Vegetation and Urbanization on Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands

Sabath, Michael D.
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University of Hawaii Press
The urban and nonurban vegetation on the Micronesian atoll of Majuro is described, including changes in forest canopy, understory shrubs, yards, and cultural features since urbanization began in 1944. Currently, the nonurban areas are covered with Cocos nucifera (coconut) groves mixed with smaller Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit) groves, which were probably established in the late 1800s. Indigenous vegetation is limited to a narrow band along the ocean or lagoon shoreline, or as minor understory species in the Cocos-Artocarpus groves. A United States military base was established in 1944 on three eastern islands of the atoll (Uliga, Dalap, and Djarrit). This has subsequently been developed into a major administrative and commercial center for the Marshall Islands. Urbanization on Uliga, Dalap, and Djarrit has resulted in reduction of tree canopy; establishment of extensive yards with grasses, herbs, and sedges; and reduction of many indigenous and aboriginally introduced understory species. Nevertheless, some aboriginally introduced and indigenous species remain in the urban areas as important species (Cocos, Artocarpus, and Tournefortia), with many being actively propagated. Ornamental species, which have expanded in importance, especially in the shrub layer, consist primarily of species recorded in Laura village prior to urbanization. The urban plant community is a mixture of indigenous, aboriginally introduced, and recently introduced species. Future urban expansion is predicted with commercial and residential development replacing horticultural forests along the southern islands of the atoll.
Sabath MD. 1977. Vegetation and urbanization on Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands. Pac Sci 31(4): 321-333.
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