Bikar Atoll, Marshall Islands

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Bikar Atoll, Marshall Islands

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Bikar Atoll Ocean Restoration Project

Restoring a rich habitat for seabirds and turtles

Bikar Atoll in the Ratak Chain of the Marshall Islands is one of the smallest atolls in the Marshalls, but its size belies its importance. Birdlife International has designated it as one of two remaining examples on Earth of unaltered semi-arid ecosystems, and its location and sheltered lagoons make it the most important turtle habitat in the Marshalls. Indeed, it’s actually the largest nesting site for Green Turtles in all of Micronesia.

In addition to making an ideal home for baby turtles, Bikar’s abundant reefs and rich near-shore ecosystems provide nutrients to scores of nesting seabirds—including the IUCN-listed vulnerable Bristle-thighed Curlew.

Unfortunately, though, this key atoll—also a refuge for highly-sensitive and rare corals—is under threat from introduced, invasive species. Rats prey on turtle hatchlings and baby birds, severely impacting these delicate populations. Without these key connector species, the marine food web has less nutrients to feed fish and corals.

A Voice from the Field

"Bikar Atoll is one of the only remaining semi-arid atoll ecosystems on the planet, a true “desert island” that holds huge colonies of seabirds and one of the largest nesting populations of endangered Green Sea Turtles in the central Pacific Ocean. However, the health of this fragile ecosystem and its inhabitants is critically threatened by two species of invasive rats, and long-term population declines of native species have occurred. By eradicating invasive rats, we hope to restore Bikar Atoll to its former glory and repair the linkages between atoll, reef and deep ocean."

– Paul Jacques, Island Restoration Specialist, Island Conservation

The Project

Invasive species removals on nearby islands in 2023 will provide key knowledge for invasive removals in late 2024. Once the island is free from these introduced, damaging species, proactive plant and wildlife reintroductions will help key members of Bikar’s ecosystem return. Erosion rates will decrease, nutrient flows will re-establish, and the nearby reefs will be more resilient against bleaching events and climate change!

Project Partners & Funders

RMI Ministry for Environment and Commerce, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Island Conservation, Marshall Island Conservation Society (MICS), OneReef, Marshall Islands Marine Resource Authority (MIMRA) Photo Credits: Chris Thompson

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