Bokak Atoll, Marshall Islands

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Bokak Atoll, Marshall Islands

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Bokak Atoll Restoration Project

Protecting a refuge for sensitive corals

Bokak Atoll is far from other islands in the Republic of the Marshall Islands—meaning its unique and precious ecosystem has developed in relative isolation. Covered in beautiful native grasses and brush, Bokak’s significant distance from urban centers has allowed its ecosystem to develop more or less free from human intervention. As a result, its biome—the unique semi-arid atoll ecosystem—may be the only one of its kind in the world to remain unaltered. Abundant sea turtles and more than 20 species of breeding seabirds mark the atoll’s significance for the surrounding ocean as well, with unique closed reef formations and giant clams benefiting from the nutrients these connector species bring with them.

However, one significant human impact has made it to this pristine atoll: invasive species. Introduced, damaging, invasive rats are the most significant threat facing Bokak. This species disrupts the delicate balance that keeps Bokak’s undisturbed ecosystem intact, predating on birds and turtles by eating their eggs and young. When seabirds and turtles nest elsewhere, Bokak’s terrestrial ecosystem of 100% native plants feels the impact in the form of less rich soil—which then runs off into the near-shore ecosystems, where malnourished corals support smaller populations of fish.

A Voice from the Field

"Bokak Atoll is the most pristine atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and one of the most unmodified places in the tropical Pacific. It is home to an astonishing array of breeding seabirds, which sadly are subject to long-term population decline due to depredation by invasive rats. Eradicating rats on Bokak would pave the way for restoration of the seabird colonies to their former glory, in turn repairing vital ecosystem functions and improving the health of the reef and the surrounding seas, giving Bokak the best chance to endure the effects of human-induced climate change."

– 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 atoll is free from this introduced, damaging species, Bokak’s unique semi-arid ecosystem will be fully composed of only native species. It will be the most unaltered ecosystem in the Pacific, and its corals—nourished by healthy nutrient flows—will be more resistant to emergent threats such as rising temperatures.

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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