Effective conservation requires rigorous baselines of pristine conditions to assess the impacts of human activities and to valuate the efficacy of management. The study found that top predators and reef-building organisms dominated unpopulated Kingman and Palmyra, while small planktivorous fishes and fleshy algae dominated the populated atolls of Tabuaeran and Kiritimati.
Throughout this paper, the authors have taken a regional approach, pioneered by Weisler (1996), that allowed them to understand the contrasting settlement patterns on two adjacent “mystery islands”. In their view, wet Tabuaeran was the primary locus of settlement, with dry Kiritimati acting as a peripheral base for specialized activities. This analysis challenges the prevailing “mystery island” paradigm which focuses on resource scarcity and isolation.