New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is partnering with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, and the Department of Conservation (DOC) in this endeavour. MFAT funding will support the newly established Pacific Regional Invasive Species Management Support Service (PRISMSS), which is hosted by SPREP, and allow Manaaki Whenua and DOC to contribute their expertise.
PRISMSS remains a service available to the whole Pacific, but this new project will focus initially on the Cook Islands, Niue, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The involvement of other PICTs will also be explored. This project is designed to be complementary to other invasive species projects underway, funded by other donors such as GEF-6. Other agencies, such as Island Conservation, Birdlife International Pacific, Pacific Biosecurity, and the Pacific Community are also involved with PRISMSS.
SPREP is the region’s key intergovernmental organisation for the environment and sustainable development, and is owned and governed by 21 PICTS and five ‘metropolitan’ members, including New Zealand. The SPREP Invasive Species Team’s primary objective is to “significantly reduce the socio-economic and ecological impact of invasive species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate priority species” in the Pacific region. “A major gap is the implementation of management action for invasive species,” said David Moverley of SPREP. PRISMSS is the mechanism designed to address this. This project will help SPREP to:
- establish PRISMSS and the systems required to scale up invasive species management
- implement key actions to support PRISMSS programmes
- strengthen the enabling environment and mainstream invasive species management across the Pacific.
The project will also extend Manaaki Whenua’s Natural Enemies – Natural Solutions (NENS) programme, allowing more invasive weeds to be tackled. “Weeds are particularly problematic because they threaten all terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in the Pacific, and because of the sheer number of them to manage,” said Lynley Hayes, who leads the NENS programme. Weeds thrive on disturbance and are often the first species to recover after storms and cyclones, which also spread them to previously uninvaded areas.
The only feasible method for managing widespread weeds is through the use of their natural enemies, which has a long history (over 100 years) of being safely and successfully used in the Pacific. However, in recent decades this has become a forgotten or under-utilised tool in most PICTs. The new project will allow this management approach to once again be more widely utilised through:
- training people in NENS and developing the infrastructure and set-ups to conduct the work
- developing better information about NENS opportunities available to PICTs, and determining the top priorities
- supporting collaboration through the sharing of lessons, stories, expertise, and natural enemies already present in the Pacific
- creating new solutions by researching natural enemy options for serious emerging weed threats not studied to date.
“DOC’s involvement will build on its long commitment to sharing its internationally recognised expertise in predator control, invasive species management and threatened species relocation and restoration with PICTs,” said Jonathan Rudge of DOC. Specifically, DOC will assist by:
- providing specialist support, technical assistance, advice and training on invasive species management
- supporting the implementation of priority management actions and regional work programmes, especially Predator Free Pacific and Resilient Ecosystems-Resilient Communities
- providing direct operational support for high-priority in-country projects
- assisting with awareness raising and research activities.
It is expected that the new partnerships and opportunities created by this project will play a meaningful role in improving the quality of life for many people whose wellbeing and security are closely tied to the health of their ecosystems.