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Title: Threat of Invasive Alien Plants to Native Flora and Forest Vegetation of Eastern Polynesia 
Author: Meyer, Jean-Yves
Date: 2004-07
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Citation: Meyer JY. 2004. Threat of invasive alien plants to native flora and forest vegetation of eastern Polynesia. Pac Sci 58(3): 357-375.
Abstract: Eastern Polynesia, a phytogeographical subregion of Polynesia in
the Pacific Ocean, comprises the archipelagoes of the Cook Islands, the Austral
Islands, the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the
Gambier Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, and Rapa Nui, which is the easternmost
inhabited island of Polynesia. It consists of a total of about 140 tropical to subtropical
oceanic islands that are among the most remote in the world, being over
3,000 km distant from the nearest continents. Because of this strong geographic
isolation, the relatively young geological age, and small terrestrial surface (less
than 4,000 km2
) of these islands, the native flora of eastern Polynesia is impoverished,
disharmonic, and with a relative low number of endemic genera (12).
However, some high volcanic islands within these archipelagoes display a great
diversity of habitats and a highly endemic flora (e.g., 50% for the vascular plants
in Nuku Hiva, 45% in Tahiti) with striking cases of adaptative radiation (e.g., in
the genera Eidens, Cyrtandra, Glochidion, Myrsine, and Psychotria). Most of these
endemic taxa are restricted to montane rain forests and cloud forests. These
upland wet forests are not directly threatened by habitat destruction by humans
or disturbance by large mammals but rather by invasive alien plants. Native
forests of eastern Polynesian islands are invaded by aggressive introduced
species (e.g., Lantana camara and Psidium cattleianum in most island groups; Syzygium
jambos in Pitcairn, Tahiti, and Nuku Hiva; Ardisia elliptica, Cestrum nocturnum,
Spathodea campanulata in Tahiti and Rarotonga; Rubus rosifolius in the
Society Islands, Hiva Oa, and Rapa Iti). Therefore, one of the highest priorities
for the long-term conservation of the original native flora and forest vegetation
of eastern Polynesia should be given to the study (invasion dynamics and ecological
impacts) and control (strategy and methods) of the current invasive alien
plants and to the early detection and eradication of potential plant invaders.
Eastern Polynesia, with its small, diverse, and isolated oceanic islands, also offers
opportunities to test hypotheses on the vulnerability of islands to invasion by
alien species, with or without disturbance.
ISSN: 0030-8870
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/2749

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