The Most Unique Ecosystems on Earth
Some of the most unique ecosystems on Earth are those that are complex and bustling with life. Although all ecosystems play a role in how the Earth functions, there are some that are considered irreplaceable. These are home to flora and fauna that are unable to thrive anywhere else. Below are some of the most noteworthy examples:
Canaima National Park, Venezuela
The Canaima National Park is a 3 million hectare World Heritage Site found in south-eastern Venezuela. One of its most unique and best-known features are the flat-topped mountain formations known as ‘tepuis’ which cover about 65% of the park. The park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of the tepius, but the park is also significant for its ecological diversity. It protects populations of endangered mammal species such as jaguars, giant anteaters, giant river otters, ocelots and giant armadillos. 29 species of birds and one third of the plants found in the park are endemic to the area and found nowhere else on Earth[sc:1].
Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta, Colombia
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range in the world, with its tallest peak reaching 5,775 metres. In 1979 the mountain range was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. It’s rich with wildlife and inhabits species such as jaguars, tapirs, deer, paramos, condors, paujil, and mountain parrots. The mountain range also has several species of amphibians and reptiles that don’t exist anywhere else because wildlife living above 3,000 feet evolved in isolation. The Sierra Nevada is also known for its Teyuna Archaeological Park, also known as the Ciudad Perdida or Lost City[sc:2].
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are an isolated archipelago located 1,000 kilometers from the mainland of South America. The islands became of interest to Charles Darwin in 1835 because of its endemic wildlife and its unique location where three ocean currents diverge. Darwin found that the Galapagos Islands is home to species such as marine iguanas, giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, and finches found nowhere else on Earth. Since 1978 the islands because a UNESCO World Heritage Site and continue to be an ecosystem that’s protected for its rich and unique biodiversity[sc:3].
Socotra is an isolated archipelago located 220 miles off the shores of mainland Yemen. The island group has the fourth highest number of endemic plant species per square mile than any group of islands on Earth. Some of its endemic and alien-like plant species include the desert rose, cucumber tree and dragon’s blood. Many of Socotra’s endemic species are found near steep cliffs and rely on mist condensing on rocks for moisture[sc:4]. 37% of its 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species are found only within the Socotra archipelago. Because of its rich terrestrial and marine life, this archipelago ecosystem was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008[sc:5]. The Socotra islands have experienced long geological isolation and are often described as one of the most alien looking places on the planet.
Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia
The Wet Tropics of Queensland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site found on the northeast coast of Australia. The area is made up of 894,420 hectares of mostly tropical rainforest that also contains forest from the Gondwanan era which covered Australia and Antarctica 50 to 100 million years ago. The Wet Tropics are rich with flora and fauna and have 576 plant species, 11 mammal species, 11 bird species, 24 reptile species and 22 amphibian species that are endemic to the region. This ecosystem also inhabits 30% of Australia’s marsupial species[sc:6].
Lord Howe Island Group, Australia
The Lord Howe Island Group is known to contain the most southerly true coral reef in the world. The islands provide important breeding grounds for colonies of seabirds such as the providence petrel and the red-tailed tropicbird, and also provide habitat for various threatened and endangered endemic plant and animal species. Some of these endemic species include the Lord Howe woodhen and the Lord Howe Island phasmid, the world’s largest stick insect. The Lord Howe Islands are part of the Permanent Park Reserve (PPP) while the surrounding waters were declared Marine Parks. The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982[sc:7].
The places mentioned in this article are just some of the most amazing ecosystems discovered on planet Earth. The Earth is filled with biodiverse ecosystems that host many flora and fauna endemic to a given region. Their beauty is not only worth appreciating, but these ecosystems are also worth protecting.