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Palmyra Atoll, Line Islands
Millions of seabirds depend on the protected habitat of Palmyra Atoll for survival. Learn more about how you are helping ensure their continued existence.
Ah, Palmyra Atoll. White sandy beaches, clear blue water, trees swaying in the warm breeze – it embodies everything a tropical island is meant to be. But, Palmyra Atoll offers something beyond the cliché. This protected habitat is an important center of species abundance in the Central Pacific region, providing critical habitat for 10 seabird species and 2 globally threatened turtles. The atoll is also home to 78 plant species, including one of the last remaining strands of dense Pisonia Forest. Surrounding the atoll you’ll find what may be one of the healthiest coral reef system in the entire world - protected from overfishing, land based pollution, or disturbance. Palmyra's reefs are teeming with fish, invertebrates, and coral. 
 
Located approximately 1,000 miles south of Hawai`i in the Line Islands, the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is co-managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy. The atoll consists of about 25 islets with two shallow lagoons, encompassing 680 acres above water and 15,000 acres of reef below water. While the island has no permanent residents, there are usually between four and twenty people temporarily living there working as scientists or managing the refuge.
 
Invasive rats present on the atoll have had a major negative impact on the ecosystem, particularly on seabirds and plants. Island Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy are working together to remove invasive rats from Palmyra Atoll to restore the natural ecosystem and protect native plants and animals from the threat of extinction.
 
Alex Wegmann, Island Conservation Project Manager for the Palmyra Atoll Rainforest Restoration Project, describes the importance of restoring the atoll:
 
“In 2005, Island Conservation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Nature Conservancy removed rats from five of Palmyra’s twenty-five islands as part of a study to inform an atoll-wide restoration effort.  Three months after the rat removal study, we found two Neisopserma opositifolia seedlings established and thriving on one of the rat-free islands. There is no prior record of seedling establishment for this tree species since rats invaded the atoll more than 60 years ago. 
 
A return of native vegetation benefits seabirds as well. Subsequent research has found a significant preference for native tree habitat by Palmyra’s tree-nesting seabirds. Complete removal of invasive rats from Palmyra will, in short measure, facilitate the restoration of the atoll’s native tree community and benefit a multitude of native species.”

IC biologist Alex Wegmann on Palmyra Atoll

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