New Caledonia is a global biodiversity hotspot, which is the smallest single biodiversity hotspot in the world. It is home to extremely rich terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and has one of the highest observed rates of endemism in the world for terrestrial flora.
New Caledonia’s remarkable plant diversity consists of 3,261 species of indigenous flora (74% strictly endemic), which is nearly as many as on the whole of continental Europe (3,500 species).The territory also hosts 106 species of endemic reptiles, 6 species of endemic bats and 4,500 species of invertebrates (90% endemic). The birdlife of New Caledonia includes 23 species of endemic birds.
New Caledonia’s barrier reef is 1,600 kilometres long, making it one of the longest barrier reef in the world. The reef surrounds a vast lagoon of some 23,400 km² and contains 14,280 km² of reef. Seagrass beds occupy almost a third of the lagoon. An inventory of the overall marine biodiversity of New Caledonia identified approximately 15,000 species, including 1,950 species of fish, 5,500 species of molluscs, 5,000 crustaceans, 600 sponges and 300 coral. Since 2008, the lagoons of New Caledonia and their reef diversity and associated ecosystems are designated in the UNESCO List of World Natural Heritage sites.
The territory, which is a sanctuary for cetaceans, has a dozen species of marine mammals, including the iconic and endangered Dugong (Dugong dugon). It is also an important nesting site for three species of marine turtle – the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta).
New Caledonia has 37,500 hectares of protected areas, including 13 marine protected areas. Mangroves cover between 150 and 200 km².