Country Profiles

Mauritius - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Mauritius has been designated by IUCN as a “Centre of Plant Diversity” and is included in the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands biodiversity hotspot. The country is characterized by a high level of endemism, with 39% of plants, 80% of non-marine birds, 80% of reptiles, and 40% of bat species reported as endemic, as a result of the island’s location, age, isolation and varied topography. Forests harbor, among others, 691 species of indigenous flowering plants, 52 native species of vertebrates and 30 species of land birds. The marine environment constitutes another major ecosystem for the country, comprising 16,840 km2 of territorial sea and 1,700 species (e.g. 786 species of fish, of which about 5% are of commercial value; 17 species of marine mammals; 2 species of marine turtles). However, this unique biodiversity is at risk. At present, only 2% of the island is under native forest (which is classified as having more than 50% of native plant coverage), with remaining native vegetation confined to marginal lands without agriculture.

In coastal areas, mangrove cover decreased by 30% (20 km2 to 14 km2) from 1987 to 1994, and wetlands have either disappeared or are under great pressure due to the expansion of tourism. Mauritius has one of the most threatened island floras in the world. Overall, 89% of endemic Mauritian flora is now considered threatened and 61 of the country’s indigenous species are already classified as extinct. In particular, 141 of the flowering Mascarene endemic plant species are classified as critically endangered (89 taxa are represented by 10 or fewer known individuals in the wild and 5 taxa are represented by only a single known individual); 55 species are endangered and 98 are classified as vulnerable. As for the fauna, 24 native species of vertebrates that were known to have occurred on Mauritius and the adjacent islets are now extinct, including the Dodo (Raphus cucullatus), Broad-billed Parrot (Lophopsittacus mauritianus) and two species of the Giant Tortoise (Cylindrapsis sp.). Similarly, of the three species of fruit bat (Pteropus niger, Pteropus niger, Pteropus rodricensis) known to have occurred, only one – the Mauritian fruit bat (Pteropus niger) – remains in Mauritius and is still common locally, however Pteropus niger is extinct and Pteropus rodricensis occurs only on Rodrigues. Although 12 species of land birds have escaped extinction, 9 of these are threatened. Finally, of the 17 native reptile species known to have once inhabited mainland Mauritius, only 12 remain. Seven of these are restricted to remnant populations on the northern offshore islets and the burrowing boa (Bolyeria multicarinata), last seen in 1975, is probably extinct. Six species of reptiles have been successfully translocated from Round Island, Gunner’s Quoin and Ile Aux Vacoas to other rat-free offshore islets.

The marine and coastal environment provides large economic benefits to Mauritian society through activities linked to tourism and fisheries. In 2008, tourism contributed 8.7% to the GDP and represented a source of earning for about 45,000 individuals from direct and indirect employment. Similarly, the fisheries sector contributed 1.3% to the GDP and provided livelihood for about 2,020 registered artisanal fishermen and some 320 fishers working on fishing banks. The export of fish and fish products accounted for US$ 267 million in 2008. Finally, artisanal fishing in Mauritius is marketed but used at subsistence levels in Agalega and Saint Brandon.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The main threats to biodiversity under the various thematic areas are, firstly, potential loss of biodiversity and, secondly, degradation/loss of habitat. Key drivers identified are land clearing for development and others purposes (mainly on privately-owned land), invasive alien species, habitat modification for deer ranching, pollution from land based sources and activities (mainly nonpoint sources), and adverse impacts of climate change. Climate change is gaining prominence as the impacts are increasingly understood.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The NBSAP (2006-2015) for the Republic Mauritius was completed and approved by the Government of Mauritius through the Cabinet of Ministers in December 2006, and considers relevant COP decisions, the 2010 Biodiversity Target and the Millennium Development Goals. There are five strategic objectives set in the NBSAP, namely: (i) to establish a representative and viable Protected Area Network (PAN); (ii) to manage key biodiversity components; (iii) to enable the sustainable use of biodiversity; (iv) to maintain ecosystem services; (v) to manage biotechnology and its products. The present NBSAP will be reviewed taking into consideration the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

So far, the total area of conserved sites amounts to 221 km2, representing 78% of the legally proclaimed protected areas for biodiversity conservation and comprising at least 57% of all native species (although omitting some of the rarest highly-localized species). Mauritius has proclaimed 3 Ramsar sites of international importance, 6 fishing reserves, 2 marine parks, 8 islet national parks. In Rodrigues, there are 5 fisheries reserved areas, 4 marine reserves and one multiple-use marine protected area and the total sea area covered by the MPAs is 59 km2. There is the possibility of proclaiming 6 additional MPAs under the Western Indian Ocean Marine Eco-Region project. More than 400 ha of invaded forests will be rehabilitated into native forests under the Protected Area Network Project. In addition, 4 nurseries have been established specifically to propagate native species, along with an arboretum where individuals of rare species, contained on the list of the most threatened plant species, are propagated and planted. A seed bank facility for native species and field gene bank also exist.

Parallel to this conservation policy, Mauritius has undertaken various specific measures for biodiversity protection through the establishment of a series of plans and programs. In marine and coastal ecosystems, actions taken include: banning of coral sand extraction; coastal rehabilitation; coral reef and lagoonal water quality monitoring; coral reef rehabilitation; marine ranching in the lagoon; control of fishing activities, including fishing/collection of sea cucumber in the lagoon and in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Some critically endangered species have been included in restoration programmes (e.g. Tectiphiala ferox, Trochetia parviflora, Psiadia arguta, Dictyosperma album var. conjugatum, Hibiscus genevii, Gagnebina pterocarpa) and an action plan has been set for invasive species management. Finally, a series of national and sectoral policies and programs to mitigate and adapt to climate change has been initiated, promoting initiatives such as increasing the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, reforestation programmes to increase carbon dioxide capture, recycling and waste minimization. These various actions have resulted in some positive trends: the monitoring of former sand mining sites has shown recuperation and colonization of the seabed by seagrass; new recruits of corals have been encountered and an increase in fish abundance noted; 3 endemic bird species (Kestrel, Pink Pigeon, Echo Parakeet) have been saved from the brink of extinction and lagoonal water quality in certain localized areas has improved with connection to the sewerage network.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Biodiversity conservation, management and sustainable use have been integrated in most development plans and strategies prepared over the last decades, in sectors such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries. Examples include: the National Environmental Strategies (1998), Climate Change Action Plan (1999), Tourism Development Plan (2002), National Development Strategies (2004), Islets National Park Strategic Plan (2004), National Action Program to Combat Desertification (2004), National Environment Policy (2007), National Environmental Strategies (2008), Environmentally Sensitive Areas Study (2009), National IAS Strategy and Action Plan (2010), Integrated Coastal Zone Management Framework (2010), National Forest Policy (2006), Second National Communication of the Republic of Mauritius under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010), Maurice Ile Durable (MID) Green Paper (2011), MID Working Group Report on Preservation of Biodiversity and Natural Resources (2011), National Climate Change Adaptation Policy Framework (2012) and Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in the Agriculture, Fisheries, Tourism and Water Sector for the Republic of Mauritius (2012). Legislation and regulatory frameworks in relation to biodiversity in various thematic areas have also been developed, such as the Plant Protection Act (2006), Fisheries and Marine Resources (Removal of Corals and Shells) Regulations (2006), Tourism Act (2004), Forest and Reserve Act (1983). In addition, strategies and policy instruments used to serve biodiversity objectives range from public-private partnerships to obligations of other biodiversity-related conventions, such as the UNFCCC. Many institutions have been mandated to deal with biodiversity matters and their coordination is provided for at various levels through the creation of national and statutory committees, such as the Nature Reserve Board and the Environment Coordination Committee.

Mauritius has received GEF funding for a number of biodiversity-related projects. Financial and technical assistance was also received under initiatives such as “Darwin, UK”, Millennium Seed Bank (UK), Protected Area Network project and from the European Union. Funds, equipment and training were also provided to the Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) Unit of the Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security by the Southern African Development Community’s Genetic Resource Centre (SADC GRC).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

A Darwin Initiative project grant to set up an information system for biodiversity and conservation management in Mauritius resulted in the development of databases for threatened bird species and plant nursery management, which are both currently in use. There is regular and detailed monitoring of four mainland bird species (Mauritius Kestrel, Mauritius Pink Pigeon, Echo Parakeet, Mauritius Fody). Five reptile species, three on Round Island and two on Flat Island, have been monitored to provide baseline information for further translocations. In addition, all of the threatened plant species (of which there are approximately 300) are monitored to some extent to aid in species recovery programs. A database for threatened plants, in line with IUCN criteria, is being established. Other species are monitored over the short term for higher degree projects (e.g. Orange-Tailed Skink, Telfair’s Skink) and long-term monitoring systems have been put in place by the Ministry of Environment and National Development Unit under the Environment Information System Project, including monitoring the proportion of native species of birds and higher plants that are threatened.