Marquesas Islands PacificMárquesas Islands Pacific
Schmidt and Walter L. Necker.
Pacific tropical dry forests
The Marquesas Islands are a group of twelve rough volcano islands in a secluded area of the South Pacific, which together form the most northerly island of Polynesia. Marquesas Islands together are only 1050 square kilometres (Florence & Lorence 1997). Twelve islands are between 1.3 million years old (Fatu Hiva) and over 6 million years old (Eiao); the oldest islands lie in the north-west and are becoming younger and younger towards the south-east (Florence & Lorence, 1997).
Marquesas Islands are characterised by few shores and rugged landscapes, with cliffy ups and downs and solitary gorges divided by crisp, impressive crests. Nuku Hiva (1227 m) and Hiva Oa (1276 m) (Florence & Lorence 1997) are the biggest and highest islands of the Marquesas.
Marquesas are located at the south end of a regionally oriented ocean rain belt bounded by two rainforests converging to the south ("Decker", 1970). Most rainfall occurs on the windwards (north-eastern and south-eastern) sides of the islands, and the leewards (western) sides are prone to dryness.
The lower altitudes have average temperature of 25°C to 29°C per month, have less than 2000 mm yearly rainfall and a drying time of 6 month (Florence & Lorence 1997). The Polynesians came to the Marquesas about 1700 years ago (Buck, 1953; Florence & Lorence, 1997). The Marquesa people, with an expected 80,000 people, thrived at their height before the contacts with Europe (Buck, 1953).
In 1595 seamen from Spain, led by Avaro de Medaña, came to the Marquesas Islands and called them " Las Islas de Marquesa de Mendoza " in honour of the Viceroy of Peru (Florence & Lorence, 1997). Contacts with the West led to diseases and the indigenous Marquesa community declined to only 3800 in 1938.
Nevertheless, the Marquesan figures were continuously increased to 7358 by 1988 (Florence, 1993). Marquesas Islands arid forest occurs in areas with rainfall of less than 2000 mm per year, ranging from just above sealevel to 500 metres (Florence & Lorence, 1997). Much of the area has been severely disrupted or transformed into secundary flora, although there are remains of indigenous remains preserved (Florence & Lorence, 1997).
Much of the indigenous flora in the Marquesas Islands has been damaged by pastures and man (Decker, 1970; Florence 1997; Mueller-Dombois 1998). That is true, but small remains of the indigenous arid forests were found in this work. Investigation areas: Six investigation areas were investigated on the two biggest islands Nuku Hiva (Hatiheu Bay, Hakaui, Terre Déserte) and Hiva Oa (Nahoe, Hanaiapa Bay, Eiaone).
First investigated site was on the western side of Hatiheu Bay, just off the northern side of Hatiheu Town, on an eastern side of the northwestern shore of Nuku Hiva. Hatiheu Bay's fragments of dried woodland lay in a gorge with large volcano rocks protecting it from fire.
This area did not seem to be affected by human activity and many indigenous endemic varieties were recorded, but there was significant indication of wild goat herding. Forests had a low concentration of trees and were dominant in Sapindus and Xylosma subaveolens. Second was Nuku Hiva, situated on a northern hillside with many volcano rocks to the south.
It seemed to be slightly disrupted by the abundance of local wildlife and its isolation. It was the wood with the highest biodiversity of local Marquesas Islands plants, and it was ruled by Glochidion morchionicum, Sapindus sapponaria, Xylosma suaveolen and Cerbera Manghas. There were, however, a large number of non-native varieties, especially Tecoma steans, which could be found in the transect.
Terre Déserte is located in the arid northwest part of Nuku Hiva, south-east of Nuku Ataha airport. Landscape surrounding this piece was grassland and had the least biodiversity with only three indigenous sorts. Situated on a northern hillside on the northeast shore of Hiva Oa, the 4th arid woodland area was south-east of the Nahoe town.
The site contains many vulcanic blocks and smaller cliffs. Many indigenous types were found in the site itself, with low foliage and a canyon to protect them from fire. Fifth investigated site on an eastern side of the Hanaiapa Bay along the north-central coastline of Hiva Oa.
The site included small cliffs and large vulcanic formations. Wild geese were seen at lower altitudes below the terrain, but the arid wood fragments seemed to remain untouched and showed many indigenous sorts. It was finally found on the western side of a small untitled cove on a northeast side along the northeast shore of Hiva Oa.
Eiaone had large vulcanic blocks. There were the most abundant indigenous forests on the Hiva Oa isle. Comprehensive and systematical plant inventory are necessary in the lowlands of the Marquesas Islands. Currently there are only list of endemic animals for the islands and further research is needed to determine the identification of uncommon animals (Wagner & Lorence 2003).
Pacific explorer. Decker, B.G. "Plants, Man and Landscapes in the Marquesan Valley, France. Secundary blanket on mountain sides, Marquesas Islands, Franco Polynesia. Florence, born 1993. Florence, J., and Lorence, D.H. 1997. Familiarization with the Marquesas Islands wildlife and bush. Rainforest of the Pacific Islands.
Wagner, Warren L. and Lorence, David H. 2003. Marquesas flora. I' d like to thank Travis Terpkosh for his masterwork in the Marquesas. Also we are very thankful to the tourist leaders and taxi driver on the islands.