We are progressively implementing a comprehensive and integrated monitoring and reporting system across DOC.

The system is designed to capture and communicate our performance  in delivering a diverse range of conservation outcomes for New Zealand.  

This page describes the development and operation of the system, and contains links to factsheets, reports and more detailed technical information.

Get more information on DOC's monitoring and reporting programmes.

About the system

The Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System provides DOC and others with consistent, comprehensive information about biodiversity across public conservation lands, and potentially across New Zealand.

While designed for DOC’s requirements, the system has the ability to deliver the full New Zealand picture with the participation of New Zealand’s other biodiversity managers.

Access to new, regularly updated, and more easily shared data will result in better decisions, leading to improved conservation outcomes that support the healthy environment New Zealand needs for its economic and social wellbeing.

The system is part of an ongoing programme to develop a nationally-consistent and cohesive approach to managing biodiversity across all of New Zealand’s land and waters.

Why DOC uses the system

DOC manages a third of New Zealand’s land area, 44 marine reserves and six marine mammal sanctuaries on behalf of all New Zealanders. It is responsible for the protection of New Zealand’s threatened native wildlife.

Biodiversity inventory and monitoring – seeing what’s there, assessing what condition it is in, and tracking how that is changing – is critical for taking stock of progress, learning and improving practices, and showing how resources can be spent most effectively.

Historically, much of DOC’s biodiversity monitoring has been done at the local level to meet specific local needs, such as measuring the difference pest control may be making for a forest restoration project.

A more nationally-consistent, systematic and comprehensive approach means the information collected can be built into a national picture and used in multiple ways, including allowing DOC to report on overall losses and gains in biodiversity.

Working with others

The new system has the potential to deliver a whole-of-New Zealand biodiversity picture with the help of New Zealand’s other environmental managers.

Training and other support is being provided to encourage stakeholders and communities to monitor in consistent ways. For example, DOC has been actively engaged with regional councils to support development and implementation of the Tier 1 terrestrial monitoring programme across the remainder of New Zealand. This consistent and standardised joint approach will efficiently provide a New Zealand-wide view of status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem health.

The system also supports the National Science Challenges and provides opportunities for researchers across multiple scientific disciplines. For example, the programme is a fundamental data source contributing to the National Science Challenge Biological Heritage Project. The Tier 1 sampling programme is part of a collaborative research programme investigating rapid biodiversity assessment using DNA techniques which will increase diversity information and provide more comprehensive quantification of ecosystem function. These research collaborations extend the value of DOC's Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System.

Benefits of the system

  • Provides a foundation of sound data to better inform effective management planning and policy development.
  • Improves understanding and reporting on the health of New Zealand’s biodiversity and trends in ecological integrity.
  • Reduces reliance on anecdotal evidence and expert advice by delivering factual evidence to inform decisions and report on progress towards outcomes.
  • Improves DOC’s ability to compare between projects and know what interventions worked best.
  • Helps further identify what work should be focused on.
  • Helps DOC and New Zealand meet national and international reporting requirements including state of the environment reporting.

How the system works

It was designed by DOC, working with Landcare Research, to overcome past shortfalls in biodiversity monitoring. While it emphasises monitoring on land, it also includes a more consistent approach to monitoring in the freshwater and marine environments.

It uses indicators and measures from the NZ Biodiversity Assessment Framework, which was completed in 2005. The structure of the framework, described in Lee et al (2005), is based on outcomes, with clearly defined performance measures used to indicate progress. It defines the desired outcome of conserving natural heritage as the maintenance of ecological integrity.

Indicators are used quite widely for decision making. For example, just as doctors use blood pressure as an indicator for someone’s risk of heart disease, the monitoring system uses indicators such as water quality and weed or animal pest abundance to indicate how healthy an ecosystem is.

Measuring biodiversity in three tiers

The system takes a more systematic approach to measuring New Zealand’s native biodiversity. It has three different layers of information – known as ‘tiers’ - which operate at different scales with varying levels of detail and coverage.

Tiers of Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting System.
Tiers of DOC's biodiversity monitoring and reporting system

The three tiers together build a picture of New Zealand’s ecological health. They are:

  • Tier 1: Broad scale monitoring for national context
  • Tier 2: Nationally-consistent monitoring of managed places and species on land, freshwater and in the ocean to report on management effectiveness.
  • Tier 3: Intensive, targeted monitoring for research and evaluation.  

The system includes the processing of data, analysis and reporting, and a systematic approach to the uptake and use of information within DOC.

Tier 1: Broad scale monitoring for national context

Tier 1 monitoring delivers a groundbreaking systematic sampling programme for all public conservation land, and potentially over the whole of New Zealand.

The sampling programme, which started in late 2011, involves the regular assessment of a selection of native species and pests at locations 8 km apart and spaced evenly across the landscape – except where the site falls in a river or lake. Many of these sites are already being monitored for carbon by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) as part of New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol reporting. The biodiversity sampling programme builds on that activity and DOC works collectively with MfE to complete the sampling .

Tier 2: Monitoring the places and species we manage

Tier 2 monitoring focuses on delivering the detailed information needed to manage places and species effectively, so is more focused and intensive than Tier 1.

It involves consistent, rigorous monitoring of the outputs (management results) and outcomes (management achievements) of specific activities on land, in fresh water, or in the marine environment. A nationally consistent approach is needed so the data can be combined and compared across projects, and used to build understanding of New Zealand’s ecological integrity.

Monitoring will help show what works best, and can be used to improve future management effectiveness. It will also provide locally relevant information to share with the community.

DOC has been refining national monitoring standards and methods, along with procedures to handle data. It has built a new set of national priority projects which will include monitoring to these standards, and other current monitoring activities will be realigned.

The national standards and methods are published on the DOC website to encourage others to use them. Public training courses are also on offer for selected methods, including how to monitor birds, possums, weeds and vegetation.

Tier 3: Intensive monitoring for research purposes

Tier 3 monitoring delivers even more detailed information. It will provide the detailed understanding needed to improve DOC’s ability to maintain and restore biodiversity in the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. It combines intensive research and monitoring at a few key sites distributed throughout New Zealand and maintenance of some important historic datasets. This context is needed to help predict and interpret national and local-scale trends.

Protocols and methods

More information


Biodiversity describes the variety of living things from all sources – land, marine and freshwater. It includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species (species diversity) and of ecosystems (ecological diversity).

Ecological integrity (or ecological health): An ecosystem is considered to be healthy and have ‘integrity’ when it hosts all the native plants and animals typical of the area, and when ecological processes are functioning well. 

Ecological processes transfer energy and matter from one pool to another, typically as a result of interactions between organisms and their environment. Key ecosystem processes involving organisms are decomposition, primary production, competition and herbivory/predation. Important abiotic aspects include nutrient cycling and water yield.

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