May 19th 2021

Pacific Soil Biodiversity: Protecting Life Below Ground

Our Pacific voice is being heard in the global conversation to shape the future of our soil biodiversity. Pacific island agriculture and biodiversity government representatives came together in this collaborative topic which cuts across both the environment and agriculture sectors.

This issue is just one that is on the table for discussion as the world gears towards a new global framework to halt biodiversity loss under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).

Several of our Pacific islands, including Pacific atolls, contain some of the most vulnerable soil systems in the world. These are experiencing a range of pressures and stressors that directly affect soil biota – the micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is working with Pacific island Parties as they participate in the pre-sessional meetings to the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP5) this year. SPREP is also working with partners to help build the technical capacity of our Pacific islands through a range of virtual briefings since February through to September, on different topics including that of Soil Biodiversity and Agriculture.

“Soil biodiversity is often undervalued and is not given the same recognition as other biodiversity topics such as forestry, invasive species, protected areas and others” said Ms Easter Chu Shing, Deputy Director-General of (SPREP) at the virtual Pacific briefing session jointly coordinated in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Pacific Islands and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

“Yet, we all know that soil biodiversity provides the essential services to national food security, healthy diets, culture, ecosystem services and economic development in the Pacific Islands.”

Unsustainable rates of soil loss associated with clearing for agriculture and logging has caused soil erosion in several Pacific nations. These unsustainable management practices have reportedly led to a significant decline in soil fertility in some of the higher larger islands.

“At the same time, our islands are also faced with the challenges of lack of data and information on baselines and trends, limited technical and scientific capacity and expertise as well as low level of awareness on soil biodiversity to name a few,” stated Ms Chu Shing.

The “Soil biodiversity, an important topic for the Pacific Islands” virtual preparatory thematic session was held on 12 May to help raise awareness of the benefits associated with soil biodiversity for food production, nutrition, carbon sequestration, water quality and human health. The session also discussed regional priorities and needs for soil biodiversity in the Pacific and to prepare for a Pacific intervention during the CBD negotiations.

This was just one of several Pacific regional virtual briefing sessions in the preparation for the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the CBD that have been held since February, through to September 2021.

Originally scheduled for 2020, the Conference of the Parties to the CBD was postponed to October 2021 due to COVID-19. This milestone event will endorse a new Global Biodiversity Framework.

“Our Pacific Islands region is home to some of the most amazing biodiversity hotspots in the world, our Pacific islands way of life and livelihoods is dependent upon a healthy biodiversity, and soil biodiversity is an key part of this,” said Ms Amanda Wheatley, Biodiversity Adviser at SPREP.

“We’re working strategically across our organisation, with our partners, to provide the best support possible that will empower our Pacific island Parties to actively engage with the global community in shaping a new framework that will help us protect our Pacific biodiversity.”

Now underway from 3 May to 13 June is the Twenty-fourth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, and the Third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation for which Pacific island parties have been attending, supported by SPREP.

Priority issues for the Pacific islands at the CBD COP15 include the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework targets and indicators, Marine and coastal biodiversity, Soil biodiversity and agriculture, Invasive alien species, Nagoya Protocol and Access and Benefit sharing, as well as administrative matters of the CBD.

The Pacific Island Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

For further information on the Convention on Biological Diversity please visit or contact SPREP’s Biodiversity Adviser Ms Amanda Wheatley at