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Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Coastal, small island, and coral reef ecosystems

Contact Information

  • Colin Filer
    Resource Management in Asia-Pacific
    Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
    Australian National University
    Canberra ACT 0200

Project team and institutions

This assessment was undertaken by a team of scientists coordinated by the Australian National University and the University of Papua New Guinea. The first phase of the assessment (completed in 2005) was a nationwide survey of the relationship between coastal communities and coastal ecosystems, with a number of local-level case studies of this relationship. The second phase (due for completion in 2007) will focus on community-based assessments in one of the case study areas. This second phase is an integral component of the Milne Bay Community-Based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project (MBCP), which is being implemented by UNDP and executed by Conservation International. This project has its own Steering Committee with representation from a variety of stakeholders.


The MA provided financial support for the first phase of this assessment, including production and dissemination of the national report. The second phase is funded by UNDP as part of the co-financing of a grant from the Global Environment Facility.

Time period

The period assessed is 1975–2000. Scenarios are projected until 2020.

Intended audience

National and provincial decision-makers, conservation organizations, university students, and local communities.


The main focus of this assessment is population pressure as a driver of ecosystem change in coastal and small island communities.

Summary of findings

Other significant drivers of change in PNG’s coastal ecosystems are climate change, tectonic disturbances, the industrial exploitation of inshore marine resources, and the discharge of industrial and domestic waste material into coastal waters. The areas selected for local-level case studies in the first phase of the assessment are intended to reflect the extent of local variation and the relative significance of different drivers.

Within the coastal zone, both terrestrial and marine communities are assessed. Terrestrial communities include ‘‘uncultivated’’ forest (including sago groves); cultivated land (including bush fallows and orchards); other ‘‘natural’’ communities (such as grasslands and wetlands); and towns, villages, and other ‘‘built-up environments.’’ Marine communities include mangrove swamps; coral reefs; seagrass beds; and unvegetated bottoms. At the national scale, information about the supply of ecosystem services is primarily arranged by reference to indigenous food-cropping systems, which are treated as the core component of local resource management regimes in rural areas. Human well-being is measured by cash income, access to government services, and indicators of health, nutrition, and life expectancy.

The two scales of analysis and interpretation in the first phase of the assessment are the national and local scales, where each of the local case studies encompasses an area roughly equivalent in size and population to that of a single local level government in PNG. A preliminary assessment of the relationship between people and ecosystems in the area designated as ‘‘Zone 1’’ by the MBCP will count as one of five local case studies documented in the report of the first phase. In the second phase, the national and local scales will be replaced by the provincial and community scales, because the assessment will focus on the coastal ecosystems of Milne Bay Province (one of 19 provinces in PNG) and on a number of coastal and small island communities within Zone 1. This phase is known as the Small Islands in Peril Program (SMIP) because of the preponderance of small island communities in this area. As a sub-global assessment within the MA process, the Milne Bay SMIP has four objectives—to:

  • build a credible and feasible framework for the collection, analysis, and synthesis of ecosystem-wide data for decision-making at the level of the local community and the province as a whole;
  • test this framework in community-based assessments of ecosystem services in the area(s) of interest to the MBCP;
  • address decision-making information needs at the provincial level by means of scientific analysis, scenario construction, and policy advice; and
  • build capacity to undertake integrated assessments of the relationship between ecosystems and socioeconomic systems at local, provincial, and national scales.
© 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment