World Nature Conservation Day held on July 28 stresses the need for preserving a healthy environment and natural resources to maintain a stable and healthy society.
Human activities during the last century have had a devastating impact on natural vegetation and other resources. The relentless human overexploitation of resources has led to unusual weather patterns, destruction of wildlife habitats, extinction of species, and loss of biodiversity.
Nature is our life-support system. It also holds the key to our prosperity, with millions of livelihoods and much of our economic activity also depending on the natural world. These immense benefits to humanity, estimated to be worth around US$125 trillion a year, are only possible if we maintain a rich diversity of wildlife.
We are losing nature faster and without urgent action, significant harm to people and our planet is inevitable. Populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by 60 per cent in the past 40 years – and 75 per cent of land has been significantly altered by human activities. On World Nature Conservation Day it is therefore relevant to look at the biggest national parks around the planet that want to preserve nature.
1. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
USA (Hawaii): 1,510,000 km sq
The largest national park in the world (by some way) is Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. It was established by Presidential Proclamation in 2006 and encompasses over 1.5 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean – an area larger than all the national parks of the United States combined. With 2,200 km of coast around coral islands, shoals, and banks, this biggest park in the world hosts a staggering diversity of coral, fish, birds, marine mammals, many endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago.
2. Northeast Greenland National Park
Greenland: 972,000 km sq
The Northeast Greenland National Park was created in 1974, then expanded in 1988 to its present size, making it the largest land national park in the world. If Northeast Greenland National Park were a country it would be the 31stlargest country in the world – in between Egypt and Tanzania. Wildlife in the park includes plenty of mammals: musk oxen, arctic fox, stoat, collared lemming, and arctic hare, with many polar bears and walrus found around the coastal regions, and a wide variety of seal and whale species in the surrounding waters.
3. The Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area
Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola: 519,912 km sq
Coming in at twice the size of the United Kingdom, the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area lies in the river basins of the Kavango and Zambezi, and stretches across five Southern African countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Highlights of the park include the Okavango Delta and the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, though the whole park is richly endowed with a diversity of wildlife-dense ecosystems that make it one of the best places in the world for enjoying a safari.
4. Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Republic of Kiribati: 408,250 km sq
The Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA) is a huge expanse of marine and land ecosystems in the Southern Pacific Ocean, surrounding the Kiribati group of islands known as Phoenix Island Group. The isolation of the area means that PIPA is a crucial habitat for migratory species as they traverse the Pacific Ocean, and as such is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Alongside 14 seamounts presumed to be underwater extinct volcanoes, PIPA has approximately 800 known animal species, including around 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals, and 44 species of birds.
5. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Australia: 344,400 km sq
Located off the coast of Queensland in North-Eastern Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system – made up of 900 islands and almost 3,000 individual reefs stretching for over 2,00 kilometers. The reef is so large and looks so distinct from the air that it can be seen from space. The reef supports over 1,500 fish species, 125 species of sharks and rays, 30 whale species, 17 species of sea snake, six turtle species, and a large dugong population, as well as plenty of giant saltwater crocodiles. It’s due to this biodiversity that the Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Source: nationaltoday.com, explore.panda.org, safarisafricana.com
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