Biological indicators and pest control

Wade Doak of Riverlands Landcare in Ngunguru writes that it is biological indicators which are a true indicator of the success of pest control measures:

Since success implies that pest kill tallies will gradually reduce each year, surveys of these alone, which our neighbours in Riverlands Landcare Group have done for several years, are not a good basis to estimate pest control performance. Biological indicators are a sure sign of improvement. Where three decades ago I got 31 possums in one night, Jan and I have only caught four in the past eight months, and we operate on some neighbouring land too. We are across the highway from the DoC Crawford Reserve, at Ngunguru, a reservoir of pest invaders we also have to control.

Certain occurrences have set me thinking about the unexpected benefits that emerge as old, relatively recently severed ecological connections start to get mended. (Logging of native forest in past 150 years and ensuing livestock farming). Emergent biological indicators that we may notice day by day make an interesting list.

That dense grove of large karaka seedlings Jan and I found recently along the extended Kanuka/ Bittern track, (newly territory) near a never-before-sighted blooming, pohutukawa, set us thinking. It indicates a new influence from the time our neighbours began intensified pest control, with the much-reduced possum grazing and seed eating by rats and mice. (For many years, before neighbours arrived, pest control here was mainly done by the Doaks.)

Are the whirlwinds of native bees on the kanuka blooms, a species going extinct elsewhere, surviving well here because of a pest that threatens it? Or what influence assists them, absent elsewhere?

Our widespread army of giant kauri snails have radiated from a single, hermaphroditic releasee right over to the eastern Waiotoi River boundary; south out to Reggie’s; along the newly made Buffalo Track to the west and are seen as road kill on Ngunguru Highway to the north.

Further evidence is growing density of miromiro; of two quail species; and pheasants; the dramatic increase in tui and kereru; the great numbers of fantail and grey warblers, with so many migratory cuckoo of two species. Kiwi calls are frequent now, (male and female) and there are sightings and droppings around our homes. Increasing sightings of endangered pateke /brown teal, there are now 54 on Ngunguru River, and documentation of spotless crake, banded rail, fernbirds, and Australian bittern sightings, all indicate major improvements in our marshes. Weta galore of two species, rhinoceros beetles on our house walls (both are pollinators) and geckoes in our outbuildings, peripatus in our forests, so many orchid species, the list goes on….

Then there is the abundance of seedlings that now survive rats and can be dispersed by expanding numbers of birds: karaka, pigeonwood, taraire, nikau, kahikatea, rimu, miro, totara, Pseudopanax-two species, coprosmas, (several species: five common ones), mairehau, toropapa, Pittosporum umbellatum, mahoe (two species), mingimingi of two species), hangehange, nikau and veritable swards of possum-favoured kohekohe now crowd our paths. Then, the wind-blown seeds of kauri, tanekaha, towai,  kumarahou, rangiora, hebe, tree daisy (O. furfuracea) and kanuka, are spreading vigorously, uneaten by rodents. A whole grove of fragrant mairehau bushes has been found.

Lack of plant damage is further evidence: non-nibbled foliage and uneaten fruit; even fallen black passionfruit now remain untouched; we no longer see empty macadamia nut shells, tooth drilled by rats. Our auto camera once took pictures of a possum grazing tree bark repeatedly: a blackwood. Possums once stripped a single gum tree overnight and made it impossible to raise pohutukawa: now some 200 healthy plantings head skywards, many donated by Project Crimson.

No hedgehogs have been seen for ages: a nuisance in stoat traps, predators of ground bird nests. Rabbits are expanding without predation by stoats. They become mustelid bait or promote banana growth. But we still have native hawks, kingfishers and ruru as predators.

The quality of human life in our homes, gardens and orchards has increased as our forests flourish. It’s like getting rid of fleas and body lice for home owners. It is by far the best way to enhance your land; and your neighbourhood. Our Landcare project now protects 172 hectares.

Find more of Wade’s writing

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Geology – returning to first principles

Geologist Richie Miller says it’s time to put down the drill and return to geology’s founding principles.

Richie Miller volunteers for ECO in his spare time.

The word ‘Geology’ is derived from Ancient Greek, simply meaning ‘the study of the Earth’. True, this is a pretty broad starting point for any study, however, it is precisely this idea of investigating the Earth’s form as a whole that makes it so fascinating. Founder of the modern scientific geological principles James Hutton believed the Earth should be viewed as a single organism, a planet that for millions of years has been, and continues to be, formed by cyclical processes and interactions between land, ocean and biosphere. Geology is a scientific discipline with its historical foundations firmly rooted in a holistic approach towards the Earth. 

Sadly, the word ‘geology’ these days has often become synonymous with the word ‘extraction’. Many geologists, as I did, end up working for the mining and fossil fuels industry which in contrast to Hutton’s idea takes an atomistic approach to the Earth, segmenting and removing the parts it can sell while frequently neglecting the often devastating knock-on environmental and social consequences, both locally and regionally. Funding of universities and research institutions by this industry has narrowed the focus of geological investigation towards these extractive activities.

When I left university I went to work in Australia as a geologist for a mineral exploration company. Many students from UK universities made this journey – extraction of metals, coal, oil and gas was where the jobs were. However, it was in Australia where I saw first-hand the violence committed toward the land on colonised territory at the open-cast ‘Superpit’ gold mine (the name says it all) in Kalgoorlie. I began to let go of my prior justification for extraction: ‘we need these resources, don’t we?’. I could no longer accept the trade-off: resources at the cost of the environment and a dignified existence for those who live on the land.

I moved to New Zealand looking towards a more conservationist use for my subject. I began working as a geologist for an environmental consultancy firm with clients from the oil and gas industry. Essentially my job was to investigate land and water for pollution caused by industrial activity and assist with any clean-up if the pollution was deemed a risk to the public or the environment. This sounds like a useful job and unfortunately it is a necessary one. However, it doesn’t get to the root of the problem: why should we accept the risk of pollution to our land, water and air in the first place? Environmental consultancies do not, after all, speak out to condemn the continued extraction of fossil fuels as the major contributor to the climate change crisis because these extractors are paying customers. Fossil fuels companies, like any other business, assess risk by using profitability as a measure. If the profit out-weighs the cost of a few ‘minor’ environmental clean-ups, then it was worth the risk. If a pollution event occurs, these companies can say they had the mandatory safety control measures in place and that they will do better to prevent the same happening next time. What if next time they’re extracting or storing fossil fuels in your neighbourhood? Is that a risk that you are willing to take?

I feel that my experiences as a geologist are indicative of how the extraction industry has cornered geological investigation for their own use to profit at the expense of the environment. This starts with our educational institutions where there is plenty of evidence showing the grip the extraction industry has on our brightest scientists.

New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes, such as Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), have commercial arms whose clients are fossil fuels companies. In November 2015 Greenpeace activists occupied NIWA’s ocean research ship Tangaroa in protest at its use for petroleum exploration surveys off the east coast of the North Island1. GNS on the other hand sells consultancy services to petroleum customers ranging from “regional assessments of permit areas right through to post drill analysis on your well”2. GNS also joined many other organisations including the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in sponsoring the 2015 New Zealand Petroleum Summit, a large get together of some of the dirtiest fossil fuels giants where they troubleshoot and discuss “petroleum investment opportunities in New Zealand”3.

New Zealand’s tertiary education is also locked in. University of Auckland’s School of Environment lists fossil fuels extractors Statoil, OMV Group and New Zealand Energy Corp within their research sponsors4. Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences offers a Masters degree in Petroleum Geoscience with a “full-time research project in conjunction with GNS Science or a petroleum company”5

The devastating effects of climate change are rapidly increasing in magnitude due to industrial pollution and the victims of this devastation are not the polluters. Endangered ecosystems are being destroyed to dig up more mineral wealth. Never before has it been so starkly clear the importance of viewing the earth in a holistic manner. We need to understand that human interference with the Earth in such violent ways has significant consequences.

Divestment in the fossil fuels industry is overdue across all our educational and research institutions. It is time for geology to put down the drill-bit, take a step back and once again recapture the holistic principles upon which it was founded.

References:   

 

  1. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/290406/further-arrests-over-ship-protest-greenpeace
  1. http://www.gns.cri.nz/Home/Our-Science/Energy-Resources/Oil-and-Gas/Consultancy-Services
  1. http://www.petroleumsummit.co.nz/page/programme
  1. http://www.env.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/our-research/research-themes/natural-resources.html
  1. http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sgees/study/postgraduate-study/petroleum-geoscience#mscpetro

Taking a closer look – DOC review of huts and tracks – what does this mean for backcountry access?

DOC is reviewing huts and tracks – taking a closer look

DOC budget cuts, and the need to protect biodiversity such as kauri, kokako and frogs, are threatening back country recreation and access.

DOC is currently undertaking a review of its 985 backcountry huts and wants to know who is using them in order to justify maintaining them.  The key to ensuring their future is letting DOC know how valued they are as a means of accessing the New Zealand back and high country.   DOC is always looking for ways to trim its budget so if we want to preserve this wonderful aspect of New Zealand life we do need to speak up now.

How we balance the competing demands of recreational users and the need to preserve biodiversity will be debated at a Federation of Mountain Clubs workshop at Waitawheta Camp, at the northern end of the Kaimai Range, on Saturday 28 May.  50% of New Zealand’s population lives north of Lake Taupo – how will they still be able to enjoy access to our great outdoors?  Join in the debate and find out more here.

Choose Clean water – petition to be presented 29 March!

The Choose Clean Water Campaign now has over 10,000 signatures and is aiming for 15,000 before presenting it to Parliament on 29 March.

If you have not already signed the petition you can do so here.

Please come along to the petition presentation event on 29 March at 1pm at Parliament.  Please come and support the petition and the Freshwater team.

The Choose Clean Water team are volunteers who have worked for the love of freshwater, and need your help to cover the costs of printing, publicity materials and a mic and speakers for the presentation to parliament. This will be around $2000.

If you can spare a little (or a lot), it is all appreciated.
Go here to donate.

Mike Joy’s book Polluted Inheritance is available on Bridget Williams Books website as a BWB text.  In this 61-page book Mike demonstrates how the intensification of dairying has degraded our rivers, lakes and waterways to an alarming degree – risking the wellbeing of future generations.  This book will make you angry – and is an urgent call to action.

We know that our freshwater species are disappearing rapidly as the Society for Conservation Biology report last year revealed.

The government recently announced further funding for three more irrigation schemes for dairying in traditionally dry areas such as Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne – at a time when dairying is weak and has a dubious future.

Three Hawke’s Bay rivers are still out of bounds to the community because of silt spilling from the Waihi Dam. Erosion, farming and forestry are all causing regular damage to Hawke’s Bay rivers.  Maraetotara Lagoon has just been ruled out of bounds to swimming due to excessive faecal matter.

Still in Hawke’s Bay, Forest and Bird are appealing a decision by the High Court which approved DOC’s decision to downgrade and swap land in the Ruahine Forest Park to provide land needed for the Ruataniwha Dam.  Even if the dam does not proceed, the Judge’s decision sets a worrying precedent for the security of conservation land in New Zealand.

A renaissance in the Waikato

HECUA student and ECO intern Emily Donaldson continues her series looking at ecological restoration projects in New Zealand.   Her research is based upon the survey work undertaken by ECO earlier this year.

 

There’s more happening in the Waikato than just dairy farming. Two hectares of the upper Mangaiti Gully in Hamilton is undergoing a native flora renaissance in hopes of reestablishing native fauna, in turn. Through comprehensive and prudent planning, with support from the Department of Conservation, New Zealand Landcare Trust, and the University of Waikato, the Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust wants to incite community interaction, create an education resource, form a local urban resource for recreation, and epitomize good governance.

The Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust’s purpose, according to ECO’s 2014 survey of conservation work by environmental groups, reiterated the goals of restoration (to pre-European status), reestablishing native fauna, and sustainably collaborating with other people and organizations that share similar objectives. Weed clearing, planting, track construction, shade house extension, pest control, native species introduction, and general maintenance all contribute to this vision. Beginning in 2010, the Trust honed in on dominant canopy trees, such as the Kahikatea, Pukatea, Swamp Maire, and Pokaka found in this very wet, steep ecosystem.

Seeing as the gully is Hamilton City Council land, the council helps the resource gully restoration groups by supplying trees to plant and to fund other needs. The Trust’s expenses in 2014 were $4191, relying on 1,134 volunteer hours to achieve a commendable amount of restoration work, often during weekly “3-hour working bees.” Their blog is just as impressive as the community project, updating and detailing many of the different initiatives and species introductions, removals, and monitoring.

Check out the blog and their great photos at:

http://gullyrestoration.blogspot.co.nz/

NZ Landcare Trust also featured Mangaiti Gully Restoration Trust’s work in December, 2011:

http://www.landcare.org.nz/News-Features/Features/Mangaiti-Gully-Restoration-Group

 

 

A positive bias for Bushy Park!

ECO’s intern and HECUA student Emily Donaldson continues her series looking at ecological restoration projects happening around New Zealand, based upon the survey work ECO undertook last winter.

In this article Emily reviews the sterling work being done by Bushy Park at Whanganui.


Bushy Park: Part Bush, Part Park, Part Homestead

I will admit upfront my (positive) bias towards Bushy Park Sanctuary in Whanganui. I will also add that a panel from Ecological Management & Restoration (a journal of the Ecological Society of Australia) and the Society for Ecological Restoration International deemed Bushy Park as one of the top twenty-five ecological restoration projects in Australia and New Zealand in 2009.

Our HECUA study abroad programme visited the one hundred predator-free fenced hectares this September, tramping its trails, counting kereru, checking traps, and exploring the fence line. In addition to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Zealandia, this ecological sanctuary has left an indelible mark on me.

Bestowed to Forest & Bird in 1962, Bushy Park is cared for by Bushy Park Trust, enhancing native avian and endangered species populations and providing environmental education opportunities, trails for recreation, and a Homestead for entertainment and accommodations. The Edwardian-era homestead, a Category One Heritage Building registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, harbors twenty-two rooms and a treasure trove of Maori and other historical and cultural artifacts.

Reflecting its cultural richness and diversity, Bushy Park’s species richness and biodiversity includes bellbirds, kereru, north island robin, saddlebacks, hihi, moreporks, fantail, grey warbler, pukeko, silvereye, kingfishers, white-faced heron, and some kiwi. Giraffe weevils, glowworms, and huhu beetles also inhabit Bushy Park, residing in the diverse native bush and wetland. Stoats, ferrets, weasels, possums, feral cats, hedgehogs and rats once threatened many of these endemic species, but recently mice and rats are the main mammalian species left.

Although we only checked a few tracks, 12,000 volunteer-hours were contributed to Bushy Park in 2014, according to ECO’s environmental group survey. Running on a pricey budget of $60,000, Bushy Park appreciates all visitors, volunteers or otherwise.

Bushy Park

Habitat and bird protection, monitoring for predators, upgrading of tracks & signage, and maintenance accounts for much of the workload within the fence. With ongoing work and a long-term vision, I would love to return to Busy Park to offer a helping hand and see its progress. Its value, cultural, historical, and ecological, is irreplaceable.

 

Please, spend some time exploring Bushy Park online:

 

http://www.bushyparksanctuary.org.nz/

Rangi and Papa’s Vestibules

ECO intern, Emily Donaldson from the U.S HECUA programme, continues her review of conservation work being undertaken by the voluntary sector in New Zealand as surveyed by ECO in August this year.

In this post, Emily looks at the work of the Manawatu group Green Corridors:

Palmerston North is not only home to Massey University. Green Corridors, a voluntary group working in conjunction with Palmerston North City Council, plans and oversees the predominantly riparian planting of reserve areas to encourage native biodiversity. This peri-urban group primarily comprises working professionals with personal and work-related ties to the creation of these ecological corridors.  Ecological corridors of native vegetation offer safe passage and healthy habitats for terrestrial and avian fauna- in this context, along streams from the Tararua Ranges to the Manawatū River, (beginning with reserves in Turitea Valley and Kahuterawa Stream valleys and tributaries).

The projects are long-term, seeking to link urban, suburban, and rural areas for the benefit of indigenous flora and fauna. Successional planting and maintenance usually occurs between May and September, which will hopefully form a broad green buffer zone around urban areas. Pest control and educating the local communities on New Zealand’s biodiversity are also focal points for this environmental group.

Green Corridors calculates the costs of revegetating land on a per hectare basis. The goal is to plant 500 plants per hectare in which the cost per plant covers the pioneer plants, planting, spray releasing and maintenance in the first year and replacement plants from mortality.

$5 donations will contribute to the planting of an eco-consciously sourced native tree. As planting continues to increase on a yearly basis for a fraction of the cost it would take for Council (or any other agency) to complete, each hectare of native plants is offsetting 3,825 tons of carbon dioxide for the next fifty years.

Green Corridors was one of the eighty-one organizations which completed ECO’s Environmental Group Survey on conservation work in New Zealand. In 2014, volunteers and working professionals completed 500 work hours, amounting to approximately 62.5 person-days of work. Although 2014 expenditures amounted to $37,000, the benefits to PNCC and the local communities cover much of the cost in the long run. In the last 9 years, Green Corridors has planted over 85,000 eco-sourced native plants in fifteen hectares of gullies in the Summerhill area and 9.5 hectares of riparian margin along the Turitea Stream.

If you want to learn more about ecological corridors and its ecosystem services (pages 60-67), check out DOC’s work within the Kaimai-Tauranga Catchments:

 

http://www.landcare.org.nz/files/file/292/doc-ecosystem-services.pdf

 

To stay up-to-date with Green Corridors, follow them on Facebook:

 

https://www.facebook.com/Green-Corridors-Palmerston-North-86985539829/

 

Or check out their website:

 

www.pncc.govt.nz/…/council-initiatives/green-corridors