Ecosystem Spotlight: Micronesia
Micronesia is a sub-region of Oceania, east of the Philippines and northeast of Indonesia. It is comprised of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. Kiribati, the Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Wake Island are all considered part of Micronesia. In total, Micronesia is 1,230 square miles, or about twice the size of Los Angeles.
It is one of the Pacific’s most critical regions. In 2000, the area was named a biodiversity hotspot by leading biodiversity specialist Norman Myers, and the World Wildlife Fund named the Eastern Micronesia tropical moist forests a Global 200 Ecoregion. Both Palau and the Caroline Islands have been named Endemic Bird Areas by Birdlife International. The many islands contain diverse ecosystems, from coral reefs to lush tropical rainforests to mangrove swamps. There are 212 indigenous bird species, including 18 endemic and threatened species. The surrounding coral reefs are home to both very high species and habitat diversity, In Palau’s reefs alone, there are 350 species of hard corals, 200 species of soft corals, 300 species of sponges, 1,300 species of reef fish, and endangered species such as the dugong, dog-faced puffer fish, manta rays, saltwater crocodile, sea turtles, and giant clams. In terms of terrestrial diversity, the islands house hundreds of varieties of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, tropical shrubs, flowers and trees, many of which are endemic to the region. These include fruit bats, rare species of deer, and monitor lizards. Hibiscus, Hong Kong orchid, ironwood, eucalyptus, Honduras mahogany, papaya, banana, coconut and plumeria trees are ubiquitous.
Micronesia’s tropical climate produces fairly even, warm temperatures, averaging 80° F year-round, with heavier rainfall during the summer. Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth, with some locations receiving 330 inches of rain per year, creating an environment conducive to its highly diverse ecosystems.
Micronesia faces many threats, including demand for their rich sea and land resources. Issues of unsustainable fishing, global climate change, deforestation, invasive species, pollution, rapid development, population growth, and external demand for its resources have led conservationists to classify this area as a high priority area for conservation and education. Conservation Strategy Fund held its first training course in this region, Economic Tools for Conservation, in March of 2012 in Pohnpei, Micronesia in partnership with the Micronesian Conservation Trust (MCT). During the course, conservation professionals, natural resource managers and community leaders became equipped with the tools to mitigate many of the threats that the region faces. The course, which was designed specifically for this region, focused on economic fundamentals, natural resource economics, and fisheries management. CSF staff trained participants in developing concrete applications such as incentives for coastal area protection, assessing the costs and benefits of infrastructure or tourism development, and estimating the benefits of ecosystem services provided by mangrove forests and coral reefs. Students have begun implementing their projects to create tangible benefits for both the people as well as the wildlife that reside in Micronesia. The course was offered thanks to a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
To find out more about Micronesia, please see the following websites: