Once largely intact, the 1,600 East Melanesian Islands are now a hotspot, due sadly, to accelerating levels of habitat loss, which has been caused chiefly by excessive logging, mining, and unsustainable farming practices.
The region is one of the most geographically complex areas on Earth. Isolation and adaptive radiation have led to very high levels of endemism, both within the whole hotspot and on single islands. Notable endemic species include the majestic Solomons sea-eagle and more than a dozen threatened species of flying fox. The islands also harbor a diverse group of vascular plants species, including 3,000 endemics.
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.
|Hotspot Original Extent (km²)
|Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²)
|Endemic Plant Species
|Endemic Threatened Birds
|Endemic Threatened Mammals
|Endemic Threatened Amphibians
|Human Population Density (people/km²)
|Area Protected (km²)
|Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV*
The East Melanesian Islands Hotspot lies northeast and east of New Guinea and includes the Bismarck and Admiralty Islands, the Solomon Islands, and the islands of Vanuatu. Politically, this includes parts of Papua New Guinea (including the islands of New Britain, New Ireland, Manus and Bougainville), and all of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In total, this hotspot includes some 1,600 islands, encompassing a land area of nearly 100,000 km² – more than double that of the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot.
The region is one of the most geographically complex areas on Earth, with a diverse range of islands of varying age and development. The two main islands of the Bismarck Archipelago, New Ireland and New Britain, are mountainous, with peaks exceeding 2,000 meters. Several of the smaller islands in the archipelago are recent volcanoes, some still active. Bougainville, the largest island in the Solomon chain, has several high massifs (some volcanic), including Mount Balbi, which, at 2,685 meters above sea level, is the highest point in the hotspot.
Habitats in the hotspot include coastal vegetation, mangrove forests, freshwater swamp forests, lowland rainforests, seasonally dry forests and grasslands, and montane rainforests. Most of the habitats are species poor by comparison to New Guinea, though rich when compared to Polynesia-Micronesia, with several tree species dominating (such as those in the genera Terminalia, Pometia, Agathis and Metrosideros).