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Protecting the Premier Biodiversity Hotspot of New Caledonia

New Caledonia

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  • Critically Endangered Mount Panié Kauri. Photo by Dayu Biik.

Within the montane cloud forests of Mount Panié, the highest mountain in the Pacific island chain of New Caledonia, resides the Mount Panié Kauri pine. This narrow range endemic tree is a long-lived conifer species of high cultural value for local Melanesian communities. Despite this species being found only on this mountain and nowhere else in the world, only 31 percent of its natural range is included within the existing Mount Panié Wilderness Reserve.

Rainforest Trust and partner Dayu Biik seek $818,090 to expand Mount Panié Wilderness Reserve by 50,000 acres to create Thoniê Wilderness Reserve. This will encompass the entire natural range of the Mount Panié Kauri and safeguard habitat for other threatened species including the Critically Endangered Crow Honeyeater, Endangered Panié Litter Skink and Bold-Stripe Gecko. Mount Panié is considered to be a top biodiversity hotspot, as it contains more species with limited ranges than anywhere else in New Caledonia.

Biodiversity

  • Panié Litter Skink. Photo by Thomas DUVAL.
With 46 threatened species, Mount Panié is recognized as a priority Key Biodiversity Area in New Caledonia. Within this mountainous landscape there are 434 plant and animal species endemic to New Caledonia, with 55 plants species restricted to the Mount Panié range. This area holds the highest microendemism rate for New Caledonia, which means that there are more narrow range species on this mountain than anywhere else within this island chain.

The Critically Endangered Mount Panié Kauri is restricted to Mount Panié, and the Mount Panié Clinosperma Palm (Clinosperma macrocarpa) is known from a single population within this same range. Glossy black Crow Honeyeaters flock in small populations restricted to this mountain and limited ranges in southern New Caledonia, while vibrant Red-crowned Parakeets and Horned Parakeet take refuge in the region’s forests. Endemic reptiles such as the Panié Litter Skink, White-Lipped Forest Skink, Bold-Stripe Gecko and Ornate Bavayia reside here as well.

Challenges

  • Erosion near the summit of Mount Panié. Photo courtesy of Dayu Biik.

Forest disturbance on Mount Panié is mostly due to invasive deer and pigs. Poaching is a threat to some species; an example of this is international amateurs collecting geckos and rare plants such as palms. Erosion is also a concern in the region.

Communities

  • Kanak Women. Photo courtesy of Dayu Biik.

Most people living around the Mount Panié range are indigenous Kanak (Melanesian) people. There are seven tribes and over 1,500 inhabitants residing in the vicinity of the current reserve, and the expansion will concern 22 additional tribes and 2,500 people. The majority of these community members depend on subsistence activities such as small-scale agriculture, hunting and fishing.

Solutions

  • Local volunteers receive forest training. Photo courtesy of Dayu Biik.

Rainforest Trust and partner Dayu Biik seek $818,090 to expand Mount Panié Wilderness Reserve by 50,000 acres to create Thoniê Wilderness Reserve and encompass the entire natural range of the Mount Panié Kauri, a Critically Endangered pine. The most vulnerable parts of the mountain at high elevations will have strict protection status, while lower elevations will have a protection status that allows for the sustainable hunting of invasive species such as pigs and deer (while hunting of native species will be carefully regulated to prevent overharvest). Local communities and public authorities will be involved in discussions regarding the reserve’s low-elevation buffer zone, where sustainable development will be encouraged along with larger regional conservation efforts within New Caledonia.

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