New Zealand forests still threatened, but not THAT threatened

February 8, 2011

Last week Conservation International published its list of the world’s ten most threatened forest hotspots, where biodiversity and endemism is high and less than 10% of the original habitat is remaining.  New Zealand was, somewhat shockingly, number 2 on their list.  I must admit I thought this was a little odd – especially as their list claims we have only 5% of our forest (which is listed as tropical and subtropical broadleaf forest) remaining – and well, it turns out the folks at Conservation International were a little confused.

Apparently New Zealand was confused with New Caledonia, and is actually ranked number 22 on the list, with 22% of its original forest cover remaining.  Easy mistake to make, I guess (although the folks over at Kiwiblog of course think its all a big conspiracy of the part of the Greens).

So its not quite as alarming as we thought, but this is no reason to be complacent about the state of our forests.  A timely bit of research published online in the journal Science last week shows how even small changes in the makeup of our forests, like extinction of one or two key species, can have a cascading effect on biodiversity.  I’m not sure that it matters whether we are number 2 or 22 on Conservation International’s list, when we still have one of the worst records of biodiversity loss in the world.

Advertisements

Don’t forget to vote!

October 10, 2010

No, not for your local government (you’re too late for that).  For New Zealand’s Bird of the Year, of course! Apparently the pukeko is out in front. Come on people, can’t we at least chose something endemic? A species that we don’t share with Australia and numerous other countries??  There’s plenty to chose from – the kakariki is giving the pukeko a run for its money (only 2 votes in it at 10am this morning!), and the old favorites kiwi, kakapo and weka might get up with a late run of voting.  You can vote here.


New Zealand Conservation Week

September 12, 2010

This week (September 12-19th) is New Zealand Conservation Week. There are a huge number of events planned around the country, including weed swaps, planting days, beach clean ups, and talks.  The chickenoreggblog family will be doing its bit by taking to the Darwin’s Barberry seedlings that are threatening to take over the garden here on our windy Karori hillside.

Details are on the Department of Conservation website, so get out there and participate!


Tuatara: one species or two? (re-post)

August 21, 2010
The chicken or egg blog family is on holiday in Germany during August, so I probably won’t have a chance to write any new posts.  To keep you all entertained, I’ll be re-posting some of my earlier (pre-Sciblogs) articles. This post was written in July 2009.

New Zealand’s most iconic reptile, the tuatara, is currently regarded as two separate species – Sphenodon guntheri, which is found naturally only on North Brother Island in Cook Strait, and Sphenodon punctatus, which are found on other islands in Cook Strait and off the north-east coast of the North Island.  However research just published online in Conservation Genetics shows that Sphenodon guntheri is not as genetically distinctive as first thought, and suggests tuatara should be regarded as one species.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rare giant gecko turns up (dead) in mainland sanctuary

April 22, 2010

Here’s one from the good news but bad news file:  The good news is that a Duvaucel’s gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii) has been found on the New Zealand mainland for the first time in nearly 100 years.  The bad news is that it was found dead in a mouse trap.

Duvaucels geckos are the largest of our native geckos, and one of the biggest geckos in the world, growing to up to 30cm in total length.  They are found on a number of offshore islands off the north-east of the North Island and in Cook Strait, and were thought to be extinct on mainland New Zealand.  The last recorded sighting of this species on the mainland was near Thames in the 1920s, but subfossil remains have been found on both the North and South Islands, suggesting it was once widespread across the country. 

The dead gecko was found at Maungatautari, in the Waikato.  Maungatautari is a 3400 ha nature reserve ringed with a predator-proof fence, making it the largest pest-free area on the mainland.  Many rare species have been released into the sanctuary, including kiwi, kaka, takahe and hihi, and reintroductions of many more species are planned.  The Duvaucel’s gecko find suggests that there is a remnant nautral population of the species in the sanctuary, which somehow survived the years when the area was overrun with introduced predators. The hunt is now underway for more of the geckos (which will hopefully be found alive).

This discovery shows that you never know what you might find when you protect an area instead of mining it.

More on the discovery on Stuff.


New Zealand’s favourite plant

January 15, 2010

Hot on the heels of Forest and Bird’s “Bird of the year” competition comes the NZ Plant Conservation Network‘s 2009 favourite plant poll.  The winner was announced just before Christmas but I must have missed it in the Christmas rush.  While voters in the bird of the year poll managed to display a stunning lack of originality in picking kiwi as their favourite, plant of the year voters were somewhat more creative, voting Pingao as their favourite native plant for 2009. 

Pingao (Desmoschoenus spiralis, or the golden sand sedge) plays an important role in stabilizing sand dunes so its likely to become increasingly important in the face of climate change.  Who’d have thought it has so many fans? The shadowy and mysterious Pingao Pressure Group was obviously busy lobbying for votes while Pohutukawa advocates were looking the other way.   

Here’s a picture:

(Photo by John Sawyer, NZ Plant Conservation Network)

Others in the top ten include the tree nettle (Ongaonga) at number 2, Chatham Island speargrass, some traditional favourites like Southern rata, Chatham Island forget-me-not and Kakabeak, and the plant with the best name of all, the fish-guts plant.


Molecular ecologists meet in the Catlins

December 3, 2009
Last weekend I attended the 12th Annual NZ Molecular Ecology meeting, held in the Catlins, in the deep south of New Zealand.  NZ’s molecular ecologists have a traditional of holding their annual meeting in beautiful, out-of-the-way places, and this year was no exception with the Tautuku Outdoor Education Centre in the heart of the Catlins being our base.  This year’s meeting brought together 50 researchers from Crown Research Institutes, DoC, and universities across New Zealand (plus a few from across the ditch).  

Tautuku Bay and the coastal rainforest surrounding it provided a stunning backdrop to the meeting, and provided plenty of opportunity for wildlife spotting – the highlight (for me anyway) being a leopard seal which made itself at home on the beach on Saturday. 

Leopard seal taking a break at Tautuku Bay

But enough about the scenery, what of the science, I hear you ask? 

Read the rest of this entry »