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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Establishment of a database of the conservation requirements of New Zealand’s nationally threatened invertebrates

Published source details

McGuinness C.A. (2001) The conservation requirements of New Zealand's nationally threatened invertebrates. Dept. of Conservation, Wellington, NZ. (added by: McGuinness C.A.


There are many threatened invertebrates endemic to New Zealand. Invertebrates are not high profile, seldom viewed as iconic, are often undervalued for their ecological contribution, and often ignored or over looked by conservation officers when projects are being planned. There are many reasons for this but one key influencing factors is the lack of basic accessible information about them. A lot of information is not known or documented about specific threatened invertebrate taxa and this makes it difficult for conservation work to be carried out on them.

Previously, much information about New Zealand's invertebrates only existed in old, hard to get, reports, or as personal knowledge. As such it was a very time consuming task to uncover information on the less well know species. In the Department of Conservation, when research or management was being planned for an invertebrate species it was often hard to know where to start, as no one knew what the threats were or what management needed to be undertaken. The Department had no centralised source of information on its threatened invertebrates, and no clear direction as to what research or management was required for these species – this was a gap that needed to be plugged.

An investigation into all the invertebrates considered high priority for conservation in New Zealand was initiated in 1998. The basis for what species would be included was reported in a document produced by the Department of Conservation (Tisdall C. 1994).

The first step was to scope the project, determine who the end users were, what format the final report would take, define which species would be covered, and establish what type of information would be required to make the document of use to the end users. It was determined that this was primarily going to be a document for conservation managers, but it should also serve a purpose of advocacy and education. To meet the end use it was decided to produce a published document with pages that could be easily photocopied so staff could take the sheets into the field and use them like mini field guides. It was also decided to create an electronic database, so that this information could be integrated into a national species database at a later stage. All invertebrate species consider to be of priority to conservation were included, totalling 282 taxa.

The following information was required for each species/taxon: Order, Family, Taxonomic Name, Common Names, Synonyms, Priority Category, Conservancy Office, Area Office, Description, Type Locality, Specimen Holdings, Distribution, Habitat, Threats, Work Undertaken to Date, Priority Research Survey and Monitoring, Management Needs, Contacts, a photo/drawing where possible including any major diagnostic features, and an actual length scale line.

In addition to the species profiles general background information on invertebrates and their role was included, as was a basic analysis of the information gathered.

Gathering the information involved an intensive literature search of all available material, including published documents, grey literature and field notes/reports. An interviewing process was also undertaken; a lot of information about our invertebrates was held only in the heads of various invertebrate specialists. Approximately 100 interviews were carried out all around the country. The interviews were all conducted by one person so they were of a consistent style. Most information was obtained through networking.

Additional information came to light during the information gathering process, namely that there were a lot of invertebrates of potential conservation concern that were not on our list. These were included in an appendix, along with a brief description of the concern.

Images were sourced from publishing companies, organisations and private individuals. There was a limited budget available and virtually all images were provided free of charge.

The resulting published document, 'The conservation requirements of New Zealand's nationally threatened invertebrates' (McGuinness 2001) and database significantly raised the profile of invertebrate conservation within New Zealand. In addition to the media coverage, conservation workers became aware of what species were in their area and what work was required to be done on them. This enabled action to be taken. Universities and research institutes picked up on research recommendations. Proposed actions were only recommendations, and as such could not be enforced. Whilst this limits the effectiveness of such a document, the fact remains that if people did want to start work on an invertebrate species, they could go to this document to see what was required. It removed the 'ignorance barrier' to starting conservation work on a species. The document has continued to be a valuable resource, often referred to as the 'invertebrate bible'. Whilst it is difficult to gauge exactly how much additional invertebrate conservation work has resulted through the production of this resource, we believe that it has been a very successful and worthwhile project.

Tisdall C. (coll.) (1994) Setting priorities for the conservation of New Zealand's threatened plants and animals. Department of Conservation, New Zealand.

The document can be accessed via the following weblinks:

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper. Please do not quote as a case as this is for previously unpublished work only.