The McDonald Islands (53°03′S, 72°36′E) are situated in the southern Indian Ocean, approximately 43 km west of Heard Island. These sub-Antarctic islands comprise McDonald Island itself, measuring ca.1 × 2 km, and two much smaller rocky outcrops, Flat Island and Meyer Rock. Five species of vascular plant occur on the islands. Only four species of moss were found, no hepatics, and eight species of lichen, together with algal and fungal species. Phanerogamic vegetation, comprising grassland and cushion-carpet herbfield, covers about one-third of the main island. Elsewhere, vegetation is absent or restricted to cryptogamic species. The distribution and occurrence of vegetation are strongly influenced by salt deposition, exposure to wind, substrate stability and biotic influences, particularly the very large assemblages of sea birds. The species-depauperate McDonald Islands are unique and have suffered negligible human impact. A management plan has been prepared; its implementation will be assisted by the information in this paper. The islands' protection will be further enhanced by an affirmative final decision on the current proposal for World Heritage Listing of Heard and the McDonald Islands.
KeywordsIndian Ocean Vascular Plant Fungal Species Human Impact World Heritage
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