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Terrestrial forest management plan for Palmyra Atoll

January 15, 2011

This 'Terrestrial Forest Management Plan for Palmyra Atoll' was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Palmyra Program to refine and expand goals and objectives developed through the Conservation Action Plan process. It is one in a series of adaptive management plans designed to achieve TNC's mission toward the protection and enhancement of native wildlife and habitat. The 'Terrestrial Forest Management Plan for Palmyra Atoll' focuses on ecosystem integrity and specifically identifies and addresses issues related to assessing the status and distribution of resources, as well as the pressures acting upon them, most specifically nonnative and potentially invasive species. The plan, which presents strategies for increasing ecosystem integrity, provides a framework to implement and track the progress of conservation and restoration goals related to terrestrial resources on Palmyra Atoll. The report in its present form is intended to be an overview of what is known about historical and current forest resources; it is not an exhaustive review of all available literature relevant to forest management but an attempt to assemble as much information specific to Palmyra Atoll as possible.

Palmyra Atoll is one of the Northern Line Islands in the Pacific Ocean southwest of the Hawai`ian Islands. It consists of many heavily vegetated islets arranged in a horseshoe pattern around four lagoons and surrounded by a coral reef. The terrestrial ecosystem consists of three primary native vegetation types: Pisonia grandis forest, coastal strand forest, and grassland. Among these vegetation types, the health and extent of Pisonia grandis forest is of particular concern. Overall, the three vegetation types support 25 native plant species (two of which may be extirpated), 14 species of sea birds, six shore birds, at least one native reptile, at least seven native insects, and six native land crabs. Green and hawksbill turtles forage at Palmyra Atoll, and though rarely documented, beach nesting could be affected by terrestrial management actions. There are various nonnative or invasive species throughout the terrestrial ecosystem. The most notable examples of terrestrial invasive species include coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) and black rats (Rattus rattus). Although it is unclear whether they are nonnative, coconut palms are currently the most dominant plant across Palmyra Atoll. They compete with native plant species for space and resources and are potentially detrimental to sea birds dependent on native vegetation for roosting and nesting habitat. This competition in turn impacts nutrient resource availability, thereby reshaping energy flow in the ecosystem. Black rats are known to prey on ground-nesting sea birds and are likely responsible for the lack of burrowing sea bird reproduction at Palmyra Atoll. In addition, they may be facilitating the invasion of other nonnative species and negatively impacting other native fauna. Although the extent and impacts of these and other nonnative and (or) invasive species are not fully understood, the extent and impacts are clearly a threat to the native species and one of the most urgent threats to the overall ecosystem integrity of Palmyra Atoll.

This 'Terrestrial Forest Management Plan for Palmyra Atoll' addresses issues related to invasive species and other problems. Priority goals are established as are associated objectives and strategies. The overarching goal is to perpetuate and where possible restore terrestrial ecosystem integrity through the following techniques:

1. Habitat management: Maintain and enhance habitat to the extent possible to sustain thriving Pisonia grandis forest, coastal strand forest, endemic grassland, self-sustaining populations of sea birds, shore birds, coconut crabs, native lizards, and native insects.
2. Monitoring and assessment: Acquire information on distribution and abundance as needed for conservation of each resour

Publication Year 2011
Title Terrestrial forest management plan for Palmyra Atoll
DOI 10.3133/ofr20111007
Authors Stacie A. Hathaway, Kathryn McEachern, Robert N. Fisher
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2011-1007
Index ID ofr20111007
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center