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East Melanesian Islands Hotspot

Located in the Pacific Ocean with Australia to the southwest and Papua New Guinea to its west, the East Melanesian Islands have an amazing mosaic of habitats that comprise montane rainforests, mangroves, freshwater swamp forests and grasslands. Several of the smaller islands in this archipelago are recent volcanoes, some of which are still active.

The hotspot covers a land area of 100,000 sq km and has 8,000 plant, 86 mammal, 360 bird, 117 reptile, 42 amphibian and 52 freshwater fish species. Flagship species of the region include the giant Kauri pines (Agathis spp.), Solomon's sea-eagle (Haliaeetus sanfordi), fearful owl (Nesasio solomonenis), black-faced pitta (Pitta anerythra), Solomon's prehensile-tailed skink (Corucia zebrata), birdwing butterflies and flying foxes (Pteropodidae).

An interesting observation is the rich cultural diversity in the region-there are more languages spoken on the Melanesian Islands than anywhere else in the world. In Vanatu alone, there are more than 109 languages spoken.

Extensive logging, subsistence agriculture, mining and clearing of forest land for copra and oil palm cultivation have reduced the forest cover to just 25% of the original land area. Another problem greatly accelerating the loss of biodiversity in the region is colonisation by invasive alien species like red fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata), pigs, cats and giant rodents.

There are 24 legally protected areas in the East Melanesian Islands, but these cover just 6% or 5,677 sq km of the land area of the hotspot. Conservation groups active in the region include the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Nature Conservancy and Conservation International.

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

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