(Editor’s note: Alison Green, senior marine biologist at The Nature Conservancy, has just finished two weeks diving and exploring Palmyra Atoll as part of the first marine assessment of the atoll. Read all her posts from Palmyra on Cool Green Science…and learn more about the expedition.)
Our excellent adventure at Palmyra Atoll is now over, and we have all returned home.
What an amazing two weeks — Palmyra is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been. Some of my most enduring memories of the atoll will be the hundreds of thousands of seabirds, healthy and luxuriant coral reefs, and the large numbers of sharks, manta rays and other reef fishes.
It was also a great pleasure to help the Palmyra team develop The Nature Conservancy’s first monitoring program for the atoll, and I’m confident that what we learn there will help us strengthen conservation for islands and coral reef ecosystems globally, particularly in the fields of climate change, fisheries, and coral reef restoration.
By purchasing Palmyra, the Conservancy has provided a strong basis for protecting this extraordinary place. However, further actions are now required to ensure the effective conservation of the entire atoll and its wildlife in the long term. Of particular importance will be helping Mother Nature restore the lagoon and island systems to a more natural state, by removing man-made obstructions to water circulation and eradicating or controlling introduced species (particularly rats, scale insects and coconut palms).
While it was sad to leave Palmyra, we had a spectacular flight home over some of the Line Islands — Teraina (Washington Island), Tabuaeran (Fanning Island) and Kiritimati (Christmas Island). Flying over these atolls provided a wonderful perspective on the scale of the Line Islands — a group of 11 atolls and low coral islands stretching over thousands of miles of the Central Pacific.
Eight of these reefs and islands belong to the Republic of Kiribati, and three are territories of the United States (Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Jarvis Island). Since the U.S. territories are all part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, they provide an excellent basis for establishing a large scale network of marine protected areas that links up the far-flung reef systems of the Line Islands with others in the Central Pacific.
(Image 1: Fanning Island, Republic of Kiribati. Credit: Kydd Pollock/TNC. Image 2: Kingman Reef, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Credit: Kydd Pollock/TNC.)