Diadema ’98: biological research and conservation in the forests of New Caledonia

Jon Ekstrom

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France situated about 1,200km east of Australia. The islands have an extraordinary diversity of fauna and flora with an extreme level of endemism in many taxa including birds and reptiles. The forests of New Caledonia are home to many endemic species but such habitats are under threat. The primary causes of natural vegetation loss in the islands have been mining, logging and bush fires, reducing the forest cover from an estimated 90% cover to just 20%.

The team aims to survey remaining forest sites in New Caledonia, focusing on bird and reptile species, to help identify priority areas for the conservation of the region's diverse and unique wildlife. Intensive searches will be made for the New Caledonian wood-rail, Diademed Lorikeet, and the New Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar to establish where they are extant. Baseline data will be gathered on all reptiles and the endemic, threatened and poorly known bird species. The information gathered will be shared with local people, through presentations, school visits and informal discussions. All will be involved in conservation recommendations made for their area.