Blow holes, Savaii, Samoa.

A snapshot

Oceania is geographically one of IUCN’s largest regional programmes, covering over 100 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean.

IUCN's Oceania region covers Australia, New Zealand and the 22 countries and territories of the Pacific Islands making up Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

The region stretches almost 12,000km from East to West and 6,000 km from North to South, with a combined Exclusive Economic Zone  of close to 40 million square km. In contrast, the total land area is just over 8.5 million square km, with the larger islands of Australia (7 million square km), Papua New Guinea (463,000 square km) and New Zealand (268,000 square km) accounting for approximately 93% of this total land area.

The total human population is estimated at 35 million, with just over 22 million in Australia and 4 million in New Zealand. Approximately 9 million people inhabit the various Pacific Island countries and territories, with differences observed according to the size of the country: for example over 5 million people in the largest land mass of Papua New Guinea and populations under 2,000 in countries such as Niue and Tokelau. The Pitcairn Islands have less than 50 inhabitants. Each year as many as 3 million visitors to the region increase these figures.

Biodiversity

Oceania’s ecosystems are diverse, ranging from the offshore marine realms, coral reefs, shoreline atolls, mangroves, coastal plains, lowland forests and wetlands of Pacific Island nations, to the mountains, fjords and glaciers of New Zealand and the grasslands and inland deserts of Australia.

Oceania’s species diversity is extremely high: flora and fauna of the region are often unique, with endemism as high as 90% for certain groups. Australia is an incredibly megadiverse country, with an enormous number of endemic plants and animals. In the Pacific Islands, the size and ecological diversity of the islands decreases from southwest to northeast, tapering from the high, forested islands of Melanesia to scores of tiny, sparsely vegetated atolls scattered across the central Pacific. High islands are characterized by their endemic families and genera; raised coral islands by endemic species, and atolls have widespread indigenous species. Often, these rare and endemic species are adapted to specialized habitats and limited to small areas of only a few islands.

People and nature

Throughout Oceania, food security is underpinned by nature. Many cultures throughout the region attach spiritual and religious values to ecosystems and their components – e.g. landscapes, trees, hills, rivers or particular species. This high economic and cultural dependence on the natural environment, along with a rapidly expanding human population (especially in the Pacific Island countries and territories) bring increasing demands on the region’s natural resources.

Threats

Many threats exist to the flora and fauna of countries and territories in the region. For example, native animal and plant species found on island countries are particularly susceptible to invasive species. Impacts such as habitat destruction, over-harvesting of species, pollution, mining and agricultural activities and human-induced climate change are also identified as major threats to the region’s biodiversity and well-being.

Our work in the region

Increasing awareness about the importance of species and the threats they are facing is crucial. The concept of “Investing in Nature” is central to this approach: too often, humans take other species and their day-to-day uses for granted. It is vital that investments in natural resources promote sustainable long-term use, management and conservation of the species we utilise in our everyday lives.

IUCN is working with like-minded organizations to contribute to the conservation of species and ecosystems in the Oceania region.

For more information on our work in the region click here.

See also:
  • Fishing is one of the primary sources of income for island communities.

    Fishing is one of the primary sources of income for island communities.

    Photo: Salote Sauturaga/IUCN

  • Girls performing a traditional Fijian Meke

    Girls performing a traditional Fijian Meke

    Photo: Helen Pippard

  • The Phoenix Islands Protected Areas of Kiribati

    The Phoenix Islands Protected Areas of Kiribati

    Photo: Ameer Addulla

  • Pagodas, The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Australia

    Pagodas, The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Australia

    Photo: DECCW

  • Jellyfish lake, Palau.

    Jellyfish lake, Palau.

    Photo: IUCN\Helen Pippard