Bird community composition and relative abundance in production and natural habitats of New Zealand
Blackwell, Grant; O'Neill, Erin; Buzzi, Francesca; Clarke, Dean; Dearlove, Tracey; Green, Marcia; Moller, Henrik; Rate, Stephen; Wright, Joanna
Biodiversity conservation in New Zealand has so far mainly focused on the one-third of the land that lies within public reserves such as national parks. This reflects a preservation rather than conservation orientation that targets mainly indigenous or native species in natural habitats and has no place for extractive use of natural resources. Only 6% of public conservation land lies in the productive and warmer lowland areas (below 500m) where biodiversity naturally flourishes. Conservation management has recently begun to focus on the other two-thirds of New Zealand’s land outside public reserves, especially the lowland production landscapes. These lowland areas are highly valued for agricultural production but could also become areas where introduced and native biodiversity could flourish if managed appropriately. Many farmers seek a role as environmental stewards and are searching for ways to sustain a profitable and productive off-take of food and fibre while still maintaining or enhancing biodiversity and ecological processes on their land. Both introduced and native species play important ecological and social roles in production landscapes. Economic benefits stem from species such as nitrogen fixing plants, insect pollinators, earthworms and other soil invertebrates that increase soil structure and fertility, and insects, spiders and birds that control pasture and crop pests. Many farmers also are very pleased to see tui, wood pigeons, and fantails in farmland, or whitebait and eels in farm streams. Overseas food market chains and their customers are increasingly wishing to be assured that the food and fibre they buy from New Zealand farms has been produced in an ecologically sustainable way that supports other plants and animals in the farm landscape as well as the ‘agricultural biodiversity’ that directly assists production. This report on bird abundance and communities composition on farms is an early example of many forthcoming reports by the Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability (ARGOS) that concern farm environment. ARGOS seeks to support farmers, agricultural industry managers, national and regional policy makers, kaitiaki (Māori environmental guardians) and wider New Zealand society to find practical ways of enhancing biodiversity in production landscapes.... [Show full abstract]
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