Country Profiles

Kiribati - Country Profile

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.

Kiribati is a coastal atoll nation, consisting of three main island groups scattered over 3 million km2 of the Central Pacific. The atolls are clustered into three groups: the Gilbert Group in the west, the Line Group in the east, and the Phoenix Group. The natural resources of Kiribati are either extremely limited, as in the case of terrestrial resources, or abundant and extremely vast and difficult to utilize and manage, as in the case of lagoon, near-shore resources and oceanic marine and seafloor resources. As a coastal nation, the marine and coastal biodiversity has been instrumental for economic development, including revenue/income generation, as well as for providing the basis for local livelihoods. Marine resources and the environment have dominated small-scale income generation at the family and island levels.

Kiribati includes all terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and all plant and animal species and varieties found in these ecosystems, with its people being the holders of traditional knowledge, uses and beliefs and local language that relate to them. The country has always relied on biodiversity as the only capital available to sustain its people and their livelihoods, cultural identity and socioeconomic well-being. Compared to other island countries, atolls like Kiribati have some of the lowest levels of biodiversity on the planet, possessing only one known endemic species, Bokikokiko, on which the people and the country rely for economic and social survival.

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.

Kiribati’s economy and physical environment are highly susceptible to global changes. At the country level, this vulnerability is worsened by high population growth and its concentration at South Tarawa, the country’s capital and urban area. Environmental degradation is evident from extensive coastal erosion, increasing biodiversity loss, water and sea pollution, and an overwhelming problem regarding unmanaged wastes. Consequently, Kiribati does not escape the damaging effects of climate change, habitat loss and invasive alien species.

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 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (K-NBSAP), adopted in 2007, contains the overall objectives to rapidly gather and discuss in-depth information on terrestrial and marine biodiversity that could be used again by local communities to identify actions that can be taken at the resource owner/user level, community or island level to protect, conserve and sustainably use existing terrestrial and marine biodiversity, as the basis for all cash and non-cash income. However, the key objective in the development of the K-NBSAP was to mobilize the participation of all consulted stakeholders and focus on a multidisciplinary approach to implementation, fostering a sense of ownership of the NBSAP amongst all stakeholders concerned from different government sectors.

The K-NBSAP had the following goals for the next five-year period: 1) informal education and public awareness shall be improved at local community levels, to form the basis for improved decision-making and a participatory approach to biodiversity protection; 2) sustainable use and management of land and terrestrial resources shall be in line with traditional and customary land and marine tenure systems; 3) biological resources shall be enhanced, used and managed to maintain biological diversity in the short and long terms; 4) available data and information on national biodiversity shall be expanded and made available to policy-makers and the public; 5) activities that pollute and threaten biodiversity shall be minimized.

Significant progress has been made since the finalization and endorsement of the first K-NBSAP in 2007. Some of these commitments include the recognition and inclusion of the environment as one of the key policy areas under the Kiribati Development Plan (KDP) (2008-2011), and the expansion and full legal establishment of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Notably, covering a total area of 408,250 km2, PIPA is the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA), representing 11.7% of Kiribati’s total Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 17% of the global area of MPAs currently designated worldwide.

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.

The enactment of the Environment Act (as amended 2007) and other regulations, notably PIPA, are addressing unnatural impacts acting on biodiversity. Kiribati is proud to declare that, to date, no wild flora or fauna is endangered by international trade. The Environment Act (as amended 2007) also regulates pollution on land and sea in an effort to conserve and protect the environment.

Biosecurity legislation and enforcement by the Agriculture and Livestock Division is still operational, and the Environment and Conservation Division just recently joined the boarding party for incoming international vessels to inspect all environmental concerns. The Environment and Conservation Division, at the national level, is currently implementing a mangrove rehabilitation and education project funded by the Kiribati Adaptation Project II; five pilot islands are targeted under this project to help strengthen their resilience to climate change through mangrove rehabilitation.

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.

Nationally, there are four existing legislations that support CBD objectives: the Environment Act 1999 (as amended 2007); Wildlife Conservation Ordinance CAP100 (revised edition 1977); Recreational Reserves Act (1996) and the Fisheries Ordinance (1979). The Environment Act 1999 (as amended 2007) now includes legal provisions for conservation, in which it prescribes coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass as protected ecosystems. Although in urgent need of updating, the Wildlife Conservation Ordinance CAP100 (revised edition 1977) is a standing legislation for the closed and protected areas and sanctuaries in the Line Island Group of Kiribati. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) Regulations (2007) of the Environment Act 1999 (as amended 2007) provides the legal framework for the designated Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA). The Fisheries Ordinance (1979) Line and Phoenix Islands Prohibited Fishing (Bonefish) Regulations was established to regulate and protect the bonefish species population within the waters of Kiritimati Island.

Funding for implementing the CBD is primarily obtained from external sources. The Government nonetheless also supports these obligations financially, though on a much smaller scale. Within Kiribati’s NBSAP, certain areas are given priority in terms of available funding tapped from the Global Environment Facility and other possible funding sources. Limited funding remains a major constraint encountered for biodiversity conservation.

The Government continues to invest in and enhance efforts and resources to strengthen and promote the participation and involvement of local communities in environmental protection and management at the national level. This also includes working closely with local communities to revive, promote and strengthen traditional knowledge and practices that enhance and support biodiversity conservation and management at the island and village levels, and likewise the inclusion of the community in the development process of all conservation-related initiatives. Similarly, community engagement in field activities is equally important, not only in terms of capacity-building but also through building a sense of community ownership.

Kiribati has made significant progress by recognizing and mainstreaming environment into its current Kiribati Development Plan (KDP). The inclusion of environment as one of the six key policy areas (KPAs) of the KDP not only adheres to the priorities and strategies of the Environment and Conservation Division (ECD) but extends across all relevant sectors such as the Fisheries, Agriculture, Tourism, Attorney General’s Office, Office of the Beretitenti, Education, and Police.

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 inadequate scientific baseline biological information on the status of biodiversity limits the management scheme with respect to monitoring and adaptive management. Insufficient biodiversity legislation hinders enforcement and compliance. Moreover, insufficient and unsustainable funding does not sustain the management of biodiversity conservation activities.