Located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, Palmyra Atoll is one of the most spectacular marine wilderness areas on Earth. Its unique location near the equator, phenomenal biodiversity and history of relatively modest human impact mean the atoll’s reefs are as close to pristine as those found anywhere in the world, providing scientists with a baseline for what a healthy coral reef ecosystem should look like. While Palmyra’s reefs have not escaped the impact of global threats such as ocean acidification and coral bleaching, they have proven far more resilient in the face of these threats, incurring less damage and recovering faster in their aftermath.
The Nature Conservancy bought Palmyra in 2000 and today it is a national marine monument that the Conservancy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are partnering to protect. Through the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium, it is also being developed as a center for scientific study. What we can learn at Palmyra — about global climate change, coral reefs, marine restoration and invasive species — promises to inform conservation strategies for island ecosystems throughout the Pacific and around the world.