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The phytogeographical affinities of the Pitcairn Islands – a model for south-eastern Polynesia?

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Abstract:

Abstract Aim

To identify how the Pitcairn group relates biogeographically to the south-eastern Polynesian region and if, as a subset of the regions flora, it can then be used as a model for biogeographical analyses. Location

The Pitcairn group (25°4′ S, 130°06′ W) comprises four islands: Pitcairn, a relatively young, high volcanic Island; Henderson, an uplifted atoll, the uplift caused by the eruption of Pitcairn; and two atolls, Ducie and Oeno. The remote location, young age and range of island types found in the Pitcairn Island group makes the group ideal for the study of island biogeography and evolution. Methods

A detailed literature survey was carried out and several data sets were compiled. Dispersal method, propagule number and range data were collected for each of the 114 species that occurs in the Pitcairn group, and environmental data was also gathered for islands in Polynesia. Analyses were carried out using non-metric multidimensional scaling and clustering techniques. Results

The flora of the Pitcairn Islands is derived from the flora of other island groups in the south-eastern Polynesian region, notably those of the Austral, Society and Cook Islands. Species with a Pacific-wide distribution dominate the overall Pitcairn group flora. However, each of the islands show different patterns; Pitcairn is dominated by species with Pacific, Polynesian and endemic distributions, with anemochory as the dominant dispersal method (39.5%); Henderson is also dominated by species with Pacific, Polynesian and endemic distributions, but zoochory is the dominant dispersal method (59.4); Oeno and Ducie are dominated by Pantropic species with hydrochory as the most common dispersal method (52.9% and 100%, respectively). Main conclusions

• Habitat availability is the most significant factor determining the composition and size of the flora.

• South-east Polynesia is a valid biogeographical unit, and should include the Cook, Austral, Society, Marquesas, Gambier, Tuamotu and Pitcairn Islands with Rapa, but should exclude Easter Island, Tonga and Samoa.

• Regionalization schemes should take island type into consideration.

• The Pitcairn Island group can serve as a useful model for Pacific biogeographical analyses.

Keywords: Colonization; NMDS; Pitcairn; Sorensen distance; UPGMA; dispersal; habitat diversity; insular biotas; island biogeography; south-eastern Polynesia

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2699.2003.00959.x

Affiliations: 1: Trinity College Botanic Gardens, Palmerston Park, Dartry, Dublin 6, Ireland 2: Department of Botany, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland and

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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