Image: Sabine Bernert | ©


DOC is the lead agency for protecting New Zealand’s native species and ecosystems from threats such as climate change.

Climate change poses a significant risk to New Zealand’s native species and ecosystems. Some predicted climate changes are:

  • warmer temperatures
  • changes in rainfall patterns, and
  • more extreme weather events.

Eastern rockhopper penguin. Photo: David Mead.
Eastern rockhopper penguin - vulnerable to climate change as it relies on the sea's food resources

Destruction from Cyclone Ita around Inland Track. Image: Chantelle Taylor.
Destruction from Cyclone Ita around Inland Track

We have an important role in understanding how our native species and ecosystems will respond to climate change and how we should manage this.

Risk of climate change to native species

We don’t know how native species will respond to climate change, especially as they have already adapted to New Zealand’s existing highly variable climate.

The rate of change in our climate is very fast compared to historic change species have experienced. Long term we should expect changes to our native species and ecosystems to follow the same patterns as observed in the Northern Hemisphere. For example, some species may move upslope to higher altitudes, or shift south in range. 

Other threats to native species

How our native species and ecosystems to respond to climate change is complicated by other threats, such as invasive pest species and human-related habitat loss.

Invasive pest species may benefit from climate change and further impact on our native species. For example, pest species such as hedgehogs, ship rats and wasps are climate restricted and may be able to increase in range and abundance.

Changes in land management practices by other sectors adapting to climate change could also have an effect on native species. For example, building sea walls to protect coastlines from storm surge and sea level rise will have an impact on coastal ecosystems.

More information

Climate change on NIWA website: Provides the science needed to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Freshwater conservation under a changing climate (PDF, 2,687K): Proceedings of a 2013 inter-agency workshop hosted by DOC, covering freshwater and estuarine ecology, conservation, physical impacts of climate change, policy and Mātauranga Māori. 

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