Solomon Islanders are bracing for impact after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck on 10 February, which followed an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that caused a tsunami four days previous. Thousands are homeless and 13 people have been killed.
An archipelagic state, Solomon Islands are approximately 2,000 kms north-east of Australia. The state is comprised of nine main island groups and the capital, Honiara, is located on Guadalcanal, the largest island. The state’s 28,400 km² land mass extends over almost one thousand islands.
The Pacific Islands of Oceania are often considered biodiversity hotspots because rare and endemic plant and animal species have adapted to specialised habitats. Climate change, competition from introduced (invasive) species and human impacts such as habitat destruction, over-harvesting of species and pollution are considered as threats to these species by the IUCN.
According to Avibase, Solomon Islands are home to 26 globally threatened bird species including Beck’s Petrel and the Christmas Island Frigatebird. Although Avibase, maintained by Dennis Lepage, includes an extensive bird list, the IUCN reported in their 2008 Summary of Species on the Red List that there are gaps in the knowledge of species on Solomon Islands.
“Data is often dispersed, taxonomic expertise is absent, and nomenclature and classification systems often disputed for various species. For a region known for its biodiversity hotspots, data is lacking and there are few links to regional and national policies,” they reported in the 2008 summary which provided a snapshot of the species on Solomon Islands.
In the summary, the IUCN recorded 89 assessed species endemic to the Solomon Islands, which was nearly 10% of all assessed species. The Solomon Islands contain the highest number of assessed endemic mammals along with Papua New Guinea.
Solomon Islands and Australia
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia has a deep and longstanding relationship with Solomon Islands. In their country brief, the Department reports that there are an estimated 1500 Australians living in Solomon Islands and in 2012-13, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) will provide an estimated $70.3 million in bilateral aid to Solomon Islands.