Kayangel: a Fast Growing Protected Areas Network in the Northernmost State of Palau

26 May 2014

The Kayangel Protected Areas Network in Palau  was created with support from the Ngedebuul Conservation and Resource Planning Team (NCRPT) who identified a network of state protected areas in and around Kayangel, and with full endorsement by the community and the leadership of Kayangel State. The network has developed progressively and includes the 12-nautical mile nearshore marine waters of Kayangel, the Ngkesol Marine Protected Area, the Ngeriungs Important Bird Area (IBA), the Chermall and Ngerusebek sacred natural sites (both of which serve as atoll forest preserves), in addition to the previously-established Ngeruangel Marine Reserve.

The management of the Kayangel Protected Areas Network is guided by the following goals:
1)    To improve conservation knowledge and enforcement skills of personnel, and to build sufficient and practical regulatory environment and institutional capacity for efficient and sustainable management of protected areas. 
2)    All native and endemic plant and animal species and their critical habitat are protected and not further threatened to ensure healthy population and existence.
3)    Known traditional sacred natural sites are formally protected to re-enforce and preserve its traditional stature and that it may also continue to contribute to the ecological richness of biodiversity of the State. 
4)    The Kayangel Protected Areas Network is effectively managed and providing a learning platform and enjoyment by the people, visitors, researchers, and academic community and further offer new sustainable livelihood opportunities for the local community. 
5)    Means for adequate sustainable financing are established to ensure perpetual protection and management of the Kayangel Protected Areas Network.

Size and location

The Kayangel Protected Areas Network is located within Kayangel State, the northernmost state of Palau. The state comprises two atolls: the miniscule Ngaruangel Atoll, and the Kayangel Atoll. Kayangel Atoll is one of only two sandy atoll islands in Palau, and consists of four islets: Kayangel, Ngeriungs, Ngerebelas, and Orak. The Kayangel Islet is the only inhabited islet, supporting a population of approximately 190 people. The land area of the four islets is approximately 1.4 square kilometres.

Flora and Fauna

The Kayangel Protected Areas Network includes important habitats of coral reef systems (including barrier reefs and patch reefs), seagrass, nesting beaches and atoll forests. The marine protected areas in the network offer spawning and aggregation sites for nationally protected fish species, including the ruby snapper (Etelis carbunculus), the flame snapper (Etelis coruscans), and other highly-valued deep water snappers. Ngeruangel is a turtle nesting area as well as a seabird breeding area.

The Ngeriungs IBA is home of the biggest population within one island of the endangered Micronesian megapode (Megapodius laperouse). It also a nesting site for the both the critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas). The islets are also home to a large population of coconut crabs (Birgus latro) that is harvested for subsistence and small-scale commercial sale.

All of the islands of Kayangel Atoll contain atoll forest, characterized mostly of strand species. Such forests make up only 1% of Palau’s forest cover and therefore are unique habitats. Entry to the natural sacred sites Chermall and Ngerusebek is taboo, to prevent disturbance to special trees of significance to the local people.


The critical threats facing the Kayangel Protected Areas are climate change, overharvesting and dredging.  There are already visible impacts of rising sea level on Kayangel islet, with salt water intrusion into garden areas and shoreline erosion evident. Overharvesting and dredging activities have had a negative impact on species and their habitats. In addition, community members also attribute over overharvesting to a lack of respect for traditional practices and the erosion of the Palauan values of conservation.

Additional threats identified by community members include illegal fishing/poaching from unlicensed local commercial fishing, overfishing from unpermitted fishing, and introduction of invasive alien species from unquarantined cargo. Attracting people to live and work in Kayangel is also a challenge to effectively managing the protected areas.

BIOPAMA Pacific is assisting to develop capacity for protected areas and biodiversity conservation in Pacific countries including Palau. The programme aims to build capacity by promoting use of the best available science and knowledge, and strengthening policy and decision making, to improve biodiversity conservation and protected areas management. BIOPAMA supports protected area managers to help identify appropriate adaptation and enforcement measures that could be used to minimise impacts upon protected areas such as those in and around Kayangel.

Birdlife International, Palau Conservation Society, Palau Protected Areas Network Fund, and the Ngedebuul Conservation and Resource Planning Team.

NCRPT. 2012. Kayangel Protected Areas Network: Five year management plan (2013-2018). Ngedebuul Conservation and Resource Planning Team with assistance from Palau Conservation Society. July 2012.

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