Aleutian Islands

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.

Declaration Date: 1976
Surface Area: 1,100,943 ha
Administrative Division: Alaska Maritime National WildlifeRefuge; Aleutian Islands Unit; U.S. Fish and WildlifeService

Human Activities

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 landand sea.

Ecological Characteristics

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. 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.


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                                                                                      Last updated : May 2012

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