Lord Howe-Norfolk Islands Forests

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Norfolk Pines (Araucaria heterophylla) and coastal landscape in Cape Hillsborough National Park, Pacific Ocean, Queensland. Australia.
© WWF-Canon / Michèle DÉPRAZ

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Lord Howe Island subtropical forests; and Norfolk Island subtropical forests.

Lord Howe Island is a crescent-shaped remnant of a volcano that formed almost 7 million years ago. These ancient and isolated islands support at least 392 distinctive species, of which 40% are found only here.

Habitats include subtropical broadleaf, palm, and conifer forests. Norfolk Island has 174 native plant species, and 51 are endemic. This includes the smooth tree-fern which is the tallest tree-fern in the world, reaching heights of 20 m (65 ft).

The climate is humid-subtropical, with a mean annual rainfall of 1,717 -1,357 mm.
Size:
56 sq. km (21 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Islands off the east coast of Australia in the Tasman Sea

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
The flora and fauna of Lord Howe Island show a high degree of endemism. Of the 241 native species of vascular plants, 105 are endemic species. There are 5 endemic plant genera: Negria, Lordhowea, and the palms Hedyscepe, Howea, and Lepidorrhachis.

There are 129 native and introduced bird species on the islands, 27 of which breed regularly on Lord Howe. The endemic bird species include the endangered Lord Howe Island wood rail (Tricholimas sylvestris), Lord Howe rail (Gallirallus sylvestris), and Lord Howe white-eye (Zosterops tephropleurus) as well as subspecies of golden whistler, silvereye, and pied currawong. In addition, numerous seabirds are found here. The island is home to half the world's population of flesh-footed shearwaters and the greatest concentration of red-tailed tropic birds.

Endemic to Norfolk Island are Norfolk Island parakeet (Cyanoramphus cookii), and Slender-billed white-eye (Zosterops tenuirostris). Other birds of interest include green parrot (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae), morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae), and sacred kingfisher (Halcyon sancta).

Norfolk Island has 174 native plant species, of which 51 are endemic Among the native trees found in the forests on Norfolk Island are Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), pepper tree (Macropiper excelsum), Bloodwood (Baloghia inophylla), and white oak (Lagunaria patersonia).

The only native mammal on the islands is Gould's wattled bat (Chalinolobus gouldii) which is locally very rare or possibly even extinct.

Featured species

The Norfolk Island Palm (Rhopalostylis baueri) is prominent along gullies in or near the national park, but rare elsewhere on the island. It reaches 10 m in height. Fruits are an attractive bright red when ripe and are a favorite food of the green parrot. The growing tip of the Norfolk Island Palm was used by early settlers as a vegetable, reportedly tasting of nuts when raw and artichoke and cooked. It didn't agree with everybody – at least one convict is recorded as having died after overeating this palm ‘cabbage’. Removal of the tip kills the palm. Ribs from the palm fronds were used for making brooms, and the fronds woven into baskets.

Read more:
Threats
Introduced plants and animals, and grazing are the major threats. Introduced predators have had a devastating effect of the endemic land fauna, and introduced weeds are invading the islands and displacing native species. Continued control of existing exotics is an integral step in promoting the recovery of Lord Howe-Norfolk Islands forests’ many threatened species.
WWF’s work
WWF works to conserve biodiversity, providing practical solutions to the greatest environmental threats. It works on the ground with local communities, and in partnership with government and industry, advocating change and effective conservation policy.

The invasion of black rats has caused the extinction of 5 bird species on Lord Howe Island and 2 bird species on Norfolk Island, with many others threatened.
Rats are one of the biggest threats to the wildlife of Lord Howe Island. A feasibility study, co-funded by WWF, found that it was possible to eradicate rats and mice from the island. In 2004, WWF sought to have rats on off-shore islands listed as a key threat under federal environment laws and called for a national action plan. In 2006, the Australian Government announced it would do both.

The government's national action plan offers an opportunity to identify priority islands rich in wildlife that would benefit from rat eradication, including those that provide sanctuaries for albatross and other seabirds.

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