New Caledonia Dry Forests

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View of the shores of the Beautemps-BeauprÈs Islet, New Caledonia, France.
© Roger LeGUEN / WWF-Canon

About the Area

New Caledonia represents a fragment of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana.

Isolated for millions of years, the New Caledonian dry forests are among the most unique on Earth, with more than 2,500 of their known 3,400 native plant species found nowhere else. These original species of plants and animals have evolved to provide an extraordinary range of biodiversity. But this diversity is severely threatened; less than 2% of the ecoregion’s dry forests now remain.

The main island is Grand terre which has an extremely diverse soil substrate, with ultramafic rock forming about one-third of the island. The island is also very diverse topographically and climatically. Average annual rainfall is about 2,000 mm - 4,000 mm.

The plant formations here vary according to the intensity of the hydrous stress that the vegetation undergoes during the dry season, the proximity of the coastline, and very probably the type of geological substratum.

Recently, a presumed extinct species of parchment bark tree was rediscovered.

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Size:
4,400 sq. km (1,700 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
New Caledonia (Provence Sur - France, Provence Nord), a large island northeast of Australia

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
The New Caledonia Dry Forests ecoregion contain 379 native plant species, 59 of which are found only in the dry forests. There are 5 near-endemic mammals and 23 near-endemic bird species.

This forest's deciduous trees are dense but not too tall, only 9-12 m (30-40 ft). The dry forests also have a thick, unstratified under story of shrubs and grasses. 59 endemic plants are hanging on in the last remnants of forest, such as the yellow-flowered Pittosporum pancheri, the fragrant Gardenia urvillei, and the thin-leaved Codiaeum peltatum. A variety of wild rice, Oryza neocalidonea, adapted to dry conditions; and the rare plant, Captaincookia margaretae - is found in the New Caledonian dry and moist forests.
Threats
Tropical dry forests are the most threatened tropical forest type worldwide, and the dry forests of New Caledonia are no exception. Intentionally ignited fires, trampling by cattle and the introduction of alien species such as fire ants pose the greatest threats to the few remaining patches of dry forest.

Clearing for expansion of pastures, uncontrolled burning and herbivory are also threats to the ecoregion. New Caledonia is a prosperous French territory. However, the French government has paid scant attention to the conservation of biodiversity in New Caledonia.
WWF’s work
WWF's Global Forest Programme is working to conserve the world's forests for the benefit of the whole planet. WWF believes that there is a vital need to reverse the loss and degradation of forests by restoring forests and their ecological role and function.

WWF is assisting authorities on the French Pacific Ocean territory of New Caledonia to fight fires that have threatened the island’s endangered forests and wildlife. WWF-New Caledonia launched a widespread public appeal, together with local partners (ASNNC, CIE, Endemia, Symioses, SCO, and others), for local citizens to join the effort to fight a particularly devastating fire affecting one of the island’s important watersheds.

WWF’s New Caledonia Tropical Ecoregion Programme, established in 2001, aims to protect priority areas and species; encourage natural regeneration of the dry forests, create protected areas; stop land clearing for agriculture; increase public awareness of dry forest; and control and limit forest fires.

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