Southern New Guinea Lowland Forests - A Global Ecoregion

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Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica), Papua New Guinea.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Southern New Guinea lowland rain forests; and Vogelkop-Aru lowland rain forests.

The lowland forests of southern New Guinea are generally richer than the montane forests of this tropical island. One of the richest areas for vascular plants in Indo-Malaysia, it is filled with an amazing assortment of plants (over 1,200 species of trees and about 2,000 species of ferns) and animals, many of them found only on this island.

The lowland rain forests of this ecoregion are associated with the great Fly River watershed, the largest river system in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Lake Kutubu, the largest lake in Papua New Guinea, is located in this ecoregion as well. The Vogelkop-Aru rain forests that include the hills and lowlands of the Vogelkop and Bomberai peninsulas of New Guinea and the surrounding islands - are relatively intact lowland tropical rain forests and are among the largest and richest forests in the Australasian realm.

Size:
200,000 sq. km (77,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
The island of New Guinea, north of Australia

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species

Inhabitants of the southern New Guinea lowland forests include the lesser tube-nosed bat, the spangled kookaburra (a bird with a brown head and brilliant blue feathers on its back and tail), and the greater bird of paradise (sports a stunning array of green, yellow, and maroon feathers, and a dashing white-and-yellow plume).

Other species include, the endemic lowland tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus spadix), lowland ringtail (Pseudocheirus canescens), Dorcopsis (Dorcopsis luctosa), and the Papuan tiger orchid (Grammatophylum papuanus).

In the Southern New Guinea lowland rain forests, the mammalian fauna includes 69 species, 13 of which are endemic or near endemic. There are 344 bird species, including 5 endemic and near-endemic species.

In the Vogelkop-Aru lowland rain forests are found 47 mammal species of which 8 are endemic or near endemic. There are 366 bird species, of which 21 are endemic or near endemic.
 / ©: Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
A captive Tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus sp.), National Botanic Gardens, Port Moresby. There are eight species of tree kangaroos living in Papua New Guinea.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK

Featured Species

The lesser tube-nosed bat, also known as Brown tube-nosed bat (Murina suilla), is a highly manoeuvrable bat which occupies the densely vegetated understorey of lowland dipterocarp forest. Characterised by a simple nose with tube-shaped nostrils, this tiny member of the Vespertilionidae family (the evening bats) has long, fuzzy brown fur, tending to grey-brown on the sides and belly.

The body is compact allowing the bat to wriggle free of a predator's grip. Whilst all bats possess wings formed from a double membrane stretched between the elongated fingers, the evening bats also have a membrane stretched between their ankles and nearly enclosing the tail, known as the interfemoral membrane.

This membrane is unusually furry in the brown tube-nosed bat. Whilst this species finds its insect prey using echolocation, its ears are small for its size. As the brown tube-nosed bat holds its mouth open much of the time in order to echolocate, it is easy to see its large, sharp teeth, used to crush hard-bodied insects.


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Threats

Logging concessions that overlap with protected areas are a major threat. Road construction, shifting cultivation, agricultural expansion, and plantation development all constitute additional threats.

Hunting is a problem for some species, especially the western crowned pigeon (Goura cristata), northern cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus), Nicobar pigeon (Caloena nicobarica), and the Raggiana bird of paradise.

WWF’s work

WWF has a long history in New Guinea, working to preserve its forests and wildlife while helping its unique, diverse culture survive a multitude of threats. From wildlife studies in the depths of the Kikori River Basin, to delivering thousands of vanilla bean saplings to the people of the Sepik region, or helping manage Lorentz National Park, WWF's efforts across this vast island are making a long-term difference.

WWF and PNG DEC (Department of Environment and Conservation) jointly organised a comprehensive and internationally recognised assessment of the management effectiveness of the PNG protected area system. To this end DEC, WWF and the Australian government environment agency - Environment Australia - agreed as part of a joint workplan in July 2002 - to undertake a number of activities to re-invigorate protected areas and conservation planning.

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