The seven atolls and islands included within the monument are farther from human population centers than any other U.S. area. They represent one of the last frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world, and comprise the most widespread collection of coral reef, seabird, and shorebird protected areas on the planet.
The low coral island is vegetated by herbs and grasses tolerant of the arid climate. It is surrounded by beaches on all sides composed of sand or coral shingle.
The low reef island is the crest of an ancient coral reef cap and massive underlying volcano. Beyond the shallow fringing reef and terrace, the slopes of the extinct volcano drop off sharply to the deep floor of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
Jarvis supports 14 species of breeding seabirds, making it second only to Kiritimati Island in the number of species surviving on islands in the Line archipelago.
Johnston and French Frigate Shoals may have played important roles as stepping stones for the migration of marine species between Hawai‘i and the Line Islands to the south. Johnston Atoll is an oasis for reef and bird life and may be the most isolated atoll in the world.
The two small coral rubble ridges that remain emergent at Kingman Reef are periodically washed over, accreting, eroding, and migrating atop the shallow eastern perimeter reef crest. They are used for basking by threatened green turtles.
The second largest red-footed booby colony in the world is found on Palmyra, which also hosts significant populations of brown boobies, masked boobies, and black noddies.
Wildlife on Wake Atoll is dominated by a diversity of seabirds and migratory shorebirds and waterfowl. Wilkes and Peale islands support large numbers of resident and migratory seabirds and visiting winter resident shorebirds and waterfowl.
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The coconut crab is the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod, growing up to one meter (39 inches) across.