Introduction

Information and data inform decisions in all areas of biodiversity work. How could new advances in this field help biodiversity?

This is one of two focus areas for this proposed Long-term Insights Briefing. The other is the use of biotechnology.

This is part of the Long-term Insights Briefing consultation 2021.

2022 draft briefing out for consultation

Be aware the information below refers to the previous 2021 draft briefing and is no longer current. 

A 2022 Long-term Insights Briefing draft is now out for consultation. Submissions close 5 pm, 16 January 2023.

Read the latest draft and have your say

We have also refined the scope of ‘information and technologies’ in the latest draft to three tools as examples. This is not to suggest that these are the only tools that could be supported.

On this page:

These examples are intended to stimulate your thinking and are not a complete list of all the technologies that are being developed internationally. We welcome your feedback on other examples or issues you feel should be explored for inclusion within the Long-term Insights Briefing.

Current developments in information

Information and data inform decisions in all areas of biodiversity work. Tangata whenua, local government, central government, the research sector, private and community sectors are increasingly partnering to collate and combine data sets, providing a more comprehensive view of our landscape and biodiversity.

Advances in information collection and quality to date have helped us find new ways to tackle existing threats to biodiversity and predict and prevent new ones. We have been able to improve our ability to detect and track invasive species, monitor biodiversity recovery, and collect increasingly large amounts of data.

There has also been an increase in public, or community driven initiatives to rid Aotearoa New Zealand of our most destructive predators. These initiatives are increasingly looking for new tools and approaches for planning, surveillance and detection, monitoring and other purposes.

Making the most of information now and in the future

We want to know ideas for how we can innovate in what information is collected and how we can improve the ways in which environmental data are gathered, stored, connected, analysed and made accessible. Realising such opportunities could transform how new and existing data are used to inform biodiversity initiatives, environmental research and future key government strategies.

Māori have a critical role to play in decisions affecting indigenous biodiversity. Future initiatives must be developed in partnership with Māori to adequately consider Māori rights and interests, and how best to incorporate and learn from mātauranga Māori. This knowledge can then inform decisions about managing biodiversity and biosecurity threats and protecting Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment.

Such innovation could ensure our information assets and investments also promote public participation and collaboration. The examples below show how new and emerging information could help us to identify potential challenges and opportunities through data quality improvement, which supports decision-making.

Identifying habitats and habitat change

Imagery collected via aircraft and satellites is now being regularly used to identify, map and monitor biodiversity, and pressures on biodiversity such as pests and diseases). Advances in technology have meant higher resolution imagery, and a wider range of measurements is now collected, improving our understanding of these environments and supporting more effective management. Some of this information is new as we are now able to access and map areas we could not reach before.

Such advances enable individual weeds, threatened species and pest habitats to be identified. The information is already used to pinpoint areas of interest. For example, to identify areas where invasive weeds are threatening the nesting sites of the wrybill (a vulnerable species of riverbed nesting bird).

In the future, artificial intelligence could increasingly be used to process the information instead of people to detect invasive species and pinpoint exact locations for targeted interventions.

Field tools for data collection

Toitū Te Whenua has developed various field tools for data collection. This allows phones and tablets to be used for a range of activities. For example, to assist with the control of animal pests such as wallabies and feral cats or biodiversity projects such as seed collection.

These tools enable more efficient collection and transfer of data, such as mapping the locations of rare and endangered plants and recording the location of installed bat boxes to support and monitor bat populations. Further innovation and development of these tools, plus their wider use will have significant positive impacts for managing biodiversity in the future.

Realising the potential of existing technology

Elevation data collected using the remote sensing technique of light detection and ranging (LiDAR) can produce highly accurate 3D maps. LiDAR provides accurate measurements that can determine landscape characteristics such as canopy height, the slope of terrain and depth and coverage of foliage. With this information we can monitor vegetation change after damage or recovery from pests and environmental change.

Toitū Te Whenua has currently mapped 20 percent of Aotearoa New Zealand using LiDAR and, in partnership with councils, aims to increase this to 80 percent by 2024. As the coverage increases and the quality of LiDAR data increases, this information can be used by agencies to identify target areas for managing invasive species and for multiple other purposes.

Glossary of terms

Glossary of te reo Māori terms

Mātauranga Māori

Māori knowledge; the body of knowledge originating from Māori ancestors, including the Māori world view and perspectives, Māori creativity, and cultural practices.

Tangata whenua

People of the land.

Whenua

Land.

Glossary of technical terms

Biodiversity

Biological diversity, means the variability among living organisms from all sources, including land, marine and freshwater ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species (including genetic diversity) between species and of ecosystems (based on the definition of the Convention on Biological Diversity).

Biosecurity

The exclusion, eradication or management of pests and diseases that pose a risk to the economy, environment, or cultural or social values, including human health.

Data

Factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.

Habitat

A place where either an organism or population naturally occur.

Information

Knowledge obtained from investigation, analysis or study. This term is sometimes used interchangeable with “data”.

Innovation

A new method, idea, device or product.

Invasive species

Non-indigenous species whose introduction or spread threatens biodiversity, food security, and/or human health and wellbeing.

LiDAR

Acronym for Light Detection and Ranging. LiDAR is a method for measuring distances using light in the form of a pulsed laser.

Predator

An organism that feeds on another living organism (its prey).

Species

A group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of freely exchanging genes or interbreeding. In this strategy, the term ‘species’ also includes subspecies and varieties.

Threatened species

Species assessed according to the New Zealand Threat Classification System as facing imminent extinction (or a reduction to just a few small, safe refuges, which makes them highly susceptible to unpredictable events such as flooding) because of their small total population size and/or rapid rate of population decline. This includes three sub-categories: ‘Nationally Critical’, ‘Nationally Endangered’ and ‘Nationally Vulnerable’.

Weed

A plant that is considered to be unwanted or a nuisance. The term is often used to describe native or non-native plants that grow and reproduce aggressively.

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