The Marquesas Archipelago, French Polynesia is located almost 900 miles (1500 km) northeast of Tahiti and 3000 miles (4800 km) west of Mexico, making it one of the most remote island groups in the world. The islands are mostly of volcanic origin, with characteristically steep cliffs that rise to high-elevation, mountainous peaks and are prone to droughts lasting several years.
WHY IS THE MARQUESAS ARCHIPELAGO IMPORTANT?
Hosts 22 species of seabirds, which play an essential role in terrestrial and marine ecosystem health.
Provides vital habitat for many endemic plant and animal species, meaning they are found nowhere else.
A community of 9,000 people depends heavily on the local resources available to them.
The Marquesas Archipelago is home to a unique array of threatened and endemic plants and wildlife, but clearance of habitat and the introduction of invasive species, including rats and feral cats, have driven many species to the brink of extinction. Today, ten endemic land birds remain on the islands, although their survival is tenuous, often with only one population surviving on one island. Nesting seabirds across 22 species, two of which are endangered, depend on the islands, and face invasive species as the leading threat to their survival.
Island Conservation, SOP Manu, Birdlife International, and the local community from UaHuka successfully removed invasive rats from Teuaua Island in 2018, effectively protecting a population of 90,000 Sooty Terns. Teuaua was the first step towards scaling up restoration efforts within the archipelago, but invasive species are present on almost all of the Marquesan Islands. If the issue is not addressed, native species will inevitably disappear. Island Conservation and our partners are working to remove invasive rats, and feral cats from seven of the nine uninhabited islands to prevent further extinctions.
Removing invasive species from these uninhabited islands would significantly benefit threatened biodiversity, including four highly endangered bird species and endemic vegetation. Preservation of these native birds, which each have their own Marquesan name, has deep cultural implications for the community since almost every species plays a vital role in traditional culture. Beyond the impacts for biodiversity conservation, restoration of these ecosystems will directly benefit the people of the Marquesas through increased productivity of natural resources and food security.
Teuaua has been freed of invasive rats, allowing native seabirds to thrive and protecting natural resources for the nearby community. Next, the partners will remove invasive rats and cats from seven of the archipelago’s uninhabited islands but need additional financial support to implement the project. Restoring these islands would secure habitat for the Marquesan Monarch and other native birds, provide more breeding grounds for vulnerable seabirds and prevent further biodiversity loss in the Marquesas Archipelago.
The local Marquesan community carries on unique cultural traditions, with legends and dances that highly depend on their natural environment.
Ten of the eleven land birds found in the Marquesas are considered endemic, five of which only survive on a single island.
The islands host a rich diversity of plant species, including 42%, which are endemic to the archipelago and sixteen that are listed as Endangered.