Over the last five hundred years, invasive alien species (IAS) have been partly or wholly responsible for the extinction of at least 65 bird species, making this the most common contributory factor in recent losses to the world’s avifauna. The BirdLife Partnership are working together to address this most important of threats, including developing a global programme which will build on the successes and lessons from the Pacific, among others.
Invasive species affect around half of threatened bird species globally. Island species are particularly susceptible, with three-quarters of threatened birds on oceanic islands affected by invasive species. Rats and cats have had far and away the greatest impact, threatening bird species worldwide, but other species have also had devastating impacts.
“Globalization and the introduction of IAS particularly through transportation systems have significantly changed Pacific Island ecosystems in the last 100 years”, said Sialesi Rasalato – BirdLife’s IAS Technical Support Officer. “In turn, the changes have had broad economic and social effects on the Islanders that rely on their local ecosystems for food, water, livelihoods, and recreation”.
The BirdLife Pacific Partnership consists of seven national conservation organizations located in French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Palau, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia and Fiji. The Partners are supported by BirdLife Pacific Secretariat in Suva, Fiji. By working together as a united Partnership, they have strengthened their individual ability to halt the spread of invasive species.
“Together we are undertaking measures to address IAS including outreach and education, monitoring and research, management including eradications, and supporting the development of policies and regulations”, said Sia.
“For example, a project operating in five Pacific countries is reducing the impact of invasive species on the natural environment and local livelihoods by developing civil society and community managed eradication, control and biosecurity responses to IAS”.
Showcasing the joint action, Te Ipukarea Society (BirdLife Partner in the Cook Islands) and the BirdLife Pacific Secretariat are currently finalizing plans for an operation on Suwarrow Atoll next month. “We’re working together to eradicate Pacific Rat from Suwarrow Atoll in order to protect its internationally important seabird colonies”, said Steve Cranwell – BirdLife Pacific Seabird Programme Manager.
In addition, eleven islands in Fiji, where rats, feral cats and goats have been eradicated will be checked to ensure they remain free of IAS and for changes in native bird populations and other biodiversity indicators as a measure of the islands restoration. The monitoring will be led by NatureFiji-MareqetiViti and supported by the BirdLife Pacific Secretariat.
The BirdLife Partnership of 117 conservation NGOs around the globe has identified invasive species as one of the highest conservation priorities. In response, a new BirdLife Invasive Species Programme is being included within the BirdLife Strategy 2013-2020 which will be launched in June at BirdLife’s World Congress.
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BirdLife Pacific Partnership’s work to tackle invasive species has been kindly supported by the European Community, Aage V. Jensen Foundation, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, UK Darwin Initiative and David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The IAS work that BirdLife Pacific Partnership has been engaged in would not have been possible without the efforts of many, including Pacific Invasive Initiative, Pacific Invasive Learning Network, New Zealand Department of Conservation the University of the South Pacific, Landcare Research New Zealand, and Island Conservation.