2: Number of endemic, threatened and extinct species by SIDS regions
number of species
Many small islands are characterized by a high level
of endemism. For example, Madagascar has the highest number of endemic
species of any country in Africa, and ranks sixth in the world. Up to
8 000 of the 9 500 species of higher plants and over 50 per cent of all
vertebrate species found on the island are known or thought to be endemic.
In Mauritius, around 50 per cent of all higher plants, mammals, birds,
reptiles and amphibians are endemic, and the Seychelles has the highest
level of amphibian endemism of any island country in the world (UNEP 2002).
Over 1 200 species of reef fish, 250 species of haematitic corals and
285 species of algae have been identified in the Maldives. In addition,
five sub-species of seabirds have been identified as endemic to the Maldives
(UNEP RRC-AP 2003). Despite such richness in biodiversity, many species
in SIDS already face extinction (Table 2). Virtually all the SIDS have
species threatened with extinction and these total about 1 680 (UNSD 2003),
excluding Madagascar but also including more developed countries such
as Singapore and Malta. Biodiversity is threatened by habitat degradation/loss,
alien species, overexploitation of living resources, climate change, and
The Pacific Islands contain the world’s highest proportion of
endemic species per unit of land area or human inhabitants. There are
already far too many examples of illegal access, overexploitation, and
extinction of Pacific Island biological resources, and the loss of associated
traditional knowledge (SIDSNet 2003c).
Coral reefs, among the most biologically diverse ecosystems, have experienced
widespread degradation in all three SIDS regions due to global warming,
pollution, destructive fishing practices and other pressures (Burke
and others 1998, Wilkinson 2000). Many poor people are economically
dependent on coral reefs and their degradation has significant implications
for poverty in SIDS (Wittingham and others 2003). Likewise, reefs underpin
the lucrative tourist activities of many SIDS and their economies.
A recent study shows that up to 80 per cent of shallow-water reefs in
some areas of the Caribbean have been destroyed (Gardner and others
2003). However, reefs in deeper waters of the Caribbean appear to be
in better condition (Kramer 2003).
Many SIDS have established both marine and terrestrial protected areas.
Since 1961, over 50 marine reserves have been established in the Caribbean,
with the rate of establishment increasing since the mid-1980s (Appeldoorn
and Lindeman 2003).