MR: end population growth to preserve island biodiversity

21 May 2014

Media Releases 2014

If island biodiversity is to be preserved, ending human population growth is critical and our foreign aid must help achieve it, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

May 22 is the International Day of Biological Diversity and in 2014 the focus is on island biodiversity, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

SPA National President, Ms Jenny Goldie, says maintaining the biological integrity of islands is critical, not only for the food security for islanders but also because islands often have unique flora and fauna with many endemic species.

“In many islands in our region, however, rapid population growth is leading to decline of biodiversity, particularly coastal ecosystems which are the feeding and breeding grounds of many marine species on which the islanders depend,” says Ms Goldie.

“Fertility rates are way above replacement levels in many islands to our north and in the Pacific, notably Timor-Leste (average 5.1 children per woman), Vanuatu (3.7), Solomon Islands (3.7), Papua New Guinea (3.24), Marshall Islands (3.2) and Tuvalu (3.0). Most of these countries will have doubled their populations well before mid-century.”

Ms Goldie says that climate change looms as a major threat to many low-lying islands in the region but many islands are severely overpopulated, creating a more immediate problem.

“Island inhabitants depend on a freshwater ‘lens’ both for their own wells and for the growing of food.  This freshwater lens is replenished by rainwater.  When too much water is drawn from it, however, there is incursion of seawater into the aquifer and a rise in salinity, making it unfit for drinking or gardens.

“In some islands the depletion of the freshwater lens is of greater significance than the occasional flooding from sea-water due to rising sea levels,” says Ms Goldie.

“Fortunately there is now a new approach to human development known as Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) that integrates family planning and health with conservation efforts. PHE achieves much more in terms of conservation and human welfare when the three areas are integrated.

“Cuts to our foreign aid budget are appalling; nevertheless, this is where our foreign aid dollars should be going, into PHE programs that have a proven success record as in Madagascar and the Philippines.”

Further information: Jenny Goldie 0401 921 453


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