In the “Protecting and restoring our natural heritage - a practical guide

New Zealand is known for its high percentage of endemic plant and animal species (those found only here). As a result of human settlement, many of these endemic species have already been lost. Of those remaining, many are threatened. Native plant communities often survive only as isolated remnants, particularly in landscapes modified by agricultural use or human settlement. Ecological processes in these remnants have often been disrupted, so that their long-term viability in under threat.

Diagram showing percentage of forest cover of New Zealand from pre-human settlement to today.

Many of these remnant ecosystems are not well represented in our system of Protected Natural Areas (natural areas that are legally protected). It is not simple to protect, manage and restore remnant native ecosystems, particularly alongside farmland and settlements. Anyone tackling such a project can achieve a lot, and the results will contribute to preserving New Zealand’s biodiversity.

Managing remnant ecosystems

This guidebook provides information on protection, management and restoration of native ecosystems – why it is needed, how it can be done and where you can obtain further information. The material is presented in the order in which you need to proceed for any management or restoration project. At the end of some major sections “Further reading” lists a number of the more approachable and relevant references. Try public or university libraries, or the people or organisations that produced the information. You may be able to buy some of these reports or books.

Native animals are an integral part of ecosystems and restoration ecology, but detailed attention to them is beyond the scope of this guidebook. It focuses on the plant communities that provide their habitat. Similarly, the guidebook cannot provide detailed information and examples for the whole country, and you should seek information about your own region where appropriate, e.g., local case studies and resources available.

Landscape restoration

To sustain native biodiversity, we need to maintain ecological systems that connect natural areas throughout the wider landscape (Park 2000). Restored areas provide stepping stones or islands of biodiversity, reducing the distances between natural ecosystems. Corridors or linkages between remnant or restored ecosystems are important for dispersal, migration and genetic exchange, as well as nutrient transport and energy flow. In highly modified areas many of these linkages have been lost and need to be restored.

Landscape restoration looks beyond individual remnants and restoration projects. It involves protecting native remnants, enhancing damaged or unbuffered remnants, and restoring connections between them. Examples of areas that can provide such linkages include roadside remnants, hedgerows, shelterbelts, woodlots, water races, rivers and streams (Meurk and Swaffield 2000). Waterways are particularly valuable, as they connect rural and urban areas and often extend between uplands and the sea. In urban settings, recreational areas can be used to provide linkages with natural areas. These are all areas that you should consider as suitable for restoration projects.

For landscape restoration to be effective, co-ordination between landowners, voluntary groups, protection agencies and councils is required. Your project will form part of this essential network.

An example of a landscape where human and natural elements sit comfortably with each other is shown in figure 1B.

Figure 1A - before restoration

Figure One A - before restoration

Figure 1B - after restoration

Figure 1B - after restoration

Further reading

The New Zealand biodiversity strategy. Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment 2000. [Book - provides some background about the importance and state of NZ’s biodiversity, and approaches to managing it]

The New Zealand protected natural areas programme. A scientific focus. Technical Advisory Group, PNAP 1986. [Book – outlines threats to natural areas, the unrepresentative nature of our protected natural areas and the contribution of the PNAP to nature conservation]

The state of New Zealand’s environment. Ministry for the Environment 1997. [Book – contains detailed information about our waters, land and biodiversity]

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