Muggy, boggy and waiting to be drained – our past opinions on wetlands have not aged well. Wetland restoration could be vital to tackling biodiversity and climate change crises – here’s why. Quantifying the benefits of wetland restoration Humans drained 90% of New Zealand’s wetlands in the name of prosperity, progress and pasture – not … Continue reading What if there were giant sponges that could mop up carbon, floods, and house native species?
Controlling introduced mammal predators can lead to an increase in native birds, lizards, and invertebrates – but could fewer predators also lead to an unwelcome increase in rabbits? You might expect so, but in Aotearoa New Zealand rabbit populations usually influence the number of predators, rather than the other way round. Let’s look at the … Continue reading Rabbit control could help us towards a predator free future
Kiwi are the most translocated bird species in Aotearoa New Zealand and the number of new projects and released birds are steadily increasing, according to a recent report in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology. We’ve been moving our kiwi around for over 100 years but could we be doing it better? Around the late … Continue reading Kiwi translocations – are we doing it right?
A seven-year Department of Conservation study into combined predator control methods has revealed great news for the survival of our native whio (blue ducks). The findings show that 1080 used alongside trapping can keep introduced predators at bay – giving whio populations a chance to grow. The study comes on the back of research that … Continue reading Combined control contains the key to whio population growth
In modern covid times, we’re all very aware of how diseases can spread across borders through international air travel. Something similar could be happening with bird diseases and our kākāpõ, takahē and other endangered species on their remote sanctuary islands. ‘Air travellers’ – in this case visiting seabirds – could be bringing avian diseases with … Continue reading Seabirds, disease, sanctuary islands
Could moa have once lived on Rakiura/Stewart Island? Moa bones have been found on Rakiura in the past, but nearly all of them have shown signs of butchering and been found in ancient Māori middens. They’ve mostly been major leg bones (the meatier part of moa) and could easily have been transported across Foveaux Strait … Continue reading Rakiura skeleton helps solve ancient mystery
It might be time to update the textbooks and webpages on the Maud Island frog. It seems our odd little endemic amphibian might not be quite as dedicated to a ground-hugging life as experts have believed. An article recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Ecology shows how much we still have to learn … Continue reading Native frog behaviour surprises scientists
Is there such a thing as being too successful? A recent Fiordland study on the recovery of forest birds after longterm predator control and eradication shows that toutouwai/South Island robins, benefitted hugely from the absence of Norway rats and stoats. But the strong recovery of the robins seems to be having a detrimental effect on … Continue reading Robins return – but where are all the tomtits?
Weka don’t tend to be the first bird chosen for reintroduction in recovering habitats. Their destructive and predatory tendencies make them controversial residents in restoration projects and they’ve even been removed from some sanctuary islands to make life safer for other native birds. But research looking at native plant seed dispersal shows the complexity of … Continue reading Time to rethink the weka’s bad-boy image
Untangling the whakapapa of our kiwi can be more complicated than you might think – and appearances can sometimes be deceptive. It seems even the experts can get it wrong. All of which means that our Great Spotted Kiwi might be in for a name change. In the case of Great Spotted Kiwi specimens collected … Continue reading Hybrid kiwi uncovered in genetic study
Kererū (kukupa) are big, beautiful and often unintentionally comic birds that are easily recognised, even when flying. They’re one of the biggest pigeons in the world and can live for 20-30 years. But kereru only raise one chick at a time and don’t necessarily nest every year. That can make them vulnerable. Kererū used to … Continue reading What factors are limiting kererū populations?
If you’ve ever found a longhaul airline flight gruelling, spare a thought for those expert longhaulers, the kūaka /bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica baueri) – currently departing for Alaska. They take a record-breaking 8-11 day flight as part of their migration from Alaska to New Zealand and back every year, feeding and breeding in Alaska during … Continue reading Bar-tailed godwits are longhaul experts
Short-tailed bats are the main pollinators of New Zealand’s only fully parasitic flowering plant – the wood rose (Dactylanthus taylorii), known to Māori as te pua o te rēinga. Both the bat and the wood rose are endangered, but we still have a lot to learn about the feeding/pollinating relationship between them. Researchers Zenon Czenze … Continue reading Bats influenced by rainfall when visiting unique ‘wood rose’
Rat-trapping started early in Aotearoa’s history. The Polynesian ancestors of Māori brought the kiore across the Pacific in their voyaging waka, probably around the 13th Century AD and early Māori developed several types of ingenious rat traps to catch them. Aotea, Horouta and Māmari waka traditions mention that kiore were passengers on their voyages to … Continue reading Rat-trapping has a long history in Aotearoa
A common way to monitor what insects or lizards are around, is to use a live-capture pitfall trap which skinks, geckos and ground-based insects then fall into. With lizards, slices of pear or sometimes petfood are used to attract them to the trap. But lizards and insects might not be the only species to take … Continue reading Predator pitfalls for live-trapped lizards
Productive land such as farms, horticulture and lifestyle blocks make up 60% of the land area in New Zealand and often contains native vegetation. Such land could – and often already does – make a significant contribution towards conservation goals. But currently we know very little about the amount and types of native vegetation located … Continue reading Sheep, beef farms have significant conservation potential
Even ocean-going birds need to come ashore to breed and when they do, they bring a gift from the oceans with them – nutrient-rich guano (otherwise known as seabird poo). It’s a fertiliser bonanza, especially when those seabirds nest in large, breeding colonies. Terrestrial plants and wildlife thrive on these so-called ‘seabird islands’ because of … Continue reading Bringing poo to an island near you…
It’s a bit like putting a message in a bottle – banding migratory birds and seeing where else in the world those specific bands are spotted by fellow birdwatchers. But it has a purpose that goes beyond curiosity about migration routes. Many migratory birds are declining in numbers. So where on their global travels is … Continue reading Banding aims to uncover turnstone migration mystery
Not all introduced mammals are predators. Apart from omnivorous pigs, the 14 types of ungulate (hooved) mammals introduced here over the years are all plant-grazers of one sort or another. But restoring habitat and removing predators go hand-in-hand if we’re to reverse the downward spiral of our native wildlife. Large, heavy-hooved browsing mammals can damage … Continue reading Monitoring shows ungulates increasing on public conservation land
Once we called them swamps and thought of these places – if we thought of them at all – as potential farmland and subdivisions, muddy, boggy and waiting to be drained. Nowadays they’re ‘wetlands’ and its not just the labelling that’s changed. Our attitudes are slowly changing too. We’re beginning to understand the value – … Continue reading Multiple methods demonstrate wetland restoration benefits
What a difference 20 years makes! The lizards of Kāpiti Island have now had 20 years of living rat-free and researchers Jennifer Gollin, Nic Gorman and Doug Armstrong have been checking out the little reptiles to see how much better they’re doing. The report on the results of their island survey in the New Zealand … Continue reading Lizards counted on predator free Kāpiti Island
What are New Zealand beef and sheep farmers’ views on managing and protecting native biodiversity on-farm and what barriers do they face to taking positive action? Those were some of the issues investigated in a nation-wide phone survey. Fleur Maseyk and colleagues report on their findings in the latest issue of the New Zealand Journal … Continue reading Researchers survey farmer attitudes to biodiversity
Researchers Susan Walker, Joshua Kemp, Graeme Elliott, Corey Mosen and John Innes used 264,457 rodent tracking records collected quarterly from 23,709 tracking tunnel stations in forests across the length and breadth of New Zealand over an 18 year period from late 1999 to late 2016 to get a clearer picture of how ship rat and … Continue reading Rats, mice and 264,457 tracking records shed light on rodent dynamics
It’s not often you hear of native species benefitting from human modifications of its habitat – but one little-known wētā species has gone against trend and embraced the changes in its world. It’s been nicknamed the ‘wine wētā’ due to its fondness for hanging out in Marlborough vineyards and scientists have recently been trying to … Continue reading ‘Wine wētā’ makes itself at home in Marlborough vineyards
Wetland areas and covenanted bush blocks on farms have a clear ecological value, but do they have an economic value as well? The answer is yes. But that leads to another question. How can you assess the economic value of an area of wetland or remnant forest that isn’t producing saleable crops or providing grazing … Continue reading When economics meets ecology – assessing the ‘ecosystem services’ of farmland
When you remove predators from islands and restore forest habitat, the expectation is that native forest birds will flourish and that the new ‘improved’ conditions may favour native birds over introduced species. But is that what happens? Researchers John Ralph, Carol Ralph and Linda Long looked at how bird populations on the seven islands and … Continue reading Tūī numbers treble in predator control study
University of Auckland researchers, James Brock and Kathleen Collier, have discovered yet another reason why we really should appreciate our native bat species. It seems short-tailed bats have a role to play in spreading fern spores throughout the forest, helping the spores to spread a greater distance than they might otherwise manage without a helping … Continue reading Native bats may have fern dispersal role
Wētā are one of our most studied insects and are regarded as ‘bioindicators’ of the health of forest ecosystems. So when introduced predators – including mice – were removed from Maungatautari, the response of the local wētā population was followed closely by researchers. But how well does the wētā response reflect what’s happening to other … Continue reading Study compares beetle and wētā responses to mammal eradication
What do we know about New Zealand’s mangroves? Not nearly as much as we know about our forests and many other habitats. Their changing tidal environment makes mangroves a difficult location for research and perhaps we just don’t care about our mangroves as much as we do about our forest trees. Researchers from the Auckland … Continue reading Uncovering the secret life of urban mangroves
‘Rules stifle innovation,’ say researchers looking at how we can achieve win-win outcomes for pastoral farming and biodiversity conservation in New Zealand. “To obtain win-win outcomes for biodiversity conservation, pastoral farming and New Zealanders generally, we need to avoid letting our policy systems (national, regional and district) fall back on a strict rules-based approach. This … Continue reading Biodiversity and farming – achieving win-win outcomes
How might traditional concepts and values of kaitiakitanga be included more holistically in urban restoration projects? Authors Erana Walker, Priscilla Wehi, Nicola Nelson, Jacqueline Beggs and Hēmi Whaanga discuss what kaitiakitanga means, its significance to Māori and the contribution kaitiakitanga can make to improve urban environmental outcomes. Their article was recently published in the New … Continue reading Kaitiakitanga and urban restoration
Home gardens collectively make up a big chunk of the total green space in our cities, which means they have huge potential to support urban diversity. So how do we encourage more people to become wildlife gardeners? University of Otago researchers Yolanda van Heezik, Claire Freeman, Katherine Davidson and Blake Lewis invited residents of two … Continue reading Otago researchers look at uptake of wildlife gardening
Did you know there were once horses on the Auckland Islands? Possums were deliberately introduced too but didn’t last long. Hardly surprising. It’s a harsh environment and not remotely like their warm Australian homeland. Scientists investigating mammal predators in the Auckland Islands group have switched to studying history recently, looking at the very early records … Continue reading Auckland Islands introductions included horses, possums, chickens
Achieving Predator Free 2050 goals will take more than just a scaling-up of eradication efforts according to researchers Duane Peltzer et al from Landcare Research (Lincoln) and the University of Canterbury. They look beyond economic and technological feasibility to identify the key impediments we need to overcome, in a paper recently published in the Journal … Continue reading Identifying impediments to PF goals
A male yellow-eyed penguin from Boulder Beach on the Otago Peninsula, recently became a video star for researchers Thomas Mattern, Michael McPherson, Ursula Ellenberg, Yolanda van Heezik and Philipp Seddon, who were investigating the use of high definition video loggers to study marine wildlife. Even the scientists were surprised by how much they could learn … Continue reading Video logger films at-sea foraging of yellow-eyed penguin
Ecologically significant vegetation and habitat on private land is being lost at a rate comparable to pre-1840 deforestation, according to a study by Landcare Research scientists, Adrian Monks, Ella Hayman and Susan Walker. Their analysis of vegetation clearances over 27 years from 1989 to 2015 has recently been published in the New Zealand Journal of … Continue reading Wildlife habitats lost as land clearances continue
Trappers from the Kepler Challenge Trust helped out by supplying 248 trapped ship rats back in 2009-2010, so that researchers Kay Clapperton, Fraser Maddigan, Warren Chinn and Elaine Murphy could carry out a detailed study of what the Fiordland ship rats had been eating before they died, the population structure of young and old rats … Continue reading Life of plenty for beech forest ship rats
When you think about roads and wildlife, the first thought that springs to mind is a collision with fatal consequences. But roads can impact wildlife in a whole range of ways and more evidence is needed on the most effective ways to mitigate those impacts. Lights at night, noise as a barrier to foraging, loss … Continue reading Road hazards for wildlife more than just a collision risk
When scientists studying the dynamics of a Norway rat colony in New York had some wild cats moved in on the experiment, they took the opportunity to see how the presence of cats and their behaviour influenced the presence and behaviour of the rats. Did rats move out when the cats moved in – or … Continue reading Can feral cats limit rats?
Graeme Elliott has been studying our native birds for 45 years and using his knowledge we’ve put together an overview of how we can best protect our native birds in a mast year. The right tool for the job For him the message is clear, the main tool that can be used to reduce the … Continue reading How can we help native species in a mast year?
There has been a lot of talk in the media about the beech mast and the mega mast. So what is it and why does in matter? Dr Graeme Elliot from the Department of Conservation shares his knowledge. Graeme Elliott has been studying our native birds for about 45 years and he’s interested in how we … Continue reading What is a mast event and why does it matter?
Urban landscapes are becoming recognised as important places of biodiversity. The concrete jungle can potentially be a great habitat for wildlife and having good biodiversity in our cities allows urban-dwellers to interact with nature in their daily lives. So how does New Zealand’s largest city stack up in the biodiversity stakes? Todd Landers, Samuel Hill, … Continue reading Auckland’s bird biodiversity revealed
Thermal squeeze: it’s what happens when temperatures rise, predators spread out to higher altitudes and their vulnerable prey species are squeezed into less-than-ideal pocket habitats at the outside edges of their range. Like most predicted consequences of climate change, it’s not good news. So will it happen to New Zealand species? If so, what species … Continue reading Thermal squeeze could put pressure on native wildlife
Recently there have been several research projects looking at predators in the alpine environments of the South Island. It’s a completely different ecosystem to the much-studied lowland forest systems and there’s still a lot to be learnt about the key predator threats to our alpine species and how best to address those threats. In his … Continue reading Latest research from Otago University and DOC investigates rock wren and 1080
The interaction between habitat restoration and predator control is a topic of great interest to us at Predator Free NZ Trust. In 2017 Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research created a series of info-graphics that looked at just that. Focusing on the Cape to City Project, they asked what do bird populations need to thrive? They identified … Continue reading What do bird populations need to thrive?
Control possums, rodents and large introduced grazers and the forest understorey explodes with growth. It’s easy to think that this is what the original forests of Aotearoa must have looked like, before Man and other mammals arrived. But ancient Aotearoa had its own large herbivores – the various moa species, that grazed the forest understorey. … Continue reading Moa vs Deer – are they so different?
Insects get eaten too. Scientists have reported that invertebrates have been found in 10-30% of cat guts and scats in the Mackenzie Basin, suggesting high country invertebrates, including some rare endemic grasshoppers, could be vulnerable to introduced mammal predators. Christchurch-based researchers, Jennifer Schori, Richard Maloney, Tammy Steeves and Tara Murray investigate whether reducing mammal predators … Continue reading Insects get eaten too – so does predator control help grasshoppers?
It’s a world-wide trend and New Zealand is not immune. Wetlands are being lost – 90% of New Zealand’s wetlands have disappeared since European settlement. “Freshwater swamps, bogs, gumlands, pākihi, fens, marshes and seepages, are estimated to have occupied 9% of the New Zealand land mass or 2,500,000 hectares prior to European settlement. It is … Continue reading Loss of wetlands continues
You don’t hear so much about weasels. Their New Zealand distribution is patchy and their bigger mustelid relatives tend to dominate the mammal predator stories. But when there was a mast year in 2014, weasels as well as stoats turned up in the beech forests of Nelson’s Maruia Valley to feast on the bonanza of … Continue reading Weasels studied during Maruia masting event
Researchers from Landcare Research and Tūhoe Tuawhenua Trust recently worked together to look at community-based monitoring by Māori to assess forest health. They talked with 55 forest users from the Tuawhenua tribal group, carrying out 80 interviews in both Māori and English, over a period of 10 years, to get a better understanding of Māori … Continue reading Tūhoe share memories of how their forests used to be
We know a lot about the impacts of introduced mammal predators in wild environments and about how to control their numbers in forests and remove them entirely from uninhabited islands. What we don’t know so much about, is the lives and impacts those predators in places where people also live. How can introduced predators best … Continue reading Managing predators where people live too
Public conservation land is only a small proportion of the total land of New Zealand and isn’t necessarily representative of the full range of ecosystems. David Norton (School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Jason Butt (Environment Canterbury) and David Bergin (Environmental Restoration Ltd) look at how we can sustain and enhance native biodiversity on private … Continue reading Upscaling restoration – 8 things to consider
Statistics are a whole lot more than just a bunch of numbers. They can tell a story. They can paint a picture – and sometimes that picture just isn’t pretty. Take for instance, some of the statistics revealed in ‘Our Land 2018’, a report jointly prepared by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. … Continue reading ‘Our Land’ statistics paint a stark picture
Mostly we get rid of introduced predators by, well – killing predators. It works, up to a point. But if you can’t get rid of every single rat or stoat then the few survivors suddenly find themselves with ample food supplies and very little competition. They breed and they breed very successfully. Numbers climb rapidly … Continue reading Putting the case for ‘bottom up’
“Nearly 2 million tourists came to New Zealand last year. Few if any came to go shopping,” says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, in her newly released report. “Wilderness is becoming increasingly scarce around the world, and in scarcity lies value,” she continues. Dr Wright is very clear about what she thinks … Continue reading PCE Report – More $$ for conservation, more support for groups
Preserving, restoring and creating habitats for our wildlife doesn’t just mean planting trees and saving forests. It’s not just nature reserves and national parks. Braided rivers, sand dunes, alpine regions and wetlands – farmland and even urban gardens – are important habitats too. Recommendations 4 and 5 in the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report, … Continue reading PCE Report – Birds need habitat and lots of it!
Developments in genetic science may give us the ultimate predator-free breakthrough one day, but we can’t sit back and wait for that to happen. “If we do,” warns Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, “the patient will die before the hospital is built.” Birds and other native wildlife are dying now. We need … Continue reading PCE Report – Research priorities and future promise
Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has written a comprehensive assessment of the current state of New Zealand’s birds – a taonga of our nation – and has made a number of recommendations for what needs to be done about the issues we face. “Of our 168 native bird species, just 20% are doing … Continue reading PCE Report – Where’s the plan?
Last week Dr. Jan Wright released her penultimate report as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Titled “Taonga of an island nation”. It has been widely supported and will hopefully help focus our attention to save the species that desperately need our help. We will be delving into the report in more detail in the coming … Continue reading PCE Report — 5 Things You Need to Know
Lack of forest habitat or introduced predators – which is the biggest barrier to native biodiversity in New Zealand’s lowland landscapes? Can they even be considered separately? Is there any point in restoring habitat if you don’t get rid of predators and conversely, are there any benefits from eradicating predators if the habitat available to … Continue reading Conserving biodiversity – what should be prioritised?
Wildling pines aren’t part of the mandate for Predator Free New Zealand but they are another serious invasive issue in many parts of New Zealand and research recently published in the Journal of Ecology (British Ecological Society) has revealed that some introduced mammals could be helping wildling pines to get established. It’s a complex web … Continue reading Invasive mammals help invasive pines in surprising ways
What do we know about the effects of introduced mammalian predators in the alpine environment? The short answer is probably ‘not much’. DOC scientists Colin O’Donnell, Kerry Weston and Joanne Monks review the little that we do know in the latest volume of the NZ Journal of Ecology. They identify important gaps in our knowledge and … Continue reading Alpine predator impacts little understood
Often when predators are eradicated from an island, it’s the first stage in planned reintroduction of native species to the sanctuary, but 26 years ago when the last introduced mammals removed from Burgess Island, the island was simply left, predator-free to recover naturally. Burgess Island/Pokohinu is the second-largest island in the Mokohinau group, near Great … Continue reading Island recovery left to happen naturally
A huge effort has gone into controlling possums across New Zealand for a number of years, particularly with respect to TB eradication efforts, but what do we know about the overall biodiversity outcomes? Are we on top of the problem? Has native biodiversity benefited long-term from the war waged against TB or are short-term benefits … Continue reading Measuring biodiversity outcomes
Landcare Research scientists have published some fascinating research recently looking at the damage possums do the forest canopy and the surprisingly long time it takes for larger trees to recover. The first paper was published in Ecology and Evolution earlier this year and full access is freely available online. Penelope Holland, Andrew Gormley and Roger … Continue reading Landcare Research takes to the tree tops in latest possum research
If we knock back ferrets and feral cats will rabbit numbers soar? It is a concern that’s frequently raised, particularly in farming areas where rabbit control is already an issue. As rabbits are the main prey of ferrets and feral cats, it seems intuitively logical that rabbits will thrive without their predators. But there is … Continue reading What about the rabbits?
The kiore appeared and the moa disappeared in pre-European times, but no-one can argue that the majority of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s predator and other pest introductions, habitat loss, extinctions and near-extinctions have happened in the last 150-200 years since pakeha settlers arrived. Recently published research by Matthew Harms looks at the Maori perspective in a community-based … Continue reading Maungatautari – a Maori conservation perspective
Habitat modification – what’s good for native wildlife and what isn’t? Weta can thrive, living in the crevices provided by large introduced trees. Cutting those trees down to plant native saplings may not benefit weta – in the short-term at least. When grazing livestock are removed from regenerating native scrub, is it beneficial for native … Continue reading Habitat modification – complex relationships
The detrimental effects of New Zealand’s larger mammal predators are very well documented. Everyone surely knows the devastation caused by rats, possums and stoats. So what about mice? At this time of year they can be a nuisance in your pantry and a worry to your wiring – but what are the impacts of mice … Continue reading Skinks, geckos (and mice)
No-one wants to see the birds and other wildlife we’re trying to protect, killed or in any way harmed by the very methods we use to protect them from predators, either by consuming bait or being accidentally caught in traps. It’s a delicate balance and often a controversial subject where strong opinions are held. Today … Continue reading Bait residue issues
This week’s Friday afternoon reads looks at predator research relating to two key habitats in New Zealand – wetlands and off-shore islands. Colin O’Donnell (Department of Conservation, Christchurch), Kay Capperton (Havelock North) and Joanne Monks (DOC, Dunedin), review research and statistics on the impacts of introduced mammalian predators on the viability of wetland birds, particularly … Continue reading Wetlands and islands