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      Biosphere Reserve Information
     

United States of America

ALEUTIAN ISLANDS


Photo: Jeff Williams
 
       
  General Description   The Aleutian Islands Biosphere Reserve and National Wildlife Refuge consist of most of the Aleutian Islands and almost all Amaknak Island. These islands extend in an arc from the Alaska Peninsula about 1,600 km to the west. Most of the islands are mountainous as emergent peaks of a submarine mountain range which also includes some active volcanoes.
The Aleutian Islands flora and fauna is composed of species from both the North American and Asian continents. The vegetation is classified as terrestrial-marine tundra composed of arctic-alpine species, dominated by heath, grass and composite families. In general, three plant communities can be distinguished: beach communities, lowland and upland tundra.
The Aleutian fauna has been described as a melting pot for faunal elements from two continents including some species which evolved in the Bering Sea area. One of the most unique features is the Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), a threatened species which nests in the wild only here. This bird was exterminated from other Aleutian Islands as a result of the introduction of arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) during the time when the islands were leased for fox farming. The eradication of fox as well as of the introduced Norway rats is one of the main management issues in order to restore native bird life.
There are some villages within the biosphere reserve. Natives use the natural resources for fishing and hunting waterfowls and game as well as some livestock raising. There are considerable World War II debris and abandoned military installations which cause the contamination of land and sea.
Investigations are carried out regarding population status and ecology of sea otter (Enhydra lutris) and Steller sea lion (Eumatopias jubata). Archaeological research in the western Aleutians attempts to characterize historical and prehistorical biodiversity.
  Major ecosystem type   Tundra including coastal/marine component
  Major habitats & land cover types   Treeless volcanic islands with two distinct vegetational habitat types. Near the coast, a tall-plant association dominated by Elymus arenarius (Wild beach rye) and an interior short plant tundra association.
  Location   5451' to 5255'N; 16322' to 17224'W
  Area (hectares)    
  Total   1,100,943
  Core area(s)   1,100,943
  Buffer zone(s)   none
  Transition area(s) when given   Reserve ends at mean low water around every island
  Altitude (metres above sea level)   0 to +3,041
  Year designated   1976
  Administrative authorities   Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge; Aleutian Islands Unit; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Last updated: 3/15/2005

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