THE THREAT OF INVASIVE PLANTS IN NATIVE FORESTS OF EASTERN POLYNESIA

Jean-Yves Meyer

Délégation à la Recherche, Ministère de la Santé et de la Recherche, Gouvernement de Polynésie française, B.P. 20981 Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Eastern Polynesia, a phytogeographical subregion of Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean, comprises the archipelagoes of the Cook Islands, the Australs, the Society, the Tuamotu, the Marquesas, the Gambier, the Pitcairn Islands, and Rapa Nui which is the easternmost inhabited island of Polynesia. These tropical to subtropical oceanic islands are among the most remote in the world. Because of this strong geographic isolation and their small terrestrial surface, their native flora is impoverished, disharmonic, and with a low number of endemic genera. However, some high volcanic islands within these archipelagoes display a great diversity of habitats and a highly endemic flora with striking cases of adaptative radiation. Most of these endemic taxa are restricted to montane rain forests and cloud forests. The main threat to these upland wet forests is not habitat destruction by man, or over-grazing by large mammals, but rather the insidious biological invasion of alien plants. Native forests of Eastern Polynesia are threatened by the same aggressive introduced species (e.g Psidium cattleianum and Syzygium jambos in Pitcairn and the Marquesas lslands, or Ardisia elliptica and Cestrum nocturnum in Rarotonga and the Society Islands). Therefore, one of the highest priority for the long-term conservation of these native upland forests should be given to the study (invasion dynamics and ecological impacts) and control (strategy and methods) of the current invasive plants, and to the early detection and eradication of potential plant invaders.

 

Abstract from: 43rd Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science, July 23-28, 2000, Nagano, Japan.


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