Site description (2001 baseline)
Europa is an island in the southern Mozambique Channel, 350 km west-south-west of Morombe, Madagascar. It is one of the least modified coralline islands in the western Indian Ocean and was formed from the progressive filling of an ancient atoll which appeared 90,000 years ago. It is composed of a central lagoon largely surrounded by mangrove Rhizophora mucronata; shrubland, bushland and thicket, dominated by Psiadia altissima, Suriana maritima and/or Pemphis acidula; Euphorbia stenoclada dry forest; Sclerodactylon macrostachyum grassland; halophile vegetation (Arthrocnemum indicum) and a fringing beach- and dune-system rising to 12 m, the highest land on the island. In all, 33–46 angiosperm species occur. Eighteen people live on the island in shifts of 45 days; three occupy a meteorological station, and 15 are military servicemen.
See Box for key species. Europa holds a diverse and very large population of breeding seabirds, with five species occurring in globally significant numbers, and it is also the only known breeding site outside Madagascar and Aldabra for the globally near-threatened Ardeola idae (up to 15 pairs in 1996). Additional nesting waterbird and seabird species are Fregata minor (700–1,100 pairs; the second largest colony in the western Indian Ocean), Puffinus lherminieri (50–100 pairs; probably of the subspecies P. l. bailloni, previously thought to be endemic to the Mascarene Islands), Egretta dimorpha (abundant breeding resident) and Sterna caspia (10–15 pairs). The seabird community appears to be biogeographically isolated from others in the region as it shows several unique features, including the presence of an endemic subspecies, Phaethon lepturus europae. Three landbird species are present, of which one, the abundant Zosterops maderaspatanus voeltzkowi, is an endemic subspecies. A wide range of migrant and vagrant species have been recorded.
Non-bird biodiversity: The island is a nesting site for the sea-turtle Chelonia mydas (EN), and Eretmochelys imbricata (CR) and Caretta caretta (EN) are also present. There are two endemic lizard subspecies (Mabuya comorensis infralineata and Cryptoblepharus boutonii bitaeniatus). Overall, the coral island ecosystem is one of the finest in the Indian Ocean.
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Europa. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/europa-iba-french-southern-territories on 29/02/2024.