Introduction

The primary focus is on learning how to carry out ecological restoration by addressing management questions through rigorous trials and experiments combined with intensive monitoring.

The primary focus is on learning how to carry out ecological restoration by addressing management questions through rigorous trials and experiments combined with intensive monitoring that follows standardised systems and processes.

DOC staff member, Chris Doonan, deploying cat trap boxes.
Deploying cat trap boxes

The work is guided by a Scientific Advisory Group (with internal and external experts) and a Technical Advisory Group as well as specific operational plans and field manuals.

All of this provides for all field work being done to a high standard consistent with agreed protocols. Where possible and practical, work is done consistent with nationally acceptable ‘best practice’.

Possum numbers were reduced initially with toxins but now kill traps are sufficient to deal with the few colonising individuals. Rats were also controlled by toxins within the core 825 ha block and this was followed by several years attempting to maintain the situation with snap traps.

Great spotted kiwi chick.
Great spotted kiwi chick

Trapping was found to be ineffective to protect the robin population during times of high rat numbers and no control is in place at the moment. Mustelids (mainly stoats) are controlled with lines of kill traps over the full 5000 ha. The effectiveness of all of this work is measured through feeding sign, tracking tunnels, bird counts, nest monitoring and comparison of all of this with the same parameters in a non-treatment area.

Wasps have been poisoned most summers in part of the core area and the response measured in the invertebrate population.

Biodiversity restoration also includes the return of species that have been completely lost from the ecosystem. The translocation of great spotted kiwi into the area has been a real success and highlight of the project.

This work is done by the department’s permanent staff based at St Arnaud, assisted by temporary employees during periods of peak activity, and also the Friends of Rotoiti volunteer conservation group.

The intention is to maintain the existing restoration gains, and to continue research into the most effective methods that can be used.

Progress to date

Stoat trap map.
Stoat trap map
(view larger, JPG, 214K)

Stoats are now controlled to a low level over c.5000 ha, and productivity of the native kaka has improved as a direct result. The control of introduced possums has been effective in greatly reducing the population and the response of sensitive plant species such as mistletoe is very apparent.

Trapping and poisoning have been compared for the control of rodents. The effectiveness of each has been measured by residual rodent abundance, the response of prey species, and comparison with non-treatment sites. This has shown that trapping is not effective with the resources available. While poisoning is effective, additional work is required to identify a toxin which can practically and safely be applied in the field.

Various techniques to control introduced wasps have been trialled with considerable success. Rotoiti Nature Recovery Programme (RNRP) has become an important site for assessing options for application elsewhere.

Great spotted kiwi have been successfully re-introduced to the site and are now breeding. Monitoring of the Rotoiti kiwi population has hugely increased the pool of knowledge on this species and will guide conservation of this species in the future.

Core tracking tunnels map.
Tracking tunnels map
(view larger, JPG, 113K)

Long term monitoring of beech forest processes e.g. seed-fall, rat and stoat population numbers, five-minute bird counts, and vegetation plots have provided over ten years of data.

Public enthusiasm and support for management of this site is extremely high and has led to increased support for similar conservation projects elsewhere.

The programme provides advice and support to the Friends of Rotoiti and other restoration projects and provides research opportunities and support for university students and their organisations.

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