The Solomon Islands comprise one of the most intact and biologically rich oceanic archipelagos on Earth. Extreme patterns of endemism and geographic differentiation among populations across its islands have attracted the attention of prominent biologists since the Museum's Whitney South Seas Expedition nearly a century ago. Pacific Programs scientists are currently conducting basic natural history and systematic work on birds and frogs, in addition to research projects that focus on processes of geographic differentiation and speciation among island birds.
With one of the fastest growing populations on the globe, and little economic alternative to escalating mining and timber industries, pressure on the diverse land and seascapes of this tropical region is immense. Land use in the Solomon Islands is determined by holders of customary rights to the land, namely individuals within local communities. This textures both threat and opportunity for biodiversity conservation. Extractive industry has exploited land-owning communities resulting in startling increases in unregulated large-scale logging. If the remarkable biodiversity of the Solomons is to survive and continue to inspire and sustain human communities, a national protected-areas strategy, including immediate land-use alternatives to large-scale foreign resource extraction, is imperative.
To build capacity for biodiversity conservation and more balanced land-use practices in the Solomon Islands, the CBC’s Pacific Programs pursues community-based biodiversity research, education, and conservation activities that span the archipelago. Our approach embraces land tenure in the Solomons; with appropriate incentives, landholding communities can protect a remarkable component of the Earth's living diversity. We are establishing a legal and logistical framework to enable communities in control of important areas for biodiversity to enter into negotiated long-term agreements with parties seeking to "invest" in conservation, such as international donor agencies. In return, we are working to provide direct economic alternatives to resource extraction that are more conducive to lasting conservation.
At the heart of the Pacific Programs’ evolving approach to conservation in the Solomons is the development of community-based partnerships that provide incentives for combined forest and near-shore marine biodiversity conservation. The Community Conservation Agreements (CCAs) we are implementing stipulate development and livelihood improvement benefits in partnership with landholding groups, in return for community-based delivery of biodiversity conservation.
Conservation efforts include both direct work within rural landholding communities to improve resource stewardship and initiatives designed to develop the necessary in-country capacity and infrastructure to facilitate the long-term sustainability of community-driven protected areas. These efforts draw upon the dual strengths of the biodiversity research and conservation initiatives of Pacific Programs, as well as the CBC’s Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP). NCEP activities focus on outreach and capacity development for local decision-makers that can support and strengthen the development of conservation agreements and prospects for their long-term sustainability. Our hope is that a portfolio of community-based initiatives across a variety of sites in the Solomons will serve to pilot a national protected areas network based on that can then be used to attract long-term, endowed support from bi- and multi-lateral donor agencies.