An island the size of New Jersey in the South Pacific Ocean, New Caledonia is the home of no less than five endemic plant families. It claims the world’s only parasitic conifer and nearly two-thirds off the world’s species of Araucaria trees, all of which are endemic.
Nickel mining, forest destruction and invasive species threaten fauna like the kagu, an Endangered bird with a distinctive crest that is the only surviving member of its family.
†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*
New Caledonia is one of the smallest hotspots in the world (the size of New Jersey). This group of islands is located in the South Pacific at the southern extremity of the Melanesian region, 1,200 kilometers east of Australia. Until recently a French Overseas Territory, New Caledonia is now in the process of becoming an Overseas Country, with substantial political autonomy that stops short of full independence. The region's 18,972 km² consist of the main island of Grande Terre and the smaller Loyalty Islands to the east, Belep and Surprise Islands to the north and Isle of Pines to the south. The Chesterfield Islands further to the west, and the uninhabited volcanic islands of Matthew and Hunter to the east, which are politically dependent on New Caledonia are included, though their value for terrestrial biodiversity is limited.
New Caledonia's ecosystems include several natural vegetation types. Evergreen rain forests, which once covered about 70 percent of the area, are now confined to a few scattered pockets in the central mountains. In drier areas on the western coast, there are a few small patches left of sclerophyllous forest. Maquis shrubland dominates the southern third of the island, at both high and low altitudes. High-altitude maquis occupies most of its original extent of around 100 km², while low-altitude maquis is now the most extensive natural formation in the country. This formation once occupied only about 5 percent of the country, but has now expanded, largely as a result of fire disturbance, to cover some 4,400 km², or 23 percent of New Caledonia. Other vegetation types include mangroves, along the west coast.
Grassland and niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia; an invasive eucalypt) savanna today occupy more than 6,000 km² or 32 percent of the area, and are often mistaken by visitors and residents as the typical landscape of New Caledonia. These are, in fact, highly disturbed anthropogenic formations that are maintained by repeated fire and grazing by cattle and introduced deer.