Phoenix Islands Protected Area

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Phoenix Islands Protected Area
GlobMap-02-01-08 NewBoundsGreen.jpg
Phoenix Islands Protected Area boundary outlined
Location Phoenix Islands
Area 408,250 km2
Established January 2008
Governing body Republic of Kiribati
http://www.phoenixislands.org/index.php
Type: Natural
Criteria: vii, ix
Designated: 2010 (34th session)
Reference No. 1325
State Party: Kiribati
Region: Asia-Pacific

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is located in the Republic of Kiribati, an ocean nation in the central Pacific approximately midway between Australia and Hawaii. PIPA constitutes 11.34% of Kiribati’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and with a size of 408,250 km2 (157,630 sq mi) it is the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.

History and administration[edit]

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area is a mostly uninhabited coral archipelago located within a globally biologically important area called the Polynesian/Micronesian hotspot.

In total it is equivalent to the size of the state of California in the USA, though the total land area is only 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi).

The Republic of Kiribati, in partnership with the non-governmental conservation organizations Conservation International and the New England Aquarium, has formed the Phoenix Island Protected Area Conservation Trust (PIPA Trust).

Tridacna giant clams in the lagoon of Orona

Management and protection requirements necessary to maintain the values of this MPA are reflected both in the current interim management measures and the recently approved management plan. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Zonation
  • Permits

The administrators of the reserve have been criticized for the amount of fishing they allow.[1]

Natural heritage[edit]

PIPA represents one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems with reefs being what a reef might have looked like one thousand years ago.

There are 514 species of reef fish, including several new species.

Five of the eight islands in PIPA are currently designated as Important Bird Areas by Birdlife International. Today there are 19 species of seabirds living on the islands. Many other seabirds migrate through PIPA, including shearwaters and mottled petrels from Australia and New Zealand. Prominent species include the endemic, endangered Phoenix petrel.[2]

Island restoration and biosecurity program[edit]

Restoration goals in PIPA include eradicating non-native cats from Orona Island that are decimating bird populations.

Some of the negative impacts of the introduction of non-native, invasive plants and animals include the elimination of native seabirds and plants, particularly through the destruction of the eggs and young, and introduced plants taking over other plant life, modifying the natural island ecosystem. Plants and animals that have been introduced over time include Pacific and Asian rats, rabbits, cats, ants, pigs, dogs and lantana.[3][4]

Until PIPA was declared, the last comprehensive fauna surveys of the Phoenix Islands occurred in the 1960s. In 2006 a new survey was conducted to determine the extent of non-native pest species invasions on each island and the feasibility of a restoration program. From this work it was determined that pests - especially the feral rabbits on Rawaki Island and Asian rats on McKean Island - should be removed from the Phoenix Islands.[3]

Sometime around the year 2002, Asian rats colonized McKean, apparently when a fishing trawler was wrecked on the island. The 2006 survey found that rat predation had virtually destroyed the once abundant populations of storm-petrels, blue noddies and other petrels and shearwaters.[4] Rabbits on Rawaki were competing for and generally damaging necessary resources for the birds, as well as trampling nests.[3]

As a first step towards biodiversity recovery on the islands of the PIPA, in mid 2008 rats and rabbits were targeted on McKean and Rawaki. In November–December 2009 a check of these islands by a science team indicated that the eradication programs were successful. The responses from the plant life and bird life were spectacular with the team finding that seabirds were nesting successfully on McKean for the first time in nearly 10 years. Meanwhile on Rawaki the vegetation recovery has enabled birds like blue noddies to find suitable nest sites throughout the island. Even frigatebirds were nesting on the now recovering plants. These restoration efforts will enable populations of Phoenix petrel, white-throated storm petrel, and other important seabird populations to recover in the PIPA. A second eradication expedition was successfully executed in July 2011, with two additional islands of the PIPA targeted for pest removal- Enderbury and Birnie. Both islands had populations of the non-native Pacific rat.

UNESCO World Heritage Site[edit]

Hydnophora rigida corals in PIPA

On January 30, 2009, the Republic of Kiribati submitted an application for the Phoenix Islands Protected Area for consideration on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. This was the first nomination submitted by Kiribati since they ratified the Convention in 2000. On August 1, 2010 at the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee in Brasília, Brazil, the decision was made to inscribe PIPA onto the World Heritage List. It became the largest and deepest World Heritage site in the world.

Search for Amelia Earhart[edit]

Famous aviator Amelia Earhart is thought to have crash landed on Nikumaroro Island when she disappeared in 1937.

Since 1988, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been testing the hypothesis that the missing 1937 flight of Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan landed at Nikumaroro.[5] Evidence amassed from archival research and numerous expeditions to the island suggests that the plane was landed safely on the atoll's fringing reef but was washed over the edge by rising tide and surf after several days leaving Earhart and Noonan as castaways on the uninhabited, waterless atoll. In 1940 a British Colonial Service officer discovered a partial skeleton and several artifacts at a makeshift campsite on the island's remote southeast end. The bones and artifacts were sent to British headquarters in Fiji and subsequently lost. Modern assessment of measurements taken by a British doctor in 1941 suggest that the skeleton was that of a female of northern European descent who stood roughly Earhart's height.[6] Artifacts recovered from a site believed to be where the skeleton was found speak of an American woman of the 1930s who had items with her consistent with items known to have been typically carried by Earhart.[7][8] Serial numbers reported to have been on a sextant box found with the bones suggest that the sextant was the same type known to have been carried by Noonan.[9]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Christopher Pala (2 October 2008). "Ocean wildereness is size of California". Cosmos magazine. Cosmos Media Ltd. Retrieved 2013-06-07. "The Phoenix Islands Protected Area will be the size of California, the first that protects tuna and other ocean-going fish and the first to get funding using market-based mechanisms." 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 3°38′59″S 172°51′27″W / 3.64972°S 172.85750°W / -3.64972; -172.85750