Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World (With Photos)

Some of the most unique flora and fauna can be found in many remote islands around the world. Some islands have species of plants and animals that are indigenous of the island. These species have evolved in a specialized way. Because these islands protect that species from the fierce competition they face on the mainland, that species will develop by taking full advantage of these rare conditions.

These ecosystems are irreplaceable treasures of nature as they are a legacy of a unique evolutionary history. This list will introduce you with some of the world’s most unique island ecosystems.

Greatest Island Ecosystems:

The island ecosystems given here are not necessarily islands surrounded by water but are also areas of land, which are isolated by natural means from the surrounding land.

10. Mona Island

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Mona Island
Mona Island; image credit

Mona Island is located in the center of the Mona Passage. Administratively it is a part of Puerto Rico. Among the three islands located in the strait, it is the largest, the other two are Monito Island and Desecheo Island.

In 1493, Columbus discovered this island during his second voyage to the New World. Since 1919, Mona Island has been a nature reserve and for more than 50 years it was uninhabited. Mona, Desecheo, and Monito have been nicknamed as “The Galápagos Islands of the Caribbean” because of their unique topography and ecology.

The indigenous Mona Iguana of the island is considered as the most spectacular species on the island. This species is essential for keeping the balance between climate and vegetation, as they are the largest native herbivores of this ecosystem. The island also boasts many cave drawings drawn by the island’s pre-Colombian inhabitants.

9. Sir BaniYas

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Sir BaniYas
Sir BaniYas; image credit

Sir BaniYas is the largest natural island located in the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Zayed, the late ruler of the United Arab Emirates, has transformed this island into a wildlife reserve over the past two decades.

Millions of trees were planted and numerous animals’ species including gazelle, rhea, giraffe, and ostrich were introduced to the island. An antelope species named the Arabian oryx can be found in the Sir BaniYas Island where a herd of over 400 roam freely, even though this species is now extinct in the wild.

8. Lord Howe Island

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island; image credit

Lord Howe Island is located in the Tasman Sea 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of the Australian mainland. Lord Howe Island got a unique diversity of landscapes, flora, and fauna. It is an excellent example of an island ecosystem developed from submarine volcanic activity.

A superb illustration of independent evolutionary processes at work is provided by the high proportion of endemic species of this small island. Almost half of the native plants of this island are endemic.

Howea, commonly known as kentia palms, is one of the best-known species. It is an endemic genus of palms that make handsome houseplants. Each year several million Howea are exported, which provides the only major industry on the island apart from tourism. There are approximately 350 people living on the Lord Howe Island and only 400 tourists are permitted to visit the island at any one time.

7. Mount Bosavi

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Mount Bosavi
Mount Bosavi; image credit

Located in the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea, the Mount Bosavi is an extinct volcano. More than 40 previously unknown species have been found by an international team of scientists and a television crew from the BBC, who was a part of 2009 expedition.

They found these species in the kilometer-deep crater of Mount Bosavi where a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted about 200,000 years ago. 16 frogs, at least 3 fish, several insects and spiders, a bat, and a giant rat, measuring 82 cm (32 inches) from nose to tail and weighing a whopping 1.5 kg (3, 5 pounds) are included in the species that was discovered in this lost world.

6. Ogasawara Islands

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Ogasawara Islands
Ogasawara Islands; image credit

The Ogasawara Islands are administratively part of Tokyo but located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) south of the city. The islands are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands.

The Ogasawara Islands were uninhabited until 1830. They were called “Muninjima” which literally means “uninhabited island”. This name was transformed into the English name of Bonin Islands. Because the islands had been free from human activities until recently, the ecosystem of the islands has been well conserved.

The islands are also referred to as the Galapagos of the Orient. The population of the Chichijima and Hahajima islands is approximately about 2,300, and roughly 17,000 tourists visit the islands every year being attracted by the unique island ecosystem and the beautiful ocean.

5. Mount Roraima

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Mount Roraima
Mount Roraima; image credit

Mount Roraima is a tepui, a table-top mountain or mesa found in the Guiana Highlands of South America. It is the highest (2,772m/9094ft) and most famous tepui. The mountain is completely isolated from the ground forest. As a result, almost one-third of the species of plant life on Roraima evolved there and is unique to the plateau.

Mount Roraima became famous in 1912 when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his fictional novel entitled “The Lost World”. This book describes the ascent of a mountain which is quite similar to Mount Roraima, by an expedition in search of prehistoric plants and dinosaurs that were believed to live isolated and unchanged for millions of years on the mountain’s summit.

4. Christmas Island

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Christmas Island
Christmas Island; image credit

Located in the Indian Ocean, Christmas Island is a territory of Australia. This island is named in 1643 for the day of its discovery. It is 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) northwest from the city of Perth. About 1,400 people live on this island. Because of the geographic isolation and minimal human disturbance, the island has developed a high level of endemic amongst its flora and fauna.

Probably the most famous endemic species of the island is the Christmas Island red crab. Even though they are restricted to a relatively small area, it is estimated that up to 120 million red crabs may live on the island, making it the richest of the 14 terrestrial crab species on Christmas Island.

One of the wonders of the natural world is the annual migration of the red crab into the sea to spawn. This migration takes place around November when the wet season has started and in synchronization with the cycle of the moon.

3. Socotra

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Socotra
Socotra; image credit

Socotra or Soqotra is a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean. Administratively it is an offshore territory of Yemen. The largest island is about 95% of the landmass of the archipelago which is also called Socotra. The island is very isolated and lies some 240 kilometers (150 miles) east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometers (240 miles) south of the Arabian Peninsula.

The fierce heat and drought of the Socotra archipelago and its geological isolation have combined to generate a unique and spectacular ecosystem. Surveys have revealed that more than a third of the 800 or so plant species of Socotra are indigenous. It has been described as the most alien-looking place on Earth.

2. Komodo National Park

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Komodo National Park
Komodo National Park; image credit

Located within the Lesser Sunda Islands, The Komodo National Park is a national park in Indonesia. There are three larger islands known as Komodo, Padar and Rincah, and 26 other smaller ones in the park. The park was initially established to protect the world’s largest lizard, the rare Komodo dragon.

Since then the preservation goals have expanded to protecting the entire biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial, of the islands. The Komodo dragon can reach 3 meters or more in length and weigh over 70kg.

These lizards dominate the island ecosystems in which they live in due to their huge size. Komodo dragons mostly eat the carcass of dead animals, but they are formidable predators and will also hunt prey including birds, and mammals. Komodo dragons have been known to attack even humans.

1. Galapagos Islands

Top 10 Greatest Island Ecosystems of the World, Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands; image credit

Located some 1000 km (620 miles) west of the South American continent, The Galapagos Islands are quite remote and isolated. They are a small archipelago of volcanic islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This one is believed to be the greatest Island Ecosystem on earth.

There are 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks, there are islets distributed around the equator which are part of the Galapagos Island. Charles Darwin got the inspiration for the “Theory of Natural Selection” from this Galápagos archipelago which has a unique island ecosystem.

Giant tortoises, penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, and different bird species can all be seen and approached in these islands. There are strict controls on tourist access in an effort to protect the natural habitats and all tourists are accompanied by a national park-certified naturalist tour guide. About 60,000 tourists visit the island annually and it is one of Ecuador’s greatest destinations.

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