Phoenix Islands Marine Reserve (World Heritage)

By | September 29, 2021

Kiribati [ – ba ː s ], officially English Republic of Kiribati [r ɪ p ʌ bl ɪ k əv -], Gilbertese Ribaberikin Kiribati, German Republic of Kiribati, state in the Pacific, with (2019) 117 600 residents; The capital is Tarawa.

Kiribati comprises a large number of islands and atolls that stretch along the equator. The island nation stretched on both sides of the date line until it was moved far to the east from Kiribati in the state territory in 1995.

Phoenix Islands Marine Reserve (World Heritage)

The marine reserve between Hawaii and the Fiji Islands is the largest on earth at over 400,000 km². It is home to one of the most extraordinary coral ecosystems in the world, which is still almost intact and has over 200 coral species and 500 species of fish.

Phoenix Islands Marine Reserve: Facts

Official title: Phoenix Islands Marine Reserve
Natural monument: One of the three archipelagos of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati; largest marine reserve in the world (as of 2011) with an area of ​​408 250 km²; untouched marine landscape and eight atolls with 14 discovered underwater mountains (up to 30 estimated) at a depth of 4500 to 6000 m, approx. 800 plant species (including 200 coral species), 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals, 44 bird species; first world heritage site in Kiribati
Continent: Australia and Oceania
Country: Kiribati
Location: Phoenix Islands
Appointment: 2010
Meaning: Unique biosystem in the Pacific Ocean with a large area; valuable natural laboratory for studying the ecological and biological processes of the evolution of the marine world

A paradise for fish and sea birds

The largest marine reserve on earth lies in the vast expanses of the South Pacific: countless animals cavort on 408,250 km², from tiny plankton to beaked whales and dolphins, and flocks of seabirds use the islands as breeding grounds. On the other hand, people are only occasional visitors to the remote Phoenix Islands.

The Phoenix Islands are one of the three island groups in the state of Kiribati. A total of eight atolls – volcanic mountains covered with corals – belong to the archipelago: Canton with an area of ​​9 km² is the largest island, Birnie with 0.2 km² the smallest. They all enclose lagoons of different sizes. Apart from coconut palms, only a few herbs, grasses and low bushes grow on the narrow strip of land. But most of life on the Phoenix Islands takes place under the surface of the water anyway.

In addition to the islands with their lagoons, the marine reserve also includes 14 submarine mountains (seamounts), presumably extinct volcanoes that reach up to 6000 meters in depth. There are also the two coral reefs Winslow Reef and Carondelet Reef. The latter is only three to four meters under water at low tide. From the shallow water of the lagoons and reefs to the deep sea, all marine habitats are represented there with their special fauna and flora.

The waters around the islands are teeming with fish and marine mammals. Buffalo head parrotfish, Napoleon wrasse, surgeon fish, groupers, tuna, dolphins and giant manta rays cavort in large groups in the exceptionally clear water. In between, sharks hunt for prey, while green turtles and hawksbill sea turtles seem to slide weightlessly through the sea.

According to dentistrymyth, the tropical sunlight bathes the corals in magnificent colors. Giant giant clams with a length of well over a meter have also settled on the reefs. In total, over 800 animal species – 200 of them coral species – are at home on the Phoenix Islands. The animal world is not quite as colorful on land: only a few species like lizards and the palm thief, the largest land crab on earth, live there. On the other hand, numerous seabirds come in large flocks and use the uninhabited atolls as breeding grounds or as a stopover on their bird migration. McKean Island is the largest breeding ground for the ariel frigate: up to 85,000 animals build their nests there every year.

The overwhelming biodiversity and the large number of marine and land animals that breed in the marine reserve of the Phoenix Islands also inspire biologists and other natural scientists, because on the Phoenix Islands the ecological and biological processes in a marine ecosystem can be observed and researched excellently.

Therefore, the Phoenix Islands are a kind of “natural laboratory” and provide valuable knowledge about the effects of climate change, fluctuations in sea levels and the development of coral reefs. The fact that nature on the Phoenix Islands is so intact is thanks to the isolated location of the archipelago. Although the islands were visited and settled by Polynesians and Melanesians around 3000 years ago, these settlements were not permanent – probably because of the scarce drinking water resources. In the 19th century, American and European whalers discovered the fish- and whale-rich waters around the islands. They mainly hunted sperm whales, which are now almost extinct in this region. Large amounts of guano were mined on land.

A last attempt to settle people on the islands was the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme from 1938 to 1963. Since too many people lived on the Gilbert Islands, which now also belong to Kiribati, they should find a new home on Orona, Manra and Nikumaroro. But from the 1960s the settlements were given up again. Only in Canton still live around 50 people who monitor the marine reserve on behalf of the Kiribati government.

Phoenix Islands Marine Reserve (World Heritage)