Individual study: Conserving rare plants and their habitats by co-ordinated conservation effort, Marlborough and Nelson, New Zealand
(2003) Living heritage: growing native plants in Nelson, NZ. Dept. of Conservation, Nelson/Marlborough Conservancy; Nelson City Council. ISBN: 0478224370, 1-52
Many rare plants are rare in New Zealand because their habitats have been destroyed by urbanisation and sheep or cattle farming. Remaining habitat fragments are frequently on private land. To create new patches or enhance existing patches requires three things: a knowledge of what plants and ecosystems used to be present; an ability to reach and enthuse a varied, often suspicious audience; and coordination of the organisations responsible for conservation. This prompted the Department of Conservation, The Nelson City Council and the Tasman District Council to develop a resource that identifies habitat restoration potential by defining local ecosystems and their constituent species.
Each Council was divided into distinct environmental areas based on landform, geology, hydrology, climate and coastal influence and then mapped. Plant species lists were then compiled.
Nelson City: For the Nelson City area, eight eco-regions were developed: Wetlands; Riparian; Nelson Boulder bank; Sand dunes; Coastal flats; Lowland flats; Coastal hill country; and Lowland hill country. A simple booklet and wall chart were designed and published with different coloured sections for each 'eco-region'. For each region the authors identified appropriate nurse crops, and types of plants and timeframes for underplanting of climax/canopy species. Each species was also qualified with environmental parameters such as requirements/tolerance for drought, shade, sun, frost, wetness, plus their eventual height. It was also highlighted if they were an important resource for native birds e.g. by provided nectar, or other food such as fruit and flowers. Booklets and maps were made available free to the public through a website and cd's, and sent to propagation nurseries and all rural landowners.
Tasman District: The Tasman District is much larger than the Nelson City Area. It contains at least 50 eco-regions and defining thes eco-regions relied strongly on soil maps. Plant lists and maps for priority areas were developed first, these being those under greatest pressure, but also where there was greatest enthusiasm for restoration e.g. coastal development is putting pressure on sand dune and coastal flats, but also these areas have a high concentration of people to engage in the restoration ideal, whereas upland areas have lower pressure but also weaker interest (lower population) in achieving habitat restoration.
This process of rare plant and habitat conservation required a long-term working knowledge (at least 15 years experience) of many of the local drivers of ecosystems, and their state of degradation. It has highlighted the importance of restoration in ecosystems that were completely devoid of native plants (e.g. Waimea plains), where total reconstruction of the environment was required. Use of the resources has been slow but steady with much positive feedback. Spin off effects are beginning to be recognised and incorporated in reserve design e.g. 90% of the wetland habitat has been lost in the Nelson region, but restoration could incorporate the return of rare plant species but also endemic wetland birds.
Financial incentives e.g. rates exemptions, can also be more clearly identified to encourage landowners to undertake conservation/restoration activities. Public profile and pressure has encouraged other independent conservation bodies e.g. QE11 Trust to disseminate information and grow threatened plants to put into covenants and privately protected areas.
For further details see: http://www.nelsoncitycouncil.co.nz/environment/LivingHeritagePlants_Guide.htm
Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper. Please do not quote as a conservationevidence.com case as this is for previously unpublished work only.