Country Profiles

Solomon Islands - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

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

The biodiversity of Solomon Islands is of global importance. The country has been recognized as a “Centre of Plant Diversity”, counting 4,500 species of plants, 3,200 of which are known to be native (indigenous). Despite this high level of biological diversity, endemism for plant species is generally low. However, 57% of palms, 50% of orchids, 75% of climbing Pandanus species are considered endemic. Solomon Islands also presents a high diversity in terms of animal species, with BirdLife International having categorized the Solomon Islands “Endemic Bird Area” (EBA) with the “highest number of restricted range species in any Endemic Bird Areas” of the World (94). Currently known bird species total 223 species, of which a staggering 82% are endemic and two extinct. The number of mammals is higher than in any other Pacific island region and natural heritage is unique in terms of marine species. Due to the high diversity of saltwater fish and coral species found in coastal and marine areas, Solomon Islands has been placed under the Bismarck Solomon Seas Ecoregion which covers Northern New Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (up to the Makira province) and the Coral Triangle. Marine fauna is characterized by low levels of endemism and the presence of numerous and widespread mangrove species.

Over the past years, Solomon Islands has witnessed an overall decline in biodiversity. Sixteen plant species are already listed under the IUCN Red List as threatened. Out of the 53 species of mammals known throughout the country, 20 are considered threatened. There is general erosion in agricultural biodiversity due to increased importation of species and products. While farmers traditionally conserved local varieties in their food gardens, they are now attracted by new and imported varieties, causing local varieties to be abandoned. As a matter of fact, there are currently more imported food crops than indigenous foods in the country. Many of the local or indigenous food varieties have been lost, especially local varieties of sweet potatoes, taro, yams, cassava and bananas.

Biodiversity constitutes a key source of revenues, alimentation and health for rural populations (representing 85% of the total population) with a “subsistence” mode of life. As such, biodiversity also constitutes a powerful source of cultural identity. Further, most of the economic activities of the country, notably the exportation of exotic wood, heavily rely on ecosystems and ecosystem services, with their destruction having direct repercussions on the Gross Domestic Product and rate of employment. Finally, ecosystems perform a large role in preventing the occurrence of extreme natural events, such as flash-flooding, which can cause considerable human and economic losses.

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

The main threats that continue to endanger the country’s biodiversity are logging, inappropriate land use practices, mining and prospecting, over-exploitation of natural resources, population growth, natural disasters, invasive species, pollution and climate change. In the terrestrial environment, industrial logging and development of large-scale monocultural agricultural plantations of oil palm, coconut and cocoa, and the clearance of land for subsistence gardens, are the major activities directly threatening biodiversity. New threats, such as climate change and invasive species, are increasing in magnitude, however are still not so obvious to the general public. Terrestrial alien and native invasive species have not been well documented to date, however a list produced by the Pacific Islands Ecosystem at Risk project in Hawaii contains a total of 368 invasive and potential invasive species for Solomon Islands. In the marine environment, the major treats are over-exploitation of marine resources, pollution from land-based sources and climate change. Threats such as high population growth, directly related to the high demands for and consumption of biodiversity resources, can also be regarded as a driver, as can the external demand for biodiversity goods and products and changes in people’s lifestyles.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The NBSAP (2009) consists of 117 actions and 12 overall themes. The vision it supports is that the islands’ unique biodiversity must remain natural heritage and cultural identity. It promotes a long-term perspective on biodiversity protection addressing all Islanders regardless of their level of development and ensures the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The enactment of the Wildlife Protection and Management Act (1998) and the accession of Solomon Islands to CITES have effectively reduced and ended the export of birds from the country, while greatly reducing the export of many wildlife species. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of sites that have been fully secured for protection. To date, more than 100 terrestrial and marine sites are either protected, under development or under some form of management, comprising more than 5% of the total land area of Solomon Islands. In the forestry sector, a logging code has been adopted and implemented. In addition, various conditions have been adopted that require compliance by industry (for instance, the Forestry Resources and Timber Utilization Act includes various management control measures, such as the requirement of a license for harvest, limits to machines used and to areas under harvest).

Only selected species are now allowed for harvest and export. In terms of agricultural diversity, Solomon Islands has collected and deposited accessions in the regional germplasm banks within the Pacific Commission. Some NGOs are now encouraging communities to conserve food plant varieties, and programs are targeting in situ conservation of selected species for this endeavour. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) has also established a framework for community-based management (CBM). In the fisheries sector, recent legislation has introduced management control measures, such as a ban on the export of certain species and limits on certain capture fisheries technologies.

Regarding education and awareness-rising, many protected areas have programs for raising the public’s awareness of the value of conservation. The establishment of the Climate Change Division in the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) has been very significant, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to the issue, with short-term training on climate change issues having been organized for relevant personnel from stakeholder groups. Solomon Islands has also participated in invasive species training and networking programmes under regional institutions, and supports regional initiatives addressing invasive alien species. The Small Business Enterprise Centre is running various business training courses to assist in the management and improvement of livelihood initiatives. Furthermore, a major program on waste management awareness, supported by the World Bank, is being implemented in Honiara in conjunction with the City Council. This has resulted in an enhanced level of awareness on most environmental and biodiversity issues at all levels of society, which reveals itself in the increased level of support that many activities now receive from various levels of government and communities.

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

The main legislation covering environmental issues in Solomon Islands is the new Environment Act (2008) which provides for an integrated system of development control, EIA and pollution control. It has considerable power by virtue of Article 4(1) which states that, in the event of conflict between the Act and other acts, the provisions of the Environment Act shall prevail. Biodiversity is also addressed and mainstreamed through various national and provincial legislations such as the Fisheries Act, Wildlife Management and Protection Act, Forestry Resources and Timber Utilization Act and the River Waters Act. The climate change program takes into account a number of biodiversity issues, and the agricultural sector is currently implementing the Sustainable Land Management project which is part of the UNCCD enabling activities.

Regarding funding, NBSAP implementation has been improved through various interventions of the Global Environment Financing Mechanism. Other donors have assisted, notably the EU and AusAID. In parallel, many international NGOs working in the country are leveraging international resources to facilitate programs in country. The new Protected Areas Act has legalized the establishment of a Trust Fund to assist in the development of conservation areas and other biodiversity- related activities.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Regarding species monitoring, the production of the State of the Environment Report (2008), National Adaptation Program of Action (2008), Second National Communication on the impact of climate change on biodiversity required under the UNFCCC (2010) and implementation of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), have generated volumes of information and knowledge which help to catalyze efforts towards conservation and biodiversity-related activities.