New Guinea Mangroves
Mangrove swamps occur in extensive stretches on New Guinea’s coastline. The longest and deepest stretches are found on the south side of the island, around the mouths of large rivers such as the Digul, Fly, and Kikori rivers. Mangrove communities here are the most diverse in the world—more than 30 different species of mangroves have been found in a single swamp—and they form a vital habitat for a variety of animals living on the water’s edge. Underwater, over 200 different fish species, ranging from cardinal fish and mangrove jacks to seahorses and anchovies, have been recorded in either their adult or juvenile stages. Mudskippers (species of fish that can leave the water and climb trees), snails, and crabs climb the mangrove roots, while saltwater crocodiles patrol the channels between the mangrove stands. Although there are many species of fish and mangrove in these swamps, terrestrial animal diversity is relatively low. Two endemic species of bats and a species of monitor lizard are found here.
Ten bird species are endemic, including the New Guinea flightless rail, two species of lory, the Papuan swiftlet, red-breasted paradise-kingfisher, and red-billed brush-turkey. Although largely intact, the mangrove regions in the western part of New Guinea have recently come under threat of pollution from the rapidly expanding oil and gas industries.