Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands

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Map of the islands
Phylica arborea tree
Southern Fur Seals on Amsterdam Island

The Amsterdam and Saint-Paul Islands temperate grasslands is an ecoregion comprising two volcanic islands in the southern Indian Ocean. The only way to visit the islands is on the French research vessel Marion Dufresne II which services the Martin-de-Viviès research station on Amsterdam Island.


Île Amsterdam and Île Saint-Paul are two volcanoes 83 km from each other lying in the centre of a triangle between Australia, Antarctica and southern Africa. The islands are remote, situated about 3000 km (1860 mi) from each neighboring continent. They have cool oceanic climates with temperatures ranging from 13 °C (55 °F) in August to 17 °C (63 °F) in February, rainfall of 1,100 mm (43 in), persistent westerly winds, and high humidity levels.


Plant life changes with elevation; at lower levels the volcanoes are covered with grass and tussock grasslands and sedge meadows and, on Amsterdam, the Phylica arborea tree mixed with ferns. Higher up, on the Plateau des Tourbières, there are shrubs, bogs, and mosses.


These isolated islands are not rich in wildlife diversity but are home to a large population of Subantarctic Fur Seal. They are an important breeding ground for the Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Gentoo Penguin, Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi) Great Skua, Antarctic Tern and the endemic Amsterdam Albatross.

Threats and conservation[edit]

Although the islands are remote and therefore safe from most human activity and pollution, several introduced species of both flora and fauna have damaged the environment; the feral cattle, in particular, graze on young and regenerating plants and trample on bird eggs. Five cattle were brought to Amsterdam in January 1871; they were abandoned later that year and subsequently increased to a wild population of 2,000. As part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands the islands are home to a research base which is working to preserve the original plant and animal life by restricting the cattle to the northern half of Amsterdam. Ironically, the cattle population itself has become of scientific interest as it a rare example of a feral, unmanaged herd. Humans have caused other damage to the islands' ecosystems, as much of Amsterdam's woodland was cleared in the 19th century by visitors from passing ships and is struggling to recover. Sealing was also carried out on an industrial scale, although the seal population has now recovered.

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