Data There are 3000 species of plants in New Caledonia, and 2400 of them are native to the island. Five of the plant families are endemic to New Caledonia, including Amborellaceae, Oncothecaceae, Papracrypyiaceae, Phellinaceae, and Strasburgiaceae. On the island, nearly 14 percent of the plant genera and 79.5 percent of the species are endemic. The percentage of endemic species in New Caledonia is greater than that of all other Pacific island groups, with the exception of Hawaii (89 percent) and New Zealand (81.9 percent), and is comparable to continental levels of endemism. However, Compared to Hawaii (only 956 species), New Caledonia has 2,973 species in total.
Vegetation The terrestrial vegetation of New Caledonia is classified into three major native vegetation types: moist evergreen rain forest, tropical dry sclerophyllous forest, and maquis vegetation. The dry forests are dense, can reach heights of 5-15 meters, have dense understory of shrubs and grasses, and can contain many vines. The dry forests are only found on the western side of New Caledonia and extend up to 300 to 400 meters above the coast. The dry forest vegetation covered most of the lowland portions on the western side of Grande Terre, but now this ecoregion has been reduced and exists in very small forest patches throughout New Caledonia (refer to map). The remaining strands of dry forests are less than 5 hectares, but not more than 200 hectares, and this causes problems for their sustainability (Lowry, Mobot.org). Given the extreme botanical diversity and endemism, destroying just one hectare of dry forest can cause the extinction of a species (foretseche.nc). The New Caledonia dry forests contain 379 plant species of which 59 are endemic only in dry forests (WWF).Tropical dry forests are the most endangered forest type. New Caledonia has less than 2 percent of remaining patches of dry forest due to land clearance, fire, cattle ranching, and cropland conversion (Encyclopedia of Earth, 2007). Because of the high level of endemism, the remaining patches of dry forest must be preserved. Given the reduced size of the tropical dry forests, it is likely that there are some plant species that have gone extinct (such as Pittosporum tanianum, a plant endemic to New Caledonia, destroyed by fire) (Encyclopedia of Earth, 2007).
Previous distribution of native tropical dry sclerophyllous forest in New Caledonia. Dark green region represents the original tropical dry forest cover.
Current distribution of native tropical dry sclerophyllous forest in New Caledonia. Only a few small patches of native dry forest remain.