The skies were clear above New Caledonia on September 24, 2012, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite to capture this true-color image of the greening early spring islands surrounded by stunningly blue coral reefs.
Although small in size (it is approximately the size of New Jersey) New Caledonia has a well-deserved reputation for biodiversity, both on land in the sea. Conservation International lists 3,270 species of plants, 9 species of mammal, 105 bird species, 70 species of reptile and 85 species of freshwater fish found on the islands. Amphibians, however, are absent from the list – there are none found in New Caledonia. Of this large array of species, many are endemic. Of the plants, 74% are endemic as are 88% of the reptiles.
The barrier reef of New Caledonia is the second largest barrier reef in the world, measuring 1,600 kilometers in length. The reef surrounds a vast lagoon of about 23,400 square kilometers, and contains over 14,000 square kilometers of reef. Recent inventories have identified approximately 15,000 species living in the reefs and lagoons, including 1,950 species of fish, 5,500 species of mollusks and 5,000 species of crustaceans.