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Biodiversity - Cook Islands National Environment Service
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Biodiversity or Biological Diversity is commonly used to describe the number and variety of living organisms on the planet; the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and the ecosystems of which they are a part of. It is defined in terms of genes, species and ecosystems which are the outcome of over 3,000 million years of evolution. Species extinction is a natural part of the evolutionary process. Due to human activities however, species and ecosystems are more threatened today than ever before.

The human species depends on biological diversity for its own survival. The richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change. The variety of life is our insurance policy. Our own lives and livelihood depend on it.

Cook Islands Biodiversity

The Cook Islands are fifteen islands widely spread over the Pacific Ocean, with an oceanic EEZ of about two million square kilometres. The islands are remotely located on a biological diversity gradient, which decreases eastwards into the Pacific and southwards away from the equator. It may just look like tiny specks of land scattered over the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, but they are beautifully unique and teeming with life. It is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the South Pacific. Vegetation varies from montane rainforest on Rarotonga through lowland limestone forest on Mauke to beach forest on atoll islands and reef islets in the Northern group islands.

Regardless of the size, type or degree of isolation of the Cook Islands, these islands have plants, animals and micro-organisms that are critical to the continuing health and survival of each islands biodiversity and the Cook Islands people who depends on it for their survival.

A Cook Islands Biodiversity Database has been provided by the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Project which lists most plants and animals found in the Cook Islands. Presently, the database lists about 4,000 species of plants, animals and micro-organisms however there are still thousands more species out there that needs to be recorded.

The National Environment Service Biodiversity role
  • Provide effective protection and monitoring of trade in endangered species (CITES Permits)
  • Implement the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan


To find out more about NES Biodiversity section please click on the links below:

NBSAP | National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan |

CBD | The Convention of Biological Diversity | CBD website

Click on the attachments at the bottom of the page to read articles pulished in the local newspapers regarding Biodiversity.


For further information contact:
Liz Munro
Joseph Brider
Environment Officers
Island Futures Division
[email protected]

Cook Islands Integrated Island Biodiversity Project

Project Title: Implementing the Island Biodiversity Programme of Work by Integrating the Conservation Management of Island Biodiversity

Ecosystem Based Management

Our affinity with the land and ocean and its resources is an innate bond that Cook Islanders have maintained since our ancestors arrived upon these shores; we have, and continue to harvesting land and ocean resources for cultural, subsistence and economic reasons. It is imperative that we continue to ensure that these ecosystems and the resources held within them are sustained for current and future generations.

Ensuring that ecosystems are healthy is essential for our well-being, as they provide invaluable functions and services including sustaining living marine resources. The health of ecosystems is therefore not only essential to the environment, but also important to the existence and development of human society. As components of ecosystems, human beings and their interactions have profound effects on the structure and function of ecosystems which, conversely, often have profound effects on human habitats, human health and even socio-economic development, as recognized by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

In recent years, there has been increasing international recognition of the need to manage human activities that have an effect on the environment and its ecosystems in an integrated, cross-sectoral manner in order to promote the sustainable development of ecosystems and their resources.

The ecosystem approach to conservation management is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The ecosystem approach attempts to apply appropriate methodologies focused on levels of biological organization which encompass the essential processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment and importantly, it recognizes that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of ecosystems.

“Ecosystem” means a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit (Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity).

Cook Islands Integrated Island Biodiversity Project

The Cook Islands, along with Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, are recipients of Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding to implement biodiversity conservation which utilises the Ecosystem Management Approach. The project is a 3-year programme, commencing in 2012 and expected to conclude in 2015. The project delivers on priority two components as described in the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Plan and the Cook Islands National Environment Strategic Action Framework.

Component 1: Conservation and restoration of priority species and ecosystems as risk as identified in the Island Biodiversity Programme of Work. It is expected that the project will:

  • Improve the conservation status of priority threatened species.
  • Improve the conservation status of priority threatened terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Improve the conservation status of priority threatened marine ecosystems.

Component 2: Sustainable use of island biodiversity through improved systems and process including resource assessment and monitoring, legislation, information management, capacity and awareness building. It is expected that the project will:

  • Plans for the sustainable use of native species are developed with full stakeholder participation.
  • Improved systems, processes and information management are planned for or in place for relevant agencies.

For more information contact Mii Matamaki, IIB Project Coordinator