Oceania (Plant Geography)
The small, low coral islands have a species-poor flora with screw
palms, coconut palms and other widespread species. On larger coral
islands and especially on high islands of volcanic origin, such as
Hawaii, Fiji and New Caledonia, the species richness is large, and
endemic species make up 70-90% of the original flora. Species in the
banana and palm families are prominent, as are fig species and tree
ferns; the breadfruit tree (Artocarpus) is native to the area.
The latest estimates of the number of plant species for the
islands in the Pacific Ocean are approximately 10,700 species. The
largest and most peculiar floras occur in Hawaii (about 1000
species), Fiji (about 1500 species) and New Caledonia (about 3200
species). According to
new estimates for Australia and New Zealand together include
approximately 25,700 species, and the total number for Oceania is
estimated to be approximately 35,000 species.
New Caledonia has a very distinctive flora with endemic conifers.
The supposedly very primitive family Degeneriaceae (with a single
species, Degeneria vitiensis) is endemic to the Fiji Islands.
Hawaii's flora contains both an American and a Malaysian element,
and there has been a significant species formation on the
archipelago itself. Typical of many species developed on oceanic
islands are large fruits and seeds and thus a reduced dispersal
Pitcairn, small island in the South Pacific 2000 km SE of Tahiti, British
territory; 4.5 km2. The 52 residents (2004) constitute one of the
world's most isolated communities. The island is of volcanic origin and has
steep shores. The climate is tropical and windy; the vegetation is characterized
by coconut palms and conifers. The residents all live in Adamstown on the
north coast and subsist mainly on self-sufficient agriculture. Export revenues
come mainly from the island's stamp and coin issues. Pitcairn is usually visited
by fewer than ten ships a year.
The archipelago also includes the small islands of Ducie and Oeno in addition
to Henderson Island, which with a unique nature has been designated a UNESCO
World Heritage Site.
There were traces of a former Polynesian settlement when nine of the
mutineers on Bounty along with 19 Polynesians in 1790 settled on Pitcairn. The
mutineer colony was found in 1808 by an American ship. In 1856 the island's 194
residents were moved to Norfolk Island, but six families returned home after a
few years and thus became the ancestors of a large part of the now living
residents of this the last British territory in the Pacific.
Easter Island, Isla de Pasqua, Polynesian Rapa Nui, small
island of volcanic origin in the eastern Pacific, belongs to Chile; 171 km2,
5761 residents (2012). Easter Island forms one of the corners of the
Polynesian Triangle and is one of the world's most remote
communities. Until World War II, the island was completely characterized by
self-sufficient agriculture and the strong isolation. Since the discovery of the
many stone statues, Easter Island and its cultural history have been the subject
of thorough research, and it has inspired numerous reports, books and films.
From the 1990's, Easter Island has been completely dominated by the tourist
industry. Transportation to and from the island remains costly, as does all
living costs, but the small community receives over 20,000 visitors
annually. The island is a national park and is inscribed on the UNESCO World
Easter Island. These three characters come from one of the few deciphered
inscriptions. The first sign represents a bird with an open hand on one
wing. Grasping with the hand is called ma'u, but the almost identical word mau
indicates plural; the sign therefore means 'the birds'. The erect penis th. on
the sign means that the birds have intercourse with someone, namely the next
signs of fish and sun. The translation is therefore 'The birds had intercourse
with the fish and diverted the Sun'.
On Easter Island, the Polynesian language rapanui, which belongs to
the oceanic language group, is spoken. It is spoken by approximately 3400, of which 2/3 live
on Easter Island and the other in Tahiti and Chile. Rapanui, which due to the
island's isolated location has many distinctive features in grammar and
vocabulary, is the only Polynesian language that has developed its own writing
system, rongorongo; this is not fully deciphered, but probably
inspired by European writing systems.
Easter Island was probably populated from other islands in the Eastern
Polynesian area approximately 300-500 AD The people carved giant statues of
volcanic tuff and had them erected, perhaps in honor of deceased ancestors. Most
statues, however, were toppled during internal battles on the island from around
When the first Europeans called at the island on Easter day 1722, there were
approximately 4,000 residents, but by 1870 the number had dropped to 111 due to hard
labor, slaveraids, and the spread of epidemic diseases. In 1888 Chile annexed
the island, and since 1965 its residents have had Chilean citizenship. Many
have emigrated to the mainland, and there is a growing demand for easing of
paternalistic Chilean rule.