Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Coastal, Small Island and Coral Reef Ecosystems in Papua New Guinea


This assessment is a national assessment of Papua New Guinea’s coastal zones. PNG’s coastal zone is defined as the space that extends 10 kilometers inland from a shoreline or 10 meters below mean sea level but within 10 kilometers of a shoreline. Local assessments will be conducted in Cape Vogel, the Lihir Island Group, Buka and surrounding islands, and the Calvados Island Chain.

Lead institutions

The lead institutions involved in this assessment are the Resource Management in Asia-Pacific (RMAP) Program in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) at the Australian National University (ANU), and the University of PNG. They will work in collaboration with the MBCP Executing Agency, Conservation International, and other parties as relevant.

Contact information:

  • Dr Colin Filer
    Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program
    Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
    Australian National University
    Phone: 61 2 6125 3039
    Fax: 61 2 6125 4896

Focal issues

The focus of this assessment has shifted from local scale to national scale due to time constraints and delays in the funding of the original assessment. At the national scale, the users of this assessment are still identified as the organizations that originally endorsed the idea of conducting an assessment of ‘small islands under pressure’. Their needs are identified primarily in terms of the sectoral resource management regimes in which they play an active role. For example, the Department of Environment and Conservation has a need for information that ought to be incorporated into the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which it has not yet been able to produce, despite the fact that PNG was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity. Likewise, the National Fisheries Authority has a need for information pertaining to the refinement and implementation of its coastal fisheries policy.

Ecosystem services being assessed

  • Food and drugs
  • Water
  • Wood fuel
  • Raw materials

Key features of assessment

Many of Papua New Guinea’s coastal and marine environments are amongst the world’s most ecologically diverse and pristine. The chief habitats include an extensive and complex system of submerged and emergent coral reefs, including fringing reefs, platform/patch reefs, barrier reefs and atolls, as well as mangrove forests, seagrass beds, lagoons and mud, sand, rubble and rocky sea bottoms. The species richness of these ecosystems is extraordinarily high, and besides displaying high levels of endemism, the area supports large populations of threatened species.

It has been found throughout past interactions with communities that local populations are far more interested in ‘development’ than in ‘conservation’, because they can reasonably say that they have been conserving their ecosystems for thousands of years, but are now lagging in their access to modern health and education services because of their small and scattered populations. At the same time, many local communities are also keenly aware of the limited capacity of their terrestrial ecosystems to supply the services required by continuing population growth. There is substantial scientific and anecdotal evidence of a common link between rapid population growth, degradation of the local resource base, and intensification of disputes over the ownership and use of terrestrial and/or marine resources. This assessment is driven by both local and institutional users.

Timeframe, budget

This assessment is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and co-financed by a number of institutions, including the United Nations Development Program, which is the GEF Implementing Agency, and Conservation International (CI), which is the Executing Agency. CI has been responsible for the detailed design of the program over the past three years. The total cost over a four-year period is projected to be about US$300,000.