PACIFIC Islanders should understand and value the various species of plants, animals and natural environments that make up their island homes.
Scientists, local and global experts and conservationists made the call while participating in the inaugural Pacific Islands Species Forum in the Solomon Islands last week.
The forum saw over 70 participants share information on Pacific island species including data gaps, lessons learned and the way forward in determining the status of species, their conservation needs and how regional policies could protect them.
Presentations and discussions highlighted the diversity of terrestrial, fre¡shwater and marine species in the Pacific, including endemic birds, dragonflies, rare plants, snails and fishes. Many Pacific communities still rely directly on the contribution of these species which are still undervalued despite the social, cultural and economic significance of these species for their livelihoods.
The forum discussed the challenges continuing to exist in ensuring the data and traditional knowledge was given to the decision and policy-makers and translated into national and regional policies and strategies.
The devastating impact of invasive species to species on isolated island ecosystems where they caused 50 to 67 per cent of extinctions of land species was also highlighted.
Other significant threats identified were logging, mining, habitat destruction, the conversion of land for agriculture, and the potential effects of climate change.
International Union for Conservation of Nature regional director Taholo Kami reiterated Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Lilo's calls for "extraordinary action" to be taken by decision-makers to ensure species and intact ecosystems are conserved and managed in a time of rapid development.
"It's time to sit with the government, big developers, mining companies, agriculture, fisheries and logging interests in a national forum and discuss how we'll ensure big development will also result in big environment wins," he said.