Melanesia: What to know?

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Melanesia is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean with distinct geographical and cultural commonalities. It consists of over 10,000 islands belonging to over a dozen countries, including New Guinea, the largest island. Melanesia has a high variety of endemic flora and fauna, and many unexplored areas. Recently stabilizing and growing island nations, such as Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, have achieved greater autonomy and independence from Europe and the Western world.

Melanesia is a large group of islands in the Pacific Ocean located north and northeast of the Australian mainland. The name was first used by Jules Dumont d’Urville in 1832 to describe a group of islands with distinct geographical and cultural commonalities that set them apart from the other Pacific island supergroups, Micronesia (in the north) and Polynesia (in the east). . Melanesia consists of more than 10,000 islands belonging to over a dozen countries spread over an area the size of Australia. The major islands and island groups that are considered part of Melanesia are the Bismarck Archipelago, Fiji, Maluku Islands, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Norfolk Island, Solomon Islands, Strait Islands Torres and Vanuatu.

The largest island in Melanesia is New Guinea which is the second largest island in the world (after Greenland) with an area of ​​785,753 square km (303,381 sq mi). This rainforest-covered island is home to over 7.1 million people, most of them Papuans, an ethnic group that descends from people who arrived on the island as early as 40,000 BC This is one of the earliest known examples of human habitation outside of Africa. At the time of the migration, sea levels in the area would have been lower, meaning these early peoples would have had to cross less ocean to get from the mainland to New Guinea.

The entire area that makes up Melanesia is characterized by a high variety of flora and fauna, a large part of which is endemic. Being located east of the Wallace Line, life in Melanesia has more in common with Australia than with Asia. Although Melanesia makes up less than half of one percent (0.5%) of the world’s land area, 5-10% of the planet’s species are found there, a ratio similar to the larger areas of Australia and the United States. Large parts of Melanesia, especially New Guinea, are unexplored by scientists and anthropologists. New species are discovered there regularly, and up to 44 uncontacted tribal groups are believed to exist in the rainforests of the island.

Much of Melanesia consists of recently stabilizing and growing island nations, many of which have recently achieved greater autonomy and independence from Europe and the Western world. Vanuatu, an archipelago nestled between the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia, is one of the newest nations in the world, only founded in 1980. The Solomon Islands is another new country, part of the British Commonwealth, which has experienced ethnic turmoil in recent years . New Caledonia, to the south, is a large island administered by France but with an unusual legal status within the Republic. An independence movement is brewing there, similar to the independence movement that led to Vanuatu’s autonomy in 1980.

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