The Pacific - A region of innovative people with a high natural resource potential - facing global and climate challenges: PACE-Net Conference strengthens research, development and innovation partnership between Europe & the Pacific.
The Pacific is too important for Europe and the world to be left out. This was one of the main conclusions of the PACE-Net Conference held in Brussels, from March 20th to 23rd 2012. PACE-Net stands for “Pacific-European Network” (http://www.pacenet.eu/), three-year cooperation project between the two regions and is financially supported by the European Commission. This PACE-Net conference brought together more than a hundred senior researchers and officials from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Island States such as Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Tuvalu, Kiribati, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia.
The Pacific islands are the home to more than 10 Mio. people who live on some of the ca. 20.000 individual islands varying from large countries such as PNG (ca. 460.000 km2) to small ones such Tuvalu (ca. 26 km2). Prof. Teatulohi Matainaho, University of Papua New Guinea, pointed out that his country by itself contains over 5 % of the world's biodiversity in less than 1 % of the world's total land area. It boasts, for example 3,000 species of orchids, 800 species of coral, 600 species of fish, 250 species of mammals, 760 species of birds, and 8 species of tree-kangaroos. Similar wealth of coral, tuna fish, or unique agricultural products such as giant swamp taro (rich in calcium), are found throughout islands such as Samoa, Nauru or Tonga. Large deposits of nobel metals are available in PNG and New Caledonia and just recently rare-earth elements and the metal yttrium—which are crucial for green-energy technologies were found in the deep seafloor sediments of the South-Pacific. Pacific Island peoples have been sustainably using many of the region’s resources for centuries and have adapted themselves to changing environmental, societal and economic conditions by innovating new resource management strategies. Still, much of the Pacific’s natural resource diversity and richness - especially in the sea - is not yet known.
All of this – both humans and nature - is under threat. Ongoing climate change may have impacts on regional climate phenomena such as El Nino which – as Patrick De Dekker, Professor of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University pointed out – may cause extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. Climate change and rising sea levels may make entire islands uninhabitable, cause coral bleaching and rising water temperatures. Marine pollution, over-fishing, and exploitation of the remaining tropical forests are rapidly reducing existing bio-diversity, while rapid...