Charles Kennel, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Palmyra encompasses only 680 acres, but Its 16,000 acres of lagoons, coral reefs and submerged lands support a complex web of life: everything from whales, sharks, sea turtles, manta rays and giant clams to thousands of exotic fish.
Pods of dolphins and pilot whales feed in its offshore waters, and a million nesting seabirds, several rare or endangered, use it as a way station on long Pacific journeys. As the only refuge within 450,000 square miles of ocean, this tiny atoll has an ecological importance that far exceeds its size.
Remote island ecosystems are often havens of biological diversity, but they are also among the most vulnerable to ecological invasions. On Palmyra, invasive species such as rats, ants and parasitic scale are unraveling well-established relationships between terrestrial and marine systems. In addition, dredging and construction by the military during World War II has severly restricted the flow of water in the lagoons, endangering fragile reefs. Illegal visitation, poaching and commercial fishing activities also pose serious threats to Palmyra's delicate ecosystems and marine populations.
Preserving the natural diversity of this spectacular place requires long-term, intensive stewardship. This stewarship is central to the Conservancy efforts on Palmyra Atoll. The Conservancy is partnering with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which carefully monitors and limits access to atoll and protects its borders. Together, the two organizations are collaborating on a comprehensive plan to restore the hydrology of the lagoons, remove invasive rats and restore tropical native plant species on Palmyra.
Long recognized as a ideal natural laboratory, Palmyra is being developed into a center for scientific study. In 2005, a team of the world's top scientists joined the Conservancy in launching a research station on the atoll. What we can learn at Palmyra -- about climate change, coral reefs, marine restoration and invasive species, promises to inform conservation strategies for island ecoysystems throughout the Pacific and around the world.
Funding for this vital work requires significant ongoing investment. Success depends on the generosity and leadership of Conservancy members, and others who are conservation minded. The financial support we are seeking is considerable, but so is the payoff -- both for science and conservation. You can help the Conservancy meet the costs of protecting this tropical wilderness by making an online donation!