ray in the EEZ are protected as well. There is a regulated shooting season for pigeons and flying foxes in place, re-opened after the lifting of a five-year ban imposed following the great devastation of Cyclone Heta in 2004. Since then, monitoring surveys of their numbers were undertaken to gauge recovery rates before re-opening of the shooting season. Traditional methods of protecting an area are also sometimes put in place for the conservation of species. These methods (tapu and fono) are restrictions usually put in place because the area is sacred or vital to the breeding of certain species.

Various programmes are in place on Niue to reduce pressures on biodiversity. Measures to reduce pollution and its impacts have been taken through the National Oil Pollution Regulation, National Waste Management Plan and regular awareness programmes. These are done to educate the public as well as to reduce pollution impacts on biodiversity through activities such as the removal of scrap metal off the island. To address alien invasive species, the Agriculture and Quarantine Act and associate regulations are enforced to reduce impacts. There is also a draft Biosecurity Bill awaiting Government endorsement and enactment and some action plans for major weed species (e.g. wedelia and lantana) were developed.

A national committee is to be established in Niue to oversee protection of traditional knowledge, as well as access and sui generis mechanisms for the protection of traditional knowledge. Traditional practices are integrated into conservation and management of marine resources. Niue involved various stakeholders in the preparation of its biosafety framework. The participation of local communities is promoted at the national level through NBSAP review processes, national planning processes and development initiatives, and at the regional level, through the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and the Biodiversity Roundtable.

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.

Niue’s legislative system takes into account many aspects of biodiversity conservation. As a requirement under the Environment Act (2003), the Environment Impact Assessment Regulation was set up as a legal framework to guide development initiatives in the country. An integrated approach in developing the draft of the EIA Regulation was taken to include social and economic issues and iterations as well. An organic farming policy was also developed to regulate organic-related activities at the farm level. Other bills in place are the Biosafety Bill, Taoga Niue Bill, Water Resources Bill, and a proposed Niue Forest Bill. The Biosafety Bill is for the protection of health, environment, and agriculture and the facilitation of trade in the country’s animal and plant products through the creation of a comprehensive regime to control the import and export of plants and animals, and the internal control of pests. The Taogo Niue Bill is in place for culture and heritage conservation while the Water Resources Bill reviews the Water Resources Act (1996) for the integration and improvement of water management strategies. The Niue Forest Bill will act as a legal framework for the sustainable management of forests, in addition to the Code of Logging that is already in place, ensuring the sustainable harvesting of the indigenous forest.

Mainstreaming within the different sectors of Niue takes shape in different forms. In agriculture, some farmers enhance biodiversity while increasing productivity and employment potential through organic farming systems, mainly of vanilla and nonu (Morinda citrifolia), which encourages subsistence mixed-farming to diversify available food crops during adverse climatic conditions such as droughts and cyclones. In water development, a rainwater harvesting project was introduced. Each household is fitted with catchment tanks, reducing pressure on the underground water system. In forestry, community initiatives are combining livelihood development with forest conservation; “tapu” areas are seen as an effective measure and is strongly supported and adopted by communities. In tourism, vigorous promotions of eco-tours are in place targeting a niche market. In energy, EU funded renewable energy projects are already underway. The introduction of the use of gas stoves and solar heaters for each household is subsidised by the Government. Proposals for wind turbo energy are being developed to assist with electricity generation; furthermore, bio-gas initiatives have been introduced as an alternative for the consideration of the Government.

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.

The Environment Act (2003) provided for the establishment of the Department of Environment as the focal agency for the implementation of all environmental agreements, and further provided for the establishment of an Environment Council to coordinate the work of government departments regarding the different requirements of the CBD, UNCDD and UNFCC. There is a regularly monitoring programme for avifauna, an inshore fisheries species monitoring programme and a forest inventory of tree species in place in Niue.