The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati has designated an oceanic wilderness as the world's largest protected marine reserve.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area lies about halfway between Fiji and the U.S. island state of Hawaii, covering more than 410,000 square kilometers. It is one of the Earth's last intact coral archipelagoes, and boasts a vast biological diversity.

Research conducted by Kiribati and the U.S.-based New England Aquarium has discovered more than 120 species of coral and 520 species of fish, some of them new to science.

The area also supports a large population of birds and sea turtles and contains several undersea reefs.

Kiribati established the reserve to protect it from overfishing. Parts of the archipelago are already suffering from the effects of warming seas due to climate change.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.