Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems
This serial site comprises six marine clusters that represent the main diversity of coral reefs and associated ecosystems in the French Pacific Ocean archipelago of New Caledonia and one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world. These Lagoons are of exceptional natural beauty. They feature an exceptional diversity of coral and fish species and a continuum of habitats from mangroves to seagrasses with the world’s most diverse concentration of reef structures. The Lagoons of New Caledonia display intact ecosystems, with healthy populations of large predators, and a great number and diversity of big fish. They provide habitat to a number of emblematic or threatened marine species such as turtles, whales or dugongs whose population here is the third largest in the world.
Outstanding Universal Value
The tropical lagoons and coral reefs of New Caledonia are an outstanding example of high diversity coral reef ecosystems and form one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world. They are the location for the world’s most diverse concentration of reef structures, with an exceptional diversity of coral and fish species and a continuum of habitats from mangroves to seagrasses and a wide range of reef forms, extending over important oceanic gradients. They still display intact ecosystems, with healthy populations of top predators, and a large number and diversity of large fish. They are of exceptional natural beauty, and contain diverse reefs of varying age from living reefs through to ancient fossil reefs, providing an important source of information on the natural history of Oceania.
Criterion (vii): Superlative natural phenomena or natural beauty: The tropical lagoons and coral reefs of New Caledonia are considered to be some of the most beautiful reef systems in the world due to their wide variety of shapes and forms within a comparatively small area. This ranges from extensive double barrier systems, offshore reefs and coral islands, to the near-shore reticulate reef formations in the west coast zone. The richness and diversity of landscapes and coastal backdrops gives a distinctive aesthetic appeal of exceptional quality. This beauty continues below the surface with dramatic displays of coral diversity, massive coral structures, together with arches, caves and major fissures in the reefs.
Criterion (ix): Ongoing biological and ecological processes: The reef complex within this serial property is globally unique in that it is "free-standing" in the ocean and encircles the island of New Caledonia, providing a variety of different kinds of oceanographic exposure, including both warm and cold currents. The coral reef complex has a great diversity of forms including all the major reef types from fringing reefs to atolls, as well as associated ecosystems in both coastal and oceanic situations. Extending over important oceanic gradients, it is one of the planet's best examples of the ecological and biological processes underlying tropical lagoon and coral reef ecosystems, themselves one of the most ancient and complex ecosystem types.
Criterion (x): Biological diversity and threatened species: The property is a marine site of exceptional diversity with a continuum of habitats from mangroves to seagrasses and a wide range of reef forms. The barrier reefs and atolls in New Caledonia form one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world, and together with the reefs of Fiji, are the most significant coral reefs in Oceania. They are the location for the world’s most diverse concentration of reef structures, 146 types based on a global classification system, and they equal or even surpass the much larger Great Barrier Reef in coral and fish diversity. They provide habitat to a number of threatened fish, turtles, and marine mammals, including the third largest population of dugongs in the world.
The serial property comprises six marine clusters which are also protected by marine and terrestrial buffer zones that are not part of the inscribed property. It includes all the key areas that are essential for maintaining its natural beauty and the long term conservation of its remarkable reef diversity, and it is of sufficient size to maintain associated biological and ecological processes. The property still displays intact ecosystems with top predators, and a large number and diversity of large fish.
Requirements for Protection and Management
The property is currently protected by fisheries legislation, which is being further improved, and co-management arrangements with the Kanak communities are currently being established for all clusters. Management plans are currently being prepared for all clusters with full involvement of stakeholders. Continued efforts to protect and manage the property and its surroundings are required to maintain the present intactness of the coral reef ecosystems. Protecting and managing large areas in the form of no-take zones and proactive management of water quality and fisheries regulations will help maintain reef resilience in the face of climate change. Enhanced surveillance and monitoring are required to address potential impacts from fishing and mining and, to a lesser extent, from agriculture and aquaculture. Tourism is likely to increase in the future and needs to be well planned and managed. Sustainable financing strategies are required to ensure the necessary equipment, human and financial resources for the long term management of the property.