New Caledonia is a global biodiversity hotspot and an epicentre for Gondwanan conifers, many of which are threatened by mining and by altered fire regimes. We studied the distribution, abundance and demography of the endangered Callitris sulcata. The largest populations are restricted to one river system in the south-east of the island, with satellite populations in adjoining rivers. The local distribution is controlled by the fire protection afforded by terrain features such as scree slopes, creeklines and small cliffs. Adult trees, which have comparatively thick bark, are able to tolerate and recover from infrequent surface fires, but severe fires kill trees and the seeds they store, a pattern similar to that in many Australian Callitris species. Radiocarbon dating revealed the species is slower growing than Australian Callitris species, possibly due to the extreme infertility of the ultramafic soils. The species is of high cultural value to the indigenous population who also prizes the durable and aromatic timber, and harvests have been traditionally regulated. Illegal cutting of trees has become a problem, but uncontrolled fires, which have caused substantial population declines, dwarf this threat. Given these threats, conservation of the species hinges on ensuring some populations remain remote and rarely visited by humans.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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