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As part of a larger research program aiming to inventory and evaluate the terrestrial biodiversity of French Polynesia, a series of multidisciplinary scientific expeditions were conducted in 2002, 2003, and 2004 to the five inhabited Austral Islands – Raivavae, Rapa, Rimatara, Rurutu, and Tubuai – at the southernmost tip of this French group. Terrestrial Biodiversity of the Austral Islands, French Polynesia contains the findings of those expeditions.
The primary goals of these studies were to: identify and characterize the Austral Islands' terrestrial and freshwater native habitats, in order to assess their conservation status; to localize the natural areas of high ecological value; to conduct exhaustive inventories of native and alien vascular plant species and animals (mainly birds, mollusks, insects, and other arthropods); to estimate the distribution and abundance of threatened species and assess their conservation status; to identify past and current threats to species and their habitats; to study the dynamics and evolution of the terrestrial biota compared with historic data; and to propose recommendations for biodiversity conservation and natural resource management. Taken as a whole, the obtained results have greatly improved our knowledge of the ecology, biogeography, and evolutionary and conservation biology of the Austral Islands terrestrial biota.