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Howea forsteriana: Island endemism

Have you ever heard of the Lord Howe Islands? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t – they’re a small, lonely group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, more than 500 kilometers off the coast of Australia. Thanks to this isolation, the islands have developed a very unique flora. The palm tree you see, Howea forsteriana, is found in the wild only on these islands. That’s true of almost half the plant species of the archipelago: They’re endemic to the Lord Howe Islands, meaning they’re not found anywhere else in the world.

Island endemics like this Howea are at increased risk of extinction. This often happens when humans introduce foreign plants and animals into their ecosystems, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The 240 species of native plants on the Lord Howe Islands now share their habitat with 160 others that have been introduced since the islands were discovered some 200 years ago. Animals brought from elsewhere are an additional problem. Rats and goats have caused certain native plants to go extinct on a lot of islands. Howea palms are especially threatened by rats, which eat their seeds and seedlings. Fortunately, wild populations of Howea are still very large, so it’s not at immediate risk of extinction.

Audio file download
Howea forsteriana: Island endemism (MP3, 660 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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