In this third article in a series reviewing the responses to a survey ECO undertook on ecological restoration and conservation work being performed by the voluntary sector in New Zealand, ECO HECUA intern Emily Donaldson looks at the work being done by the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group:

Transitioning from fresh water to open coast, estuaries support a diverse range of habitats and human activities, serving as an integral part of  our New Zealand cultural identity. The complexity of these ecological systems proffer many ecosystem services including food production, recreational opportunities, trade hubs, and processing contaminants from the land.

The intricacy of the ecological interrelationships and ecosystem processes demand comprehensive research and precautionary management. Current New Zealand estuarine ecosystems still harbour high biodiversity, despite many stressors, such as the location of most major cities near estuarine ecosystems.

Thankfully, environmental groups and organizations like the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group, Forest and Bird, and the Department of Conservation are looking after these critical and fragile ecosystems. Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group aims to sustain the health of this estuary primarily through weed control and plantings, typically over about 40 hectares of the lower estuary. This volunteer group formed in 2003 after fire destroyed an area of 10 year old plantings in the lower Ahuriri estuary, working to plant native species (manuka, flax, kowhai, and more), clean-up rubbish, maintain signage and tracks, and remove many weeds, such as wattle and boneseed.

The Restoration Group keep track of some of its exceptional work; in taking ECO’s Environmental Group Survey, they contributed even more information on their commendable efforts. 300 to 600 plants are put in each year, typically in the winter. Although the group honed in on 40 hectares initially, they indicated that the estuary requires 200 hectares of attention. Devoting 150 person-days of work as well as 1,200 volunteer hours, the group is also taking on an advocacy role for conservation and restoration. The stewardship of this estuary and its tangible results were acknowledged in the survey: “The site has been transformed from a weedy area with few native plants to a well vegetated asset to the local area. Wildlife habitat enhanced and weeds reduced.”

To find out more about the Ahuriri Estuary Restoration Group, click on the following links:

http://www.naturespace.org.nz/groups/ahuriri-estuary-restoration-group

http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer/groups/hawkes-bay/ahuriri-estuary-volunteer-group/

Read up on the specifics of New Zealand estuarine ecosystem services at:

http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/77044/1_16_Thrush.pdf

 

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