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Top 5 Largest Nature Reserves | The Gap Year Blog from Frontier
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Top 5 Largest Nature Reserves


The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) are responsible for defining the categories which determine whether an area should be included in the official list of protected areas. The bodies refer such areas to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) who undertake responsibility for biodiversity assessment, policy development and implementation. They manage the World Database on Protected Areas which have areas referred to them by IUCN. These organisations are important in making sure beautiful areas rich in biodiversity that are vital to our ecosystem are given the protection they need.

Categories such as national parks, strict nature reserves and protected areas with sustainable use of natural resources are created and then managed by bodies including the ICUN and WCMC. We are honoured to say we are now official members of the Lemur Network which was devised by the IUCN! They are responsible for so many vital conservation efforts. This year alone has seen the inclusion of the largest areas to be officially classed as a nature reserve, which means it is now a protected stretch of our ecosystem.

On that note, here are the top 5 largest nature reserves on the planet!

Marae Moana

We bet you thought this list would be made up of on-land parks. Yet, the largest nature reserves in the world are actually marine parks! Marae Moana is a part of the Cook Islands’ territories which consists of only 240 square kilometres of land, that’s less than one percent of its territory. However, its marine region is a whopping 1,800,000 square kilometres!

Inevitably, this means that the area is inundated with rare species and is rich in biodiversity in general. It is home to seabirds, whales, manta rays and numerous endangered shark species. The makeup of the area prompted its Maori leaders to certify it a protected area which was then approved by the WCMC.  The result is the largest nature reserve in the world! Marae Moana is the one of the greatest commitments to an oceanscape and to our planet.

Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area

Being more than twice the size of Texas, this protected marine area lies far out in the Antarctic Ocean and south of New Zealand. Ross Sea is sometimes referred to as the ‘Lost Sea’ because its nutrient packed waters have luckily been largely untouched by humans. It contains large numbers of krill and plankton that supports the survival of whales, fish and penguins.

This sea is home to roughly 16,000 species that are unique in their ability to exist in such cold waters. It is a distinctive marine park in its ability to harbour so much diversity in such extreme conditions. The Ross Sea Region spans 1,555,851km and is exemplary of how the world can come together to support our planet. The area becoming a reserve was the result of the cooperation of 24 countries after 500 highly regarded scientists put forwards a petition to conserve the area.

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

The protection of the area has resulted in jobs, volunteer opportunities and educational programmes. The area is the largest protected area under the US flagship and third in the world! The name is an elision of two Hawaiian ancestors, Papahānaumoku and Wākea. They are believed to have created the Hawaiian Archipelago, the Hawaiian people and the taro plant, so they are very significant, and the fact that this place is named after them means that it is a very significant place!

It covers and area of 1,508,870 square kilometres and it is known as a rainforest of the sea due to its expansive coral reefs and over 7,000 species. One quarter of those species, 1,750, are endemic to the Hawaiian Archipelago, including the world's most endangered duck, the Laysan duck! The area has been declared by UNESCO as a mixed world heritage site, emphasising and protecting both its natural and cultural importance.

Natural Park of the Coral Sea

Surprise, surprise, we have another marine park on the list. This underwater paradise is located in New Caledonia, a southwest Pacific island and it is 1,292,967Km long that equates to almost 500,000 miles! The marine park was established in 2014 and overtook the French Southern Territories Zone and became one of the most important expanses to the southwest Pacific Islanders’ existence.

It is only one of three homes to the dugong, a rare marine mammal. The park contains a lagoon that has attracted fame for being one of the most monumental lagoons in the world, being 24,000km. It provides them with livelihoods, tourism and of course some of the most complex and vital ecosystems that are important to the entire world. The marine park provides fresh and clean water, fish, coastal protection and a home to millions of beings so it is vital that it remains healthy. New Caledonia relies on nickel mining which is a non-renewable material so their industry will eventually dies out. Therefore, it has been a very wise move to protect such a large area of their natural environment which offers an abundance of support to both the human inhabitants and its marine residents.

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

Incorporating 1,277,860km within its boundaries, this marine monument includes seven atolls. Each atoll is an imperative breeding ground for a vast number of birds and other sea life. Its land consists of a large amount of vegetation that is irreplaceable as it only exists in that area, along with a vast amount of endemic animals. Public entry to the islands requires a special permit distributed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and the permits are usually only granted to scientific and educational researchers.

The land is very arid and experiences extreme winds and heat yet it is home to such a rich mix of creatures. The oceans are also brimming with life. This is one of the areas that was placed under protection after it was found that various forms of invasive fishing techniques were being used and damaging the oceans. There was no other way of monitoring or stopping activities such as nighttime spear hunting, long-lining and use of cyanide by aquarium fish collectors. The area had to be declared a legally protected reserve and even has plans for expansion, the borders may be moved further out meaning more of the area is protected.

By Hanna-Johara Dokal - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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