2,370 ‘Irreplaceable’ Places Identified by Scientists

An international team of scientists has made a list of Earth’s most “irreplaceable” places, highlighting more than 2,300 unique habitats that are key to the survival of rare wildlife. The goal of their research, published in the journal Science, is to help wildlife managers make existing parks and nature preserves more effective at preventing extinction.

“Protected areas can only fulfill their role in reducing biodiversity loss if they are effectively managed,” says Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission, in a press release about the study. “Given limited conservation budgets, that is not always the case, so governments should pay particular attention to the management effectiveness of highly irreplaceable protected areas.”

The study offers an irreplaceability score for 2,178 protected areas and 192 proposed sites, ranking their importance to rare wildlife in general and to specific biological groups. It also lists 78 “exceptionally irreplaceable” sites, which host the majority of the populations of some 600 bird, amphibian and mammal species, half of which are threatened. Many of the places already have UNESCO World Heritage protection, but half of the total land they cover does not. That includes the most irreplaceable site on Earth for threatened species, according to the study: Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural National Park.

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

Here’s a look at a few of the irreplaceable places; see the full list for more information.


Manu National Park

Photo:†Vil Sandi/Flickr

Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, U.S.

Western Ghats, India

Photo:†Prashanth Dotcompals/Flickr

Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

Photo:†Kerem Tapani GŁltekin/Flickr
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural National Park, Colombia



Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

Photo: Umberto Nicoletti/Flickr

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, Madagascar

Photo:†Ralph Kršnzlein/Flickr


Apuan Alps, Italy



Northeast Greenland National Park, Denmark

Photo:†Rita Willaert/Flickr


Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Photo:†Roberto Faccenda/Flickr



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Main Photo Credit: Salto Aponguao at Venezuela's Canaima National Park. (Photo:†Tjac277/Flickr)


Melania Padilla
Melania P1 years ago

Nature is just awesome, thanks for sharing

Christine Jones
Christine J2 years ago

Thanks for the article. It's a ready-made "bucket list" of gorgeous places to visit for when I win the lottery.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

Wow - beautiful pictures!! It would be a huge shame to lose any of these or other places!

Amina Selmanovic
Amina Selmanovic4 years ago


Val M.
Val M4 years ago

Beautiful, precious places - thank you

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thank you for the information.

Ana Marija R.
ANA MARIJA R4 years ago

well said Fi T.
On this list from Croatia is only Velebit - the amazing mountain...♥ but there is so much more (Plitvice lake, Rastoke - heaven on Earth...). Come to see with respect:))

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Nothing and nowhere is replaceable

PrimaSICK B.
PrimaAWAY B4 years ago

Thanks and nice photos.