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Aerial view of Palau's famous Rock Islands.

Palau: A World Wonder Worth Protecting

Palau is blessed with a wealth of biodiversity and natural resources. The Nation enjoys clean air, clean water, abundant marine life, and healthy, productive coral reefs and native forests. Palau is also blessed with a wealth of human resources and technical capabilities. The population of Palau is well-educated and highly talented, and makes use of the most advanced technologies on a daily basis. Weaving these sources of natural and human wealth together is perhaps the most important resources of all: Tradition. Palauans maintain strong cultural ties to their land, their waters, and their history. It is though these traditional ties that Palau strives to preserve and conserve all of its precious resources.

Visit the Palau Visitor's Authority for more information about visiting Palau.



Rising sea levels are affecting agricultural production.

Challenges and Threats

Construction and road building activities cause erosion and sedimentation.Sedimentation has completely smothered the reef in Airai Bay, a formerly important fishing site for the local community.Fires, both in the local forest and like this one, in a local dump, are a major threat to Babeldaob.

It is the very presence of Palau's diverse and abundant natural resources that creates many of Palau's current threats. Tourism opportunities and a growing population create development pressures that threaten the very livelihood of the country. Earthmoving activities lead to land clearing and erosion that threaten terrestrial and marine habitat quality. Development leads to direct habitat loss, and road building leads to forest fragmentation and change in flora and fauna composition. Agriculture, which offers a beneficial alternative to construction, also poses the threats of fire, soil loss, and pesticide and fertilizer runoff, all on soil that is fragile, vulnerable, and prone to erosion. Dredging and filling operations are directly tied to the loss of critical habitats such as mangroves. Mangroves and other habitats are also being degraded by solid and hazardous waste disposal. Invasive plant and animal species threaten endemics. Poaching is also a threat to endangered animals, and overfishing remains a concern. As an island nation, Palau is extremely vulnerable to the effects of global warming. For instance, after the 1998 El Nino event, approximately one-third (1/3) of Palau's coral reefs were killed from bleaching, and up to 90% of Palau's Acropora species (a type of hard coral) died in some sites.

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Learn more about special places in Palau:

 

Palauans can still be seen using traditional fishing methods.

Cultural Significance

Palau is counting on its extraordinary natural resources to support continued economic growth, especially in the tourism and fisheries industries. Additionally, Palau's environment is a critical resource for the nation's people, and is intricately tied to history and culture. PCS is dedicated to finding a balance between a healthy economy and a healthy environment for Palau.

 

Non-singing Mastigias and Moon Jellyfish can be found in several Marine Lakes within Palau.

 

Biological Significance

  • More than 400 species of hard corals and 300 species of soft corals
  • The most plant and animal species in Micronesia, with a 25% endemism rate
  • More than 1,400 species of reef fish and seven of the world's nine species of giant clams
  • Micronesia's only populations of the endangered saltwater crocodile and dugong (sea cow)
  • Marine lakes that are home to unique non-stinging Mastigias and Moon Jellyfish
  • Lake Ngardok, the largest natural freshwater lake in Micronesia
  • One of the largest undisturbed forests in Micronesia
  • The largest numbers of endemic and resident bird species in Micronesia

Endangered Species Include:

  • Hawksbill Turtle
  • Dugong (sea cow)
  • Micronesian Megapode
  • Saltwater Crocodile
  • Rock Island Palm
  • Palau Palm

PCS uses the IUCN Red List as its guide to endangered and threatened species.

 

 
Terraces in Ngarelemengui.

Pristine Terrestrial Environment

Palau is home to one of the largest undisturbed upland forests in all of Micronesia. In addition, Palau has healthy swamp, limestone, mangrove, and strand forests as well. The forest-covered big island of Babeldaob harbors hundreds of endemic animal and plant species, and is rapidly becoming known as a major archeological hotspot. These forests harbor threatened biological treasures and ancient cultural sites reflecting Palau's traditional social system. These forests are home to endemic birds, amphibians, and reptiles, and a myriad of streams, waterfall, and lakes wind through the island, providing nooks and crannies teeming with native fish.

file icon pdf Download our 2004 Babeldaob Brochure.

 
Clownfish and anemones share a symboiotic relationship.

Spectacular Marine Environment

Named one of the world's last "Edens" by National Geographic, Palau is truly blessed with a wealth of natural wonders.  Adventure seekers from around the world come to Palau for world-class diving and snorkeling. Magnificent reefs and coral gardens provide the water enthusiast with an unparalleled diving experience, where encounters with sharks, mantas, sea turtles, and a kaleidoscope of reef fishes are commonplace. The famous Blue Corner is one of the world's most legendary dive sites, making Palau one of the "7 Underwater Wonders of the World."  Palau's stunning Rock Islands continue to draw admiration from around the world, and Palau is one of the few places in the world where fish stocks are still healthy.