START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
3,520,103 people care about Environment & Wildlife

Scientists Identify the Earth’s Most Irreplaceable Places

Scientists Identify the Earth’s Most Irreplaceable Places

An international team of scientists has identified the most irreplaceable places on the planet when it comes to protecting biodiversity. They hope their work will lead to more effective conservation efforts.

For their study, which was published in the journal Science, they analyzed data on 173,000 terrestrial protected areas and 21,500 species — including amphibians, mammals and birds from the World Database of Protected Areas and the Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — to compile the list.

To determine which sites were most irreplaceable, they calculated the number of species found in protected areas with a measure of how dependent each species is on their home, whether they’re found anywhere else and whether these places have any formal protection. The IUCN used the example of the Laysan Duck, who is Critically Endangered and can only be found at the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge and 13 species of amphibians who are restricted to Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.

The top 137 areas that were identified as most important for the survival of 627 species, half of which are critically endangered, spread over 74 sites and span 34 countries with the Formaciones de Tepuyes Natural Monument in Venezuela coming in at number one.

According to the IUCN, many of these irreplaceable areas, like Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, are already designated as being of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention. However, more than half the land covered by these areas does not have World Heritage recognition, including one of the most important on the list: Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural National Park, which is home to the greatest number of threatened and declining species. Also excluded are Cuba’s Ciénaga de Zapata wetlands and Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains National Park.

“These exceptional places would all be strong candidates for World Heritage status,” said Soizic Le Saout, lead author of the study. “Such recognition would ensure effective protection of the unique biodiversity in these areas, given the rigorous standards required for World Heritage sites.”

More worrisome is that many of these places are only protected in theory and exist as “paper parks” that have a title, but no plan in place to ensure their protection, or to keep them from degrading or their wildlife from disappearing as a result of poaching, underfunding or encroaching human development.

Páramo Urrao National Protective Forests Reserves, in Colombia, for example, does not really exist,” said Paul Salaman, an expert in Colombian biodiversity and CEO of the Rainforest Trust. “It was legally created in 1975, but this was never translated into on-the-ground management”.

In addition to calling for greater protection of these valuable sites, the researchers are also calling on people to rethink how we prioritize species, reports Popular Science. It’s easy to focus on certain ones in need of protection, like pandas, tigers and polar bears, but likeable species may not be in the greatest need in some areas and are overshadowing others who are harder to bring attention to. Researchers note that they’re all significant, but are recommending that management plans target species that are in the greatest need in their area, even if they aren’t necessarily fluffy and adorable.

For the full list of irreplaceable places and more information about the species who call them home, check here.

Read more: , , , , , , , ,

Photo credit: Thinkstock

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
5:49AM PDT on Aug 27, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

12:39PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

sometimes saving a small portion is a start.when that be secure then you move on to include more.

10:55PM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Thanks......Yes ...these areas need to be "saved" ...but so does the whole planet.!

10:52AM PST on Dec 4, 2013


2:46PM PST on Dec 3, 2013

Biodiversity is best for the planet including the humans

2:41AM PST on Dec 3, 2013

Scary but let's hope this is in time to save these places.

4:18PM PST on Dec 1, 2013


3:25PM PST on Dec 1, 2013

they're not safe unless the whole planet is...

3:43AM PST on Dec 1, 2013

Selecting individual bits of the planet is a bit like a doctor saying "Well if we retain the brain, heart, lungs, liver and the stomach we can sacrifice the rest because it isn't vital"

8:36AM PST on Nov 30, 2013

Sign up for the new project taking people to Mars - by the time humans are done with planet earth, planet Mars will look just the same as "home"!!!

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Questionable until we see which way Greece votes. Then time, finally, to pay attention to their results…

Hopefully we will be able to develop true artificial blood soon, because people are not donating enough.…

Thanks for sharing. :)

meet our writers

Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.