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1 . New Caledonia     New Caledonia
The Archipelago of New Caledonia is dominated by the large land mass of Grande Terre, the third largest island in the Pacific (after New Guinea and New Zealand). It is of continental origin, having diverged from Australia some 65 million years ago, and has a mountainous interior rising to more than 1 600 meters. The shallow shelf on which the island sits extends a considerable distance to the northwest, and includes the continental Îles Bélep and a number of smaller islands and coral cays further north. To the southeast the shelf continues down to the Île des Pins. The shallow platform on which these islands lie is rimmed by the world’s second largest barrier reef, over 1 300 kilometers in length. There are quite regular passes in the reef, largely associated with river mouths on the mainland. In a few locations to the north, notably along the Grand Récif de Koumac and the Récif des Français, a deep lagoon has developed within the single structure of the outer barrier reef flat, forming a rare double barrier structure. Between the barrier reef and the mainland there are many platform structures, while fringing reefs are also widespread in many areas. To the northwest the barrier reef continues beyond the Îles Bélep up to a channel, the Grand Passage. Beyond this there is a group of reefs known as the D’Entrecasteaux Reefs, including Huon Atoll, Surprise Atoll and a number of smaller atoll and barrier-like structures.

Due east of Grande Terre is the low-lying chain of the Loyalty Islands. Maré in the south has some volcanic rocks, while the others are composed primarily of uplifted limestone. Fringing reefs encircle most of Maré and Lifou. Ouvéa to the north is a partially uplifted and tilted atoll with fringing reefs along its eastern (uplifted) coastline, but with a wide reef-fringed lagoon to the west. Moving northwest is the small atoll of Beautemps-Beaupré and then a small group of reefs known as the Astrolabe Reefs. Lying in considerable isolation to the northwest of the Loyalty Islands and to the east of the D’Entrecasteaux Reefs is another significant reef structure, the Petrie Reef. Far to the east of the Loyalty Islands are the two small islands of Matthew and Hunter. Geographically these are a part of the Vanuatu chain, but they are claimed by both countries.

Over 550 kilometers west of Grande Terre are two very large shallow reef areas. The Chesterfield Islands are coral cays along the perimeter of a large atoll. A shallow reef with a very steep outer slope marks its northern and western margins, while to the southeast there is no clear atoll margin, but a gentle slope to considerable depths. To the south, Bellona Atoll again has a number of shallow reefs and a few coral islands, notably along its western perimeter.

Between the Chesterfield Plateau and Grande Terre is the wide Landsdowne Bank, which is mostly sandy and 70-80 meters in depth, but includes the small Nereus Reef in the north. To the southeast of this area the Fairway Reef also comes close to the surface and dries at low tide. A number of maps show a large island to the northwest of Nereus Reef which does not actually exist: Île de Sable. However, there may be shallow banks and submerged reefs in this region, which remains poorly charted.
Source: Spalding, M.D., C. Ravilious and E.P. Green , 2001 , World Atlas of Coral Reefs . Prepared at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. University of California Press,Berkeley,USA.421p. (See Document)

2 . New Caledonia     New Caledonia

In July 208 the World Heritage Commission listed 'The lagoons of New Claedonia: reef diversity and associated ecosystems' as a serial listing of 6 marine clusters containing 15743 km2 of coral reefs, or 60% of the total reef area. The Commission acknowledged that these reefs were of global significance, noting the large numbers of species:350 hard corals, 650 other cnidarians (jellyfish and soft corals), 1695 fishes, 841 crustaceans, 802 molluscs, 254 echinoderms (starfish, sea cucumbers, etc.), 220 ascidians (sea squirts), 203 worms, 151 sponges, 14 sea snakes, 4 turtles and 22 marine mammals. The listed area contains 9 major reef types, including fringing reefs, single reef barrier reefs, very rare double barrier reefs, atolls with lagoons, raised atolls and coral islets. In addition, there are extensive mangrove forests, and seagrass and algal beds, which contain 12 seagrass species, 322 recorded species of algae from 46 families; but it is estimated that another 600 to 700 species remian to be identified. New Caledonia is a territory of France with one main maountainous island, Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands (uplifted coral platforms), the Isle of Pines and Belep Island, 3 active volcanic islands (Walpole, Matthew and Hunter), and many atolls to the north and in the Coral Sea to the east. New Caledonia is adjacent to the Coral Triangle, the global centre of coral reef biodiversity. This, and the wide diversity of reefs and habitats in near natural state, attracted the World Heritage Commission. Whilst there was some evidence of coral bleaching and damage, probably from cyclone Erica in 2003, the corals were healthy with average live coral cover of 27.5% in 2004. Most notable are the large numbers and diversity of large fish, including top predators such as sharks, barracuda, grouper, snapper, etc. This is an important indicator of a balanced ecoystem and relatively low fishing pressure. Another important feature is the strong customary tenure and management practices of the Kanak (Melanesian) people, who where involved in developing the management framework in partnership with the French, New Caledonian and Provincial Govermentss. About 50% of the main island and all the offshore islands are held in customary tenure through local chiefs and villages; whereas individual land ownership is most prevalent around the capital, Noumea, and on the west coast of Grande Terre. The World Heritage implementation is supported and mining. The fisheries and mining legislation are currently being revised to strengthen their environmental effectiveness (Figure 12.4) (from Pierre-Yves Vion, pierre-yves@dafe.nc).
Source: Cherie Morris and Kenneth Mackay (eds.) , 2008 , Status of the Coral Reefs in the South West Pacific: Fiji, New Caledonia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu . In: Wilkinson, C. (ed.). Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Reef and Rainforest Research Center, Townsville, Australia. p177-188. (See Document)

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