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Areas of natural interest

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La forêt sèche

Dry forest

Description :

The city of Noumea has over 100 hectares of dry forest. The term "dry forest" or "sclerophyllous forest" is given to all woodland formations that grow in a dry climate – less than 1,100 mm of rainfall per year. They are found on the West coast, very often on private property, and stretch from the coast up to an altitude of 300 to 400 metres, very often on sedimentary rock. Many of the plants have tough, rigid, glossy leaves able to endure a significant water shortage during the dry season.

Dry forest is now the most endangered type of vegetation. Out of the 4,500 km² that used to cover the West coast, only 45 km² still survives, i.e. 1 % of the original surface area! And yet this ecosystem offers a remarkable degree of botanic diversity and micro-endemism. The New Caledonian Dry Forest Conservation Program works hard on a daily basis to preserve what still exists, promote regeneration and heighten people's awareness of what is at stake and of the challenges facing the environment.

In Noumea there are several areas now under protection: Ouen-Toro (40 hectares), Forest Park and Zoo (10 hectares), Koumourou, at the far end of the Ducos peninsula (10 hectares) and Tina (8 hectares). The town planning and sustainable development project (PADD) makes provision for turning dry forests into nature sanctuaries, like the municipality's mangroves.

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La mangrove

Mangroves

Description :

The city of Noumea has nearly 230 hectares of mangroves. There are mangroves here that are over 300 years old as well as around fifty bird species. But the mangroves have lost 25% of their surface area since the start of the ‘60s, mainly due to urbanisation. Yet this rich ecosystem plays a major role. The mangroves are a buffer zone between land and sea, protecting the coast from erosion by the sea, filtering river water, preventing sediment from smothering corals and acting as a nursery and larder for many species of birds and marine organisms (crabs, mullets etc.). Its conservation is therefore crucial, both ecologically and economically.

The South Province has developed a discovery trail at Ouémo, in the heart of one of the last sections of mangrove, in the aim of raising residents' awareness. At Rivière-Salée, the nature preservation societies, Association pour la Sauvegarde de la Nature and Association les Gaïacs are carrying out huge clean-up operations, in partnership with the Province and with aid from the City. The "SOS mangrove" operation means young people who have dropped out of school can take up a great environmental challenge, and at the same time it helps improve their social inclusion and entry into the world of work. It is part of a broader plan to rehabilitate and restore the status of the site. School children are taking part in its revegetation. The residents are slowly reclaiming these areas.

Preservation work is also being carried out in the Kaméré mangrove area. The objective is to remove the tonnes of waste with which the mangroves have been overrun.

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The Fiddler Crab   

The little fiddler crab is distinguished by having one abnormally large pincer, about 10cm long.  The crab is active at low tide and filters the silt to feed on decomposing plants and carcasses. 
It also uses its pincer in a courting display (the females don’t have such a large pincer).  The far less impressive mangrove crab or mud crab, likes to emerge from its hiding place at night.  It is a choice dish, hunted relentlessly by those who love to eat it.  It is forbidden to try and catch any between 1 December and 31 January.

Centre d’Initiation à l’Environnement – Environmental Information Centre

The Environmental Information Centre (CIE) organises regular mangrove discovery trips to see and learn about the mangroves.

Centre d'initiation to l'environnement (CIE) – Bâtiment A, Appartement 11, résidence de Magenta – BP 427, 98845 Noumea Cedex – Tel.: 27 40 39 – cie-sud@lagoon.nc – Website: www.cie.nc

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Les récifs coralliens et le lagon

The coral reefs and the lagoon

Description :

With 1,600 km of reef and 8,000 km2 of coral formations, New Caledonia is surrounded by the world's largest lagoon. The South Province has established Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the aim of preserving the biodiversity of habitats and of encouraging the repopulation of the unprotected surrounding areas. Since being set up, they have helped lead to the doubling in the number of fish species found around the protected areas. The MPA extend from Bourail to the Sarcelle channel, i.e. 44,300 hectares of monitored areas of lagoon.
Near Noumea, the islets of Larégnère and Signal are nature reserves that are open to the public but are regulated. It is forbidden to:

  • hunt, fish, collect or take samples of any element or parts of the flora, fauna, minerals, fossils etc.
  • disturb the animals.
  • introduce any plant or animal species there (especially dogs).
  • dump or discharge any waste or toxic products.
  • light fires other than within the special areas provided for that purpose, etc.

Kuendu point and the islands known as Île aux Canards, Îlot Maitre and Îlot Amédée are also protected areas.

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World Heritage Site

Since 8 July 2008, parts of New Caledonia’s lagoons, reefs and mangroves have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  This serial site is made up of six marine clusters, including two in the South Province: the Grand Lagon Sud (Great Southern Lagoon) and the western coastal area, the Zone Côtière Ouest.  They are surrounded by “buffer zones” on land and at sea, which are not part of the UNESCO inscribed site but which constitute areas for maintaining vigilance in order to improve preservation. 
Designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a label of excellence.  It recognises this site’s exceptional universal value to the world as a whole, in terms of its beauty, good general state of health and diversity in underwater structures, formations and scenery and its wealth of marine species.  Inclusion on the list of World Heritage Sites does not make it a reserve. The activities practised there (fishing, tourism, and so on) can be continued provided they represent no threat to the inestimable value of the site.
In order to preserve this remarkable heritage for future generations to enjoy and experience too, participative management committees have been set up, site by site.  They bring together local people, individuals and organisations working there (fishermen, tourist operators, farmers, etc.), associations, traditional customary authorities and the municipalities or administrative districts (communes), and are responsible for devising and proposing a management plan for each site.

Information: Direction de l'Environnement de la Province Sud (DENV) (South Province Environmental Department) – 19, avenue Foch, Noumea – Tel.: 24 32 55

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