The northwestern portion of the island of New Guinea is called the Vogelkop, or Bird's Head, Peninsula. Although this is meant to refer to the shape of the peninsula, it is also appropriate considering the large number of birds endemic to the area.
The Vogelkop montane rain forests represent isolated tropical montane areas surrounded by ocean or lowland forest. A number of globally unique species that are adapted to upland conditions have evolved in this isolation, and although some of the mountain ranges are not large, they are still relatively pristine.
Location and General Description
This ecoregion consists of montane forests (greater than 1,000 meters [m]) in the Tamrau (to 2,582 m), Arfak (to 2,444 m), Fakfak (to 1,203 m), Kumawa (to 1,490 m), and Wandamen-Wondiwoi (to 2,552 m) mountains in northwestern Irian Jaya, Indonesia, on the island of New Guinea.
The ecoregion itself is distributed in four disjunct areas, with the largest area in the northern Vogelkop Peninsula. The climate of the ecoregion is tropical wet, which is characteristic of this part of Melanesia, located in the western Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Northern New Guinea is a very active tectonic area with a complex geologic history.
The surface geology of this scattered ecoregion is varied. The Wandamen-Wondiwoi Mountains are metamorphic, the Fakfak and Kumawas are composed of limestone, and the Arfak and Tamrau (Vogelkop) mountains are a diverse mix of sandstone, limestone, and volcanics.
The ecoregion is composed predominantly of tropical montane evergreen forest and tropical wet evergreen forest, with lesser amounts of tropical montane forest on limestone, limestone forest, and tropical semi-evergreen forest.
The montane forest in this ecoregion is dominated by Castanopsis in the lower elevations, but with altitude the vegetation changes to moss-draped, Antarctic beech (Nothofagus) forests, which sometimes occur as monotypic stands, and then into coniferous forests of Podocarpus, Dacrycarpus, Dacridium, and Papuacedrus.
|Table 1. Endemic and Near-Endemic Mammal Species.|
|An asterisk signifies that the species' range is limited to this ecoregion.|
The ecoregion harbors forty-two mammal species, seven of which are endemic or near endemic (Table 1). The Arfak ringtail (Pseudocheirus schlegeli) is known only from its type specimen from the Arfak Mountains and has never been seen anywhere else in the world. The mammalian fauna consists of a wide variety of tropical Australasian marsupials, including tree kangaroos. The Arfak long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijni) was considered endangered before it was split from the Papuan echidna (Zaglossus bartoni), and presumably it would still be considered so because it is a focal prey item for humans. Doria's tree-kangaroo, a Central Cordillera species found only in the Wandammen Mountains within this ecoregion, is considered vulnerable.
|Table 2. Endemic and Near-Endemic Bird Species.|
|Rallidae||White-striped forest-rail||Rallina leucospila*|
|Rallidae||Chestnut forest-rail||Rallina rubra|
|Caprimulgidae||Mountain eared-nightjar||Eurostopodus archboldi|
|Psittacidae||Modest tiger-parrot||Psittacella modesta|
|Pachycephalidae||Vogelkop whistler||Pachycephala meyeri*|
|Acanthizidae||Vogelkop scrubwren||Sericornis rufescens*|
|Eopsaltriidae||Green-backed robin||Pachycephalopsis hattamensis|
|Eopsaltriidae||Smoky robin||Peneothello cryptoleucus|
|Estrildidae||Grey-banded munia||Lonchura vana*|
|Melanocharitidae||Obscure berrypecker||Melanocharis arfakiana|
|Ptilonorhynchidae||Vogelkop bowerbird||Amblyornis inornatus*|
|Meliphagidae||Rufous-sided honeyeater||Ptiloprora erythropleura|
|Meliphagidae||Black-backed honeyeater||Ptiloprora perstriata|
|Meliphagidae||Cinnamon-browed honeyeater||Melidectes ochromelas|
|Meliphagidae||Vogelkop honeyeater||Melidectes leucostephes*|
|Meliphagidae||Arfak honeyeater||Melipotes gymnops*|
|Paradisaeidae||Arfak astrapia||Astrapia nigra*|
|Paradisaeidae||Long-tailed paradigalla||Paradigalla carunculata|
|Paradisaeidae||Western parotia||Parotia sefilata*|
|Paradisaeidae||Greater melampitta||Melampitta gigantea|
|An asterisk signifies that the species' range is limited to this ecoregion.|
The avifauna of the ecoregion has a clear Australasian flavor, including representatives of several Australasian families including Ptilonorhynchidae, Eopsaltridae, Meliphagidae, and Paradisaeidae. There are 304 bird species in the ecoregion, of which 20 are endemic or near endemic. The ecoregion is equivalent to the West Papuan highlands Endemic Bird Area (EBA) and harbors twenty restricted-range bird species, nine of which are found nowhere else on Earth (Table 2). Several are limited to one small mountain range. The grey-banded munia (Lonchura vana) is considered vulnerable.
Within this ecoregion, the Arfak Range, with twenty-three endemic species, and the Wamdammen Range, with seven endemic species, are both centers of butterfly endemicity on the island of New Guinea.
There are several endemic plants in the Arfak and Fakfak mountains, but in general the flora is poorly known. The ecoregions does encompass several Centres of Plant Diversity, including the Arfak Mountains, the Northern and Southern Tamrau Mountains, the Kumawa Mountains, and the Wandammen-Wondiwoi Mountains.
Except for a small area in the eastern part of the ecoregion that has been cleared, most of the habitat is still intact. The ten protected areas include 11,373 square-kilometers (km2) (52 percent) of the ecoregion (Table 3). Two of the protected areas are more than 2,000 km2, and two other large reserves (Pegunungan Fakfak and Pegunungan Kumawa) also extend into this ecoregion.
|Table 3. WCMC Protected Areas That Overlap with the Ecoregion.|
|Protected Area||Area (km2)||IUCN Category|
|Pegunungan Tamrau Utara||3,440||PRO|
|Pegunungan Tamrau Selatan||2,350||PRO|
|Ecoregion numbers of protected areas that overlap with additional ecoregions are listed in brackets.|
Types and Severity of Threats
The Arfak Mountains, famous for birdwing butterfly diversity, are surrounded by heavily populated areas, and the reserve itself is in danger from encroachment by population expansion. The larger habitat block in the Tamarau Mountains is more remote and less threatened for the moment, although there are plans for logging concessions that seem to conflict with reserve gazettement. The Arfak, Fakfak, and Wandammen-Wondiwoi Mountains are all subject to potential population pressure, agricultural development, and sawmilling. Mineral deposits are small and low grade.
Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
Using Whitmore's 1984 map of the vegetation of Malesia and MacKinnon's reconstruction of the original vegetation, we delineated the large areas of distinct habitat types as ecoregions. Thus, the Vogelkop-Aru lowland rain forests ecoregion represents the tropical lowland moist forests in the Vogelkop region of New Guinea. The ecoregion largely corresponds to subunits P3d and P3b identified by MacKinnon; however, we placed the tropical montane moist forests (more than 1,000 m) in the Vogelkop montane rain forests. Udvardy placed these ecoregions in the Papuan biogeographic province of the Oceanian Realm.
Additional Information on this Ecoregion
- For a shorter summary of this entry, see the WWF WildWorld profile of this ecoregion.
- To see the species that live in this ecoregion, including images and threat levels, see the WWF Wildfinder description of this ecoregion.
- World Wildlife Fund Homepage
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