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Vegetation assessment of forests of Pagan Island, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

September 21, 2011

As part of the Marianas Expedition Wildlife Surveys-2010, the forest vegetation of the island of Pagan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), was sampled with a series of systematic plots along 13 transects established for monitoring forest bird populations. Shrubland and grassland were also sampled in the northern half of the island. Data collected were woody plant density, tree diameter at breast height, woody plant density in height classes below 2 m, and ground cover measured with the point-intercept method. Coconut forests (Cocos nucifera) were generally found to have low native tree diversity, little regeneration of trees and shrubs in the forest understory, and little live ground cover. The sole exception was a coconut-dominated forest of the northeast side of the island that exhibited high native tree diversity and a large number of young native trees in the understory. Ironwood (Casuarina equisetifolia) forests on the northern half of the island were nearly monocultures with almost no trees other than ironwood in vegetation plots, few woody plants in the understory, and low ground cover dominated by native ferns. Mixed native forests of both northern and southern sections of the island had a diversity of native tree species in both the canopy and the sparse understory. Ground cover of native forests in the north had a mix of native and alien species, but that of the southern half of the island was dominated by native ferns and woody plants.

During vegetation surveys in June–July 2010, 215 vascular plant species were observed on Pagan; 21 new island records of alien plants and 12 new island records of native plants were documented. Many of the new and recently sighted alien plants of the northern section of the island appeared to be in the incipient stage of invasion. Most of the new native plant sightings and a number of other rare tree and shrub species of Pagan were limited to forests of the rugged southern half of the island.

Publication Year 2011
Title Vegetation assessment of forests of Pagan Island, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Authors Linda W. Pratt
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Series Title Technical Report
Series Number HCSU-023
Index ID 70006223
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center