New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands
New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands
Natural New Zealand Asia And The Pacific New Zealand Subantartic Zone

The New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands consist of five island groups located in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean off the south-eastern coast of New Zealand. Along with the Macquarie Island World Heritage site in Australia, the five islands form the only subantarctic island group in the region. The islands lie between latitudes of 47ºand 52ºsouth and include the Snares, Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands and Campbell Islands. Total land area is 76,458 ha. The site includes a marine component extending 12 km from each island group.

The islands lie on the shallow continental shelf and three of the groups are eroded remnants of Pliocene volcanoes. Rivers are short with precipitous streams. The lakes are few and generally shallow and small. Quaternary glaciers have left shallow cirques, moraines and fjords on some islands. Cool equable temperatures, strong westerly winds, a few hours of sunshine and high humidity prevail.

With the exception of the Bounty Islands which have no higher plants, the remaining islands together with neighbouring Macquarie Island, constitute a Centre of Plant Diversity and have the richest flora of all the subantarctic islands. The Snares and two of the Auckland Islands are especially important in that their vegetation has not been modified by human or alien species. The terrestrial flora of the islands comprises 233 vascular plants of which 196 are New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands (New Zealand) indigenous, six endemic, and 30 are rare. Auckland Islands have the southernmost forests in the region, dominated by a species of myrtle. A particular floral feature of the islands is the 'megaherbs' that contribute to rich and colourful flower gardens.

As the islands lie between the Antarctic and Subtropical Convergences, the seas have a high level of productivity.

The Islands are particularly notable for the huge abundance and diversity of pelagic seabirds and penguins that nest there. There are 120 bird species in total, including 40 seabirds of which five breed nowhere else. The islands support major populations of 10 of the world's 24 species of albatross. Almost 6 million sooty shearwaters nest on Snares Island alone. There are also a large number of threatened endemic land birds including one of the world's rarest ducks. 95% of the world's population of New Zealand sea lion (formerly known as Hooker's sea lion) breed here and there is a critical breeding site for the southern right whale. A number of endemic invertebrates also occur.