In the “Ecosystem restoration on Mainland New Zealand

The New Zealand archipelago is one of the most isolated landmasses on Earth. We have been adrift from other southern continents for up to 80 million years. In the absence of grazing and predatory terrestrial mammals, a collection of biological oddities has evolved. They include tree-sized daisies, giant flightless weevils, flightless crickets which include the world’s most massive insects, giant carnivorous land snails, the world’s most anatomically primitive frogs, the world’s largest gecko, tiny flightless wrens, one of the largest eagles that ever lived, and an array of huge plant-eating flightless birds - the moa.

The history of people on these islands has been brief but enormously destructive. Since first settlement by Maori 1000 years ago and Europeans 200 years ago we have lost 43% of the frog fauna and over 40% of the bird fauna; the giant gecko has gone along with the flightless wrens, giant eagle and moa. Most lowland forest has given way to agriculture and plantation forestry, and most wetlands have been drained. Remaining ecosystems have been invaded by alien plants, are browsed by alien herbivores and are preyed on by alien mammals (Towns and Ballantine 1993). New Zealand now has as many threatened species as the whole USA (over 600).

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