Vegetation of Nauru and the Gilbert Islands: Case Studies of Poverty, Degradation, Disturbance, and Displacement

Thaman, Randolph R.
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University of Hawai'i Press
The indigenous floras of the raised phosphatic limestone island of Nauru and the atolls of the Gilbert Islands are among the poorest on earth. Long settlement, widespread destruction during World War II, monocultural expansion of coconut palms, and more than 75 yr of open-cast phosphate mining in the case of Nauru have led to serious vegetation degradation, disturbance, and displacement. The floras of Nauru and the Gilbert Islands consist of approximately 487 and 306 species, respectively, of which only 55 and 83 are possibly indigenous, but none of which are endemic. The balance is composed of ornamentals, weedy exotics, food plants, and a limited number of other useful cultigens. Although greatly outnumbered by exotics, indigenous species still dominate some of the most disturbed habitats, as well as constituting the most culturally utilitarian and ecologically important species. Because of the unique adaptability of indigenous Pacific island plants to the harsh conditions of coastal and small-island environments, and their cultural and ecological utility, it is argued that the protection and enhancement of the indigenous floras are crucial to the ecological integrity and cultural survival of small-island Pacific societies.
Thaman RR. 1992. Vegetation of Nauru and the Gilbert Islands: case studies of poverty, degradation, disturbance, and displacement. Pac Sci 46(2): 128-158.
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