With a rich and varied floral community, comprising some 3,063 native species, New Caledonia has long been considered a biodiversity ‘hotspot’ (5). This great diversity is very much reflected in the conifer community, and there are no fewer than 43 species. Considering that the total number of conifers in the world is only around 630, New Caledonia holds international significance for conifer conservation (6).
However, as on many Pacific islands, the native vegetation of New Caledonia has been significantly modified by human activities, with over 50 percent of the original cover now gone (5) (7). The island has the largest known nickel deposits in the world (7), and land clearance for mining is the greatest threat to the many endemic conifers, which are often restricted to the mineral-rich areas from which the nickel ore is obtained. In addition to causing widespread deforestation, mining activities have also resulted in large waste heaps and increased erosion. Further threats to the native vegetation include human-generated wildfires, which are often started deliberately to clear brush, as well as agriculture, livestock grazing, and the spread of invasive exotic species (5) (7) (8).
Araucaria schmidii is known only from a few locations within a very narrow altitudinal range. Along with its small population size, this makes Araucaria schmidii extremely vulnerable to habitat degradation, as well as extreme weather events and disease, including the pathogen Phytophthora (1).