Phoenix Islands Protected Area – UNESCO Heritage in Kiribati

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The Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA) is a 408,250 sq.km expanse of marine and terrestrial habitats in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The property encompasses the Phoenix Island Group, one of three island groups in Kiribati, and is the largest designated Marine Protected Area in the world. This is the first site in Kiribati to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in the year of 2010.

Location

Located in the Republic of Kiribati, an ocean nation in the central Pacific approximately midway between Australia and Hawaii.

About Phoenix Islands Protected Area

1. Phoenix Islands Protected Area conserves one of the world’s largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, together with 14 known underwater sea mounts (presumed to be extinct volcanoes) and other deep-sea habitats. The area contains approximately 800 known species of fauna, including about 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals and 44 bird species. The structure and functioning of PIPA’s ecosystems illustrates its pristine nature and importance as a migration route and reservoir.

2. Phoenix Islands Protected Area contains an outstanding collection of large submerged volcanoes, presumed extinct, rising direct from the extensive deep sea floor with an average depth of more than 4,500 metres and a maximum depth of over 6,000 metres. Included are no less than 14 recognised seamounts, submerged mountains that don’t penetrate to the surface. The collection of atolls and reef islands represent coral reef capping on 8 other volcanic mountains that approach the surface. The large bathymetric range of the submerged seamount landscape provides depth defined habitat types fully representative of Pacific mid oceanic biota.

3. Due to its great isolation, Phoenix Islands Protected Area occupies a unique position in the bio-geography of the Pacific as a critical stepping stone habitat for migratory and pelagic/planktonic species and for ocean currents in the region. Phoenix Islands Protected Area embraces the full range of marine environments in this area and displays high levels of marine abundance as well as the full spectrum of age and size cohorts, increasingly rare in the tropics, and especially in the case of apex predator sharks fish, sea turtles, sea birds, corals, giant clams, and coconut crabs, many of which have been depleted elsewhere.

4. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is a very large protected area, a vast wilderness domain where nature prevails and man is but an occasional visitor. The property is distinguished by containing a large suite of seamounts complete with a broad expanse of contextual abyssal plain with a natural phenomenon of global significance. The essentially pristine environment, outstanding underwater clarity, the spectacle of large groups of charismatic aquatic animals in quantities rarely found elsewhere in the world, aesthetically outstanding coral reef features together with the spectacle of huge concentrations of seabirds on remote atolls, makes of this property a truly kaleidoscopic natural “oceanscape” exhibiting exceptional natural beauty of global significance.

5. Phoenix Islands Protected Area makes an outstanding contribution to ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of global marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals. Phoenix Islands Protected Area has exceptional value as a natural laboratory for the study and understanding of the significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of marine ecosystems of the Pacific, the world’s largest ocean, indeed all oceans.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Western Kiribati Islands runs from May to November, or better from September to November, because it is the least rainy.

 

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