In the “Ecosystem restoration on Mainland New Zealand

Chatham Island black robin nestling.  Photo: Don Merton.
Chatham Island black robin nestling

The evolution and extinction of species is charted in the world’s fossil deposits. Mass extinctions, such as the decline of dinosaurs, have generated endless speculation about their causes. But there is nothing mysterious about the wave of extinctions now facing us. This global "biodiversity crisis" is either directly or indirectly attributed to the effects of people and is rightly the subject of much concern; it may ultimately affect the capacity of the planet to support our descendants.

A less well known wave of extinctions has already cut a swath through the biological diversity of island archipelagos. Like the present crisis, the island extinctions coincide with the effects of people. Its effects have wide geographical and temporal spread: over millennia in islands of the Mediterranean and Hawaii, over centuries in the Galapagos and New Zealand. Destruction of the New Zealand bird fauna is so comprehensive, the ornithologist Professor Jared Diamond once declared that New Zealand no longer has a bird fauna - just the wreckage of one.

In this address, I want to show how this situation in New Zealand is being turned around. I will do it by demonstrating:

  • Successes we have had with redressing the declines of species, communities and ecosystems on islands.
  • How we are applying lessons learned on islands to active management of selected ecosystems on the mainland.
  • How this approach to ecosystems has been made possible through a mandate that focuses on conservation and provides a foundation for integrated conservation management.
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