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Tuvalu - 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.

Tuvalu is located in the Central Pacific and comprised of three reef islands and six atolls, with a total land area of only 26 km2. The islands are generally low with an average height of one metre above sea level while the highest elevation is no greater than 4 metres. As a result of the spread of islands over a vast expanse of sea, Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers an oceanic area of approximately 900,000 km2. From a geological perspective, the islands of Tuvalu are very young, with poorly developed, infertile, sandy or gravel coralline soils. Indigenous plants are rare, partly because of habitat modifications, such as the extensive planting of coconuts and other food plants by early settlers. Just over 300 species have been recorded, of which about 65 are native species; the rest are introduced. Twenty eight species of indigenous birds are known, approximately 20 species being sea birds, a few of which are migratory. There are also insects, land crabs and a few species of lizards of which only one has been confirmed to be endemic. The marine environment is comprised of 6 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. Approximately 350 species of fish have been recorded.

Plants are used as a food source and many other uses, including house construction, household and kitchenware products, medicine, canoe construction, firewood, compost, fishing gear, cash crops, handicrafts and dancing costumes.

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.

Perceived threats can be summarised as arising from deleterious human actions and negative attitudes towards the environment, leading to inappropriate behavior such as littering, over-fishing and hunting, use of fishing nets and modern fishing methods, use of guns and the introduction of pests, use of inappropriate technologies (e.g. solid and liquid waste water disposal systems), uncontrolled use of resources and uncontrolled livestock, increasing consumption patterns arising from increases in human populations, demands and changing lifestyles, institutional weaknesses, ignorance and lack of knowledge, and natural factors. Climate change is rapidly emerging as the greatest long-term threat to biodiversity in Tuvalu. Indeed, the islands’ vulnerability to tropical storms has increased by actions such as the reduction in tree cover and damage to reefs. Invasive and alien species are also a major threat to biodiversity in the Pacific Islands, with nearly 65% of the flora found in Tuvalu being alien.

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.

Tuvalu became a CBD Party in 2002 and is currently in the process of finalizing its NBSAP. Up to now, it has largely relied on the Tuvalu National Environmental Management Strategy (NEMS) published in 1997. The NEMS provided a framework for environmental efforts in Tuvalu and enabled the development of key environmental policies that have guided the management of Tuvalu’s limited resources over the last 12 years. The Strategy will involve the establishment of the country’s objectives on the following: biodiversity conservation; sustainable use of biological resources; equitable sharing of benefits; conservation of agro-biodiversity; and biosafety. The sets of objectives developed will then be defined in order to provide a clear path on how they will be achieved. Action Plans will define institutional roles and responsibilities and also identify the necessary resources and timescales for implementing the Strategy.

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.

Some of the environment projects identified for the period 2007-2009 have been actioned, such as funding for a solid waste management plan, establishment of more conservation areas, development and implementation of Environment Impact Assessment policies. The National Development Act was produced and came into force on 24 June 2008. The Act explicitly provides for the protection of biodiversity in Part IX, setting out the role of the Department of the Environment in activities.

Tuvalu has established 10 conservation areas on 8 of its 9 islands, only one of which has been established under formal legislation; the rest have been established by local communities and managed by traditional systems. The Funafuti Marine Conservation Area was established with the assistance of the South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme (a GEF-funded initiative), AusAID and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Since February 2009, much work has been carried out consulting local communities in Funafuti and the Outer Islands to determine local knowledge about the environment, perceived trends and threats to biodiversity. More conservation areas have been established under local Kaupules (island councils). The challenge now is to institute management systems that will be ongoing and self-financing. Management plans have been or are being prepared for conservation areas. Until now, only perceived or subjective assessments of changes to biological diversity have been made.

Other biodiversity initiatives include an Island Care project monitoring turtles, establishing a plant genetic collection by the Department of Agriculture, work on a Whale and Dolphin Action Plan and also the Regional Action Plan on Turtles in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. A local NGO, TANGO, has been facilitating the planting trees and mangroves and working with Kaupule to establish conservation areas and produce management plans for them.

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.

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. However, there is no formal integrated environmental protection and conservation legislation.

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.

Collection of baseline data on quantity, mass and species caught began in December 2008 for the inshore Funafuti fishery. In the outer islands, except Niulakita, Community Fisheries Centres are collecting data on fish mass and species only. In 1993, Tuvalu established a tide gauge to monitor sea level rise, sea pressure, sea temperature, wind speed and wind direction.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme