East Rennell
East Rennell
Natural Solomon Islands Asia And The Pacific Southernmost Of The Solomon Islands, Rennell And Bellona Province

The site of East Rennell is located on the southern third of Rennell Island which is the southernmost island in the Solomon Island group. Rennell is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. The island is subject to relatively frequent hurricanes which are a major factor affecting the island. Rennell was formed by the uplift of corals which formed on an undersea ridge and then were subject to faulting. The landform is a typical jagged and eroded limestone karst rising to 200 m. A major feature of the island is Lake Tegano which was the former lagoon on the atoll. The lake is the largest in the insular Pacific. It is brackish and contains many rugged limestone islands.

Rennell is mostly covered with dense forest with a canopy averaging 20 m in height. The three main vegetation types are low scrub forest on the karst ridge, tall forest in the interior and beach flora along Lake Tegano. The lake's flora is dominated by 312 species of diatoms and algae, a small number of which are endemic. There are 10 endemic plants on the island and its flora contains elements from the more impoverished Pacific islands to the east and the much richer Melanesian flora to the west.

Wildlife includes 11 species of bat, one of which is endemic, and 43 bird species, four of which are endemic. An endemic banded sea snake lives in Lake Tegano. The invertebrate life is rich, with 27 species of land snails and 731 insect species. Approximately 800 people of Polynesian origin live in four villages within the area. Subsistence agriculture, fishing and hunting are the bases of the economy. The local people rely on forest products for most construction materials.

The distinguishing features of the site that are not duplicated elsewhere are:

  • Rennell is the world's largest raised coral atoll;
  • Lake Tegano is the largest lake in the insular Pacific and contains a number of endemic species;
  • the forests are largely undisturbed by humans and display a number of adaptations to the effects of the frequent cyclonic storms;
  • for its size Rennell Island has a high number of endemic species, particularly birds;
  • within the Pacific, most oceanic islands have been much modified by human activity. On Rennell, these impacts have been relatively light and invasive predators such as rats and alien land snails, which have decimated the fauna of other islands, are absent.

East Rennell has a number of marine, coastal and forest values that are better displayed in other Pacific locations. The fact, however, that the atoll combines them in one place and in a relatively undisturbed state, makes the island a special place in the Papuan biogeographic province.