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Nauru - Enviornment

Nauru Environment

This roughly rectangular Pacific island nods its cap toward the north-east and blows out on its south-east shore, vaguely reminiscent of a downcast face in profile. Nauru's closest neighbour is Banaba in Kiribati, 306km (190mi) to the east. It lies 41km (25.5mi) south of the equator and is nearly 4000km (2480mi) north-east of Sydney, Australia. Nauru is the smallest republic in the world - think of seven New York City Central Parks dropped in the middle of the Pacific just south of the equator (with the skaters taken in for questioning and the topsoil scraped off), and you've got a rough idea of its size. There's a small section of vegetation around Buada Lagoon and a green fringe 50m to 100m (165ft to 328ft) around the coast where the bulk of the population lives, but the rest is either open-cut phosphate mine or a mined-out wasteland of mind-boggling proportions. As wastelands go, it is the wasteland to end them all, with weird coral monoliths punching their way out of cavernous pits, totally bereft of topsoil and baked hard under the equatorial sun. Nothing stirs except dust and packs of wild dogs. The rocks heat up and create their own microclimate, dispelling rain clouds and exacerbating the island's chronic water shortage. The central plateau (commonly called 'topside') rises 70m (230ft) above sea level.

Many migrating species of birds drop in to roost on Nauru, seasonally swelling the local population by thousands, although it would take another few million years to rebuild the deposits of guano that have been mined in one century. Most local species of birds are under immense pressure since the wasting of the island's ecology. An indigenous nightingale reed warbler is also known as the Nauru canary, and islanders often keep the local frigatebird, Nauru's national symbol, as a caged pet. There are no native mammals, but rats, cats and mice have inevitably followed the Europeans and taken up residence. Pandanus palms, coconut, frangipani and the Pacific banyan are common tree species, and 179 species of plants and trees have been recorded, among them the indigenous tomano tree, nesting place of the noddy bird, regarded both as a delicacy and a reliable guide to fishing grounds. Bananas, pineapples and some vegetables are grown on land surrounding Buada Lagoon, and thanks to reclamation using garbage and other waste as landfill, some of the mined-out area has reverted to bush. Small plants have recolonised some coral pinnacles, but as you might imagine, national parks are thin on the wasteland.

The climate is tropical and can be uncomfortably hot, but it is often tempered by sea breezes. Temperatures usually waver between 24°C and 34°C (75°F and 93°F). November to February is the monsoon season, when the weather gets awfully humid. If it's a wet year you'll be swimming in the rain, but partly because of the lack of vegetation, tropical droughts and water shortages are all too common.

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