Rainforests, scrubland (locally known as maquis minier), mangroves, and savannas dapple the terrain of this French overseas territory. The extremely rich and unusual flora reflects its ancient origins, and the island’s reptiles and birds are emblems of diversity. Endemic life on the island abounds: as much as 90 percent of the species are native to the island and cannot be found in other places. Imagine discovering a plant unknown to science – here, scientists regularly have this experience.
ARTICLE: Kanak Traditions Guide Future Conservation in New Caledonia.
The variety of flora in New Caledonia and the neighboring Loyalty Islands is astounding. The most intriguing species may be the parasite yew (Parasitaxus ustus), the world’s only parasitic conifer. The woody shrub attaches its roots to those of other plants and feeds off their nutrients to survive.
Only nine species of mammals inhabit New Caledonia, but they all fly. But the island still possesses an amazing diversity of wildlife. It is home to the world’s largest gecko (Rhacodactylus leachianus) and the largest arboreal pigeon, the notou (Ducula goliath). The kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus), a flightless, heron-like bird, is also found only on this small island.
New Caledonia’s diversity is under threat, however, and CI’s terrestrial activities aim to reduce the impact of fires, invasive species, and nickel mining on the island. CI scientists are working in partnership with province Nord and indigenous kanak association Dayu Biik to manage the Mount Panié massif forest, the largest forest on the island. Rats, cats, and pigs are just a sample of the invasive species that have already damaged the island’s native flora and fauna, but CI is creating species management projects to address this.
PEOPLE: Learn more about CI's work with the Kanak tribes in New Caledonia.
New Caledonia’s marine realm is also home to spectacular biodiversity, much of which directly supports traditional kanak lifestyles. The island boasts the second-largest barrier reef in the world, and the New Caledonian lagoon has been nominated as a World Heritage site. CI has conducted two marine Rapid Assessment Programs (RAPs) to support this nomination and the expansion of New Caledonia’s marine protected area system.
CHAT: Sheila McKenna, senior research scientist, discusses cultural traditions and conservation in New Caledonia's rich waters as well as the most recent RAP expedition.