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New Caledonia Hotspot

This tiny island group, New Caledonia, in the South Pacific Ocean close to Vanatu is one of the world's smallest biodiversity hotspots covering an area of 18,972 sq km. Nearly one-third of the original forest land, i.e. over 6,000 sq km is overgrown with grasses and a type of wild invasive eucalyptus known as niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia). The natural vegetation of this region consists of small patches of evergreen rainforest, maquis shrubland and mangrove forests.

Despite having such a small land mass, the region has a very high density of endemic plant species. There are more than 3,270 species of plants in the region with 74.4 % of the plants being endemic. Plant families like Amborellaceae, Paracryphiaceae, Strasburgeriaceae, Oncothecaceae and Phellinaceae are endemic to the region. The world's only parasitic conifer (Parasitaxus ustus) is also found here in New Caledonia.

Twenty-three of the 105 species of birds are endemics including the New Caledonia imperial pigeon (Ducula goliath), which is the largest arboreal pigeon in the world, the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus), the New Caledonian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles savesi) and the cloven-feathered dove (Drepanoptila holosericea). Reptile endemism is very high-out of 70 species 62 are endemic. The world's largest gecko, (Rhacodactylus leachianus) is distinctive to this region. The hotspot has an amazing diversity of snails, with an estimated 600 species, including the giant snail (Placostylus fibratus) that grows up to 15 cm.

Surprisingly, the only mammals in the region are nine species of bats. Amphibians too are not a part of the natural habitat of New Caledonia. Interestingly, New Caledonia has a rich diversity of insects with an insect fauna estimated between 8,000-20,000. This includes over 300 moth, 70 butterfly, 200 spider and 16 tiger beetle species. Aquatic diversity is also high with about 85 species of freshwater fishes.

The region's protected area covers 4,192 sq km or 22% of its land. Mining poses a serious threat since the region has one of the world's largest deposits of nickel. Other pressures include bush fires, logging, hunting and illegal collection of animals. Another important threat to the endemic species of the region is colonisation by alien invasive species like ship rats (Rattus rattus), fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata) and Indonesian deer (Cervus timorensis). More than 800 alien plant species, 400 alien invertebrates and 35 alien vertebrates live on the island.

Protected area network covers 4,192 sq km or 22% of the land area. While there are few international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are active in New Caledonia a small number of local NGOs are involved on conservation efforts.

[The information has been sourced from the Conservation International website on biodiversity hotspots ( Accessed in February 2008.]

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